Qukes® might be mini-sized but like the best of babies, they need plenty of love, attention, and nurturing to grow into the crunchy snack we all love.
One of our exclusive growers, Family Fresh Farms, has been growing Qukes® for the past 3 years in Peats Ridge, NSW. We have a great relationship with its GM and Head Grower, Patrick De Craen, who is a world leader in growing cucumbers.
Why grow Qukes®?
At Family Fresh we have 5 hectares of glasshouses. Initially we were set up to grow Lebanese cucumbers but I’d seen how popular Qukes® were in Europe and North America. My brother also grows them in Spain.
What’s so special about growing Qukes®?
They’re very labour intensive. We need a very high number of people per hectare just to keep up with the maintenance and crop work – like planting, clipping, lowering, shooting, de-leafing and harvesting – in the glass house.
Qukes® have to be picked at just the right time. If you don’t pick them on the right day, they’ll grow out of ‘spec’, meaning they’ll either be too long, or too thick, or the wrong shade of green.
They grow really quickly so sometimes we have to pick them twice a day. They’re very sensitive to a range of factors – radiation, temperature, humidity, irrigation scheduling & nutrition – they can be very temperamental!
Because they’re meant to be crunchy, you can’t just leave them, even for a day. So we work 365 days a year, including all public holidays. They’re definitely not for the faint-hearted.
How do you pick a good Quke®?
We look at the length and the diameter, the colour. The harvester grade the fruit as they pick them off the vines – 1st grade, 2nd grade (food service) and donations (SecondBite & Foodbank). Once harvested into 10kg cartons – they are placed in the coolroom before being packed into 250g, 500g and 1kg through multi-head weighers. At every step of the process the quality team are assessing the fruit quality, shelf-life and “crunch’ability” of the Qukes®.
What’s your favourite way to eat Qukes®?
Straight off the vine! They’re little pockets of water so we encourage the workers to eat them because they keep them hydrated while they’re working in the glasshouses. At home I put them in salad, dip them into hommus, or have them thinly sliced with soy sauce.