We are the cu-humber capital of the UK! (Video)
IT'S not just any cucumber, it's an East Riding cucumber.
Picking is under way at the nine East Riding salad producers that provide every one of Marks & Spencer's cucumbers in the UK.
It is a massive operation.
To give them a stronger negotiating position with supermarkets, the growers formed East Yorkshire-based Growco, a marketing arm that handles many commercial elements of the business.
The products grown are all under glass, predominantly around Beverley and Cottingham.
They include cucumbers, tomatoes, baby plum tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries.
Growco commercial manager Patrick Bromwich said: "The first crop to begin will be cucumbers.
"The members will start harvesting their crops for the first time next week.
"Growco growing base represents 10 per cent of the cucumber growing area in the UK.
"The customers Growco supply include Asda and Marks & Spencer through Melrow Salads marketing."
In the UK season, Growco cucumbers represent about 25 per cent of Asda's total volume and 100 per cent of what Marks & Spencer sell.
Grower Les Deeley, of Halsham Salads in Cottingham – a member of Growco – expects to sell more than four million cucumbers this year.
He said: "I've been growing cucumbers for 46 years and I've owned this business for about eight years.
"We start planting in January and we can start harvesting about now.
"A cucumber plant will grow about 4in in a day.
"For harvesting time we're busy but we work all the year round as well."
Mr Deeley's business, tucked away down Park Lane in Cottingham, grows salad vegetables under 35,000sqm of glass.
One of his greenhouses alone would be big enough to house a full-size football pitch.
Mr Deeley said: "This is one of the biggest growing areas in the UK.
"There is a lot grown around here but a lot of people don't know about us."
Just like his near neighbour, John Clappison, who produces 4 per cent of the UK's entire Brussels sprout crop on a farm near Walkington, Mr Deeley relies on seasonal workers.
But while Mr Clappison's workers are braving cold fields in the run-up to the Christmas rush, Mr Deeley's are often behind glass in heated greenhouses.
Mr Deeley's requirement for flexibility from his workforce is matched by his urgency to negotiate a fair price for his produce with the supermarkets.
He said: "What we would love is for signs to go up in supermarkets telling customers how much the grower gets.
"Last year we got 28p a cucumber and when you think about how things like gas prices have risen it's been getting harder and harder.
"Things are very tight at the minute, no matter what business you're in."
The salad grower, who made his home in the East Riding after living in different parts of the country, including London and Gloucester, is happy to have settled in an area so renowned for its growing.
He said: "It's near the coast and it's got good light for growing.
"It's also convenient for transport links to the rest of the country."
And just like sprout producer Mr Clappison, the cucumber grower is more than keen to sample his own produce.
He said: "I do eat cucumber, of course, all salad is good for all of us."