The mystery of the straight cucumber

How did the Victorians manipulate this delicious crop?

Rai Euro - Bri Engi Pre 1840 StephensonLIFE Photo Collection

The cucumber straightener was invented by the great railway engineer George
Stephenson (1781–1848).

Telegraph Cucumber by Charles Jones for Elphick's Catalogue (1910/1920) by Charles JonesGarden Museum

A keen fruit grower, he took great pride in the growth of his cucumbers.

Cucumber straightener (1800/1900) by UnknownGarden Museum

He ordered blown glass cylinders to be made at his Newcastle steam engine factory for his garden at Tapton House, Derbyshire, where he spent the last ten years of his life. The elongated glass funnel was placed over the cucumber at an early stage to encourage the fruit to grow straight.

Cucumber StraightenerGarden Museum

Technological innovations in the 19th century had a great impact on food production in Britain. The straight cucumber, a purely aesthetic advancement, symbolises the Victorian obsession with rationalising nature.

Credits: Story

Animation by Ruth Emma Fox.

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