Beds, Herts & Bucks

Hertfordshire cucumber growers want product protection

Cucumbers
Image caption Lea Valley growers claim their cucumbers are distinctive enough to warrant protected status from the EU

Cucumber growers in Hertfordshire are to apply for protected status for their salad and sandwich delicacy.

Lea Valley Growers' Association (LGVA) is to ask the EU for Protected Geographical Indication like the Melton Mowbray pork pie and the Cornish Pasty.

They want their products officially re-named and sold as Lea Valley cucumbers.

Lea Valley is one of the UK's largest producers growing 80m cucumbers a year but its national association denied they were "special".

Hertfordshire growers claim their products taste watery, juicy and less bitter than rival cucumbers. They also said they produced 75% of the cucumbers sold in Britain.

The cucumbers grown in Hertfordshire are said to have thinner skins and do not require peeling.

The Lea Valley bid for protected status comes in the wake of the recent E. coli scare, in which British cucumbers were boycotted after an outbreak of the infection in Germany was initially wrongly attributed to Spanish-grown varieties.

The bid for protective status also coincides with the association's centenary celebrations this year.

LGVA secretary Lee Stiles said the move was not just symbolic.

'High quality' claim

"The cucumbers produced here are of a higher quality than you'd get from other regions of the UK and abroad," he said.

"And if they are called Lea Valley cucumbers, consumers would be more educated about where they come from."

Growers in the region lost about £1.5m a week due to a drop in sales and consumer confidence sparked by fears of E. coli over the summer, he said.

"Having protected status would have been ideal in that situation," he added.

Derek Hargreaves, from the national Cucumber Growers Association, denied Lea Valley products were particularly special.

"The cucumbers grown in this country commercially are pretty much the same.

"I can't see the EU agreeing to protect one lot of cucumbers over another when they're grown the same way, in rockwool rather than soil."

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