Part of my Christmas present from Adrian many years ago was a huge collection of seeds for the kitchen garden I’d decided I’d like to have one day. I was thrilled, but with the lack of space in a one bedroom third floor flat, and the shift in priorities when we started our renovation; gardening was low on my to do list. We finished the garden renovation earlier this year and while planting it in May, I took the opportunity to sow the seeds that were now well past their recommended use by date.
I knew nothing about gardening at this point in time, so it felt appropriate to plant the lot (even if I was a little late in the season) and hope for the best. 14 weeks later our first vegetable was ready to harvest; a poona kheera cucumber. In the last few months I’ve transformed from a total novice to marginally more experienced gardener so I wanted to share the details of this awesome veg!
A poona kheera is an heirloom variety of Cucumber hailing from India. It’s a climbing plant like most cucumbers, with striking yellow flowers. It looks like a regular cucumber but is shorter, fatter and contains many more of seeds. I’m sure most gardeners grow it in the ground, but it grew excellently in our pots. After about six weeks the vines and their sticky tendrils were trailing across our other plants and using them as climbing support. It became clear that a trellis was essential to prevent harming the other plants, so we fashioned something appropriate from tall canes and mesh. Our intention has always been to move with the potted plants (assuming they survive the winter) so we were keen to invent a collapsible and reusable solution. The tallest plants crept up past the top of our full height fence.
Growing a potted cucumber requires a huge amount of attention, especially in a long hot summer. We were watering the plants multiple times a day at the hottest points, and they were still wilting at times; although a little love and a regular check ensured that the plants thrived despite the challenging conditions.
Interestingly we’ve produced two kinds of cucumbers from the same plants this year. Some have been the typical yellow / brown skinned poona kheera, and others have been a very dark green with slight yellow stripes. They both have the characteristic black spikes, yet the green versions have been inexplicably bitter, while the yellow / brown ones have been wonderfully sweet, crisp and crunchy. Our best guess is that the variance in colour has stemmed from cross pollination (assuming one of our neighbours is growing a less tasty cucumber variant), but we’d love to hear any alternate suggestions if you know more.
In our opinion, the poona kheera is a fabulous addition to any vegetable garden. The taste is very different to a traditional cucumber and we found there to be a real novelty in growing produce at home that we’d never seen in local shops. For several months our lives were enriched with fresh cucumbers direct from our garden. We tried incorporating them in a range of recipes, and even attempted pickling one (although this wasn’t a huge success - potentially due to our inexperience rather than the produce). Ultimately though, we decided that they were just too tasty by themselves to mix with anything else. Our intention is to dry and store some seeds at the end of the season in the hope of growing more in years to come.
If you can get your hands on some poona kheera seeds, we totally recommend adding them to your vegetable patch!