'Cucumbers grow better to rock music'

14 March 2017 - 22:22 By TMG Digital
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An "unconventional‚ yet scientifically sound" experiment‚ has found that cucumbers - yes‚ the ones we put in our salads - grow better depending on your taste in music.

The study‚ conducted by Graham Brown of the University of Sydney‚ found cucumbers are highly sensitive to sound‚ scent and touch.

Key findings include:

  • Cucumbers like Rock music the most‚ and dislike Jazz

As they grew from seedling to maturity‚ three groups of cucumbers were exposed to a particular genre of music: classical‚ jazz or rock‚ using a CD boombox at maximum volume. A fourth group sat in silence. The cucumbers that listened to rock produced measurably larger‚ better-tasting fruits‚ cylindrical in shape‚ with no curving and smooth dark green skin. In stark contrast the jazz plants showed disdain for their music by producing malformed fruits with curved and pointed edges. The plants exposed to classical melodies displayed a tangible fondness for it‚ growing healthy and shiny skinned after listening to Beethoven and Bach.

Brown commented: “We knew plants sense and respond to acoustic energy‚ such as soundwaves using the trichomes‚ or hairs‚ on their fruits and leaves‚ but we weren’t expecting them to display such a definitive taste in music. Dry matter accumulation (the build-up of physical mass) was highest in the rock music treatment‚ indicated by the fact the plants grew larger as they were able to harness more light and photosynthesise more. The extra growth‚ perhaps triggered by hormones‚ gave a more bountiful harvest of larger and juicier fruit. Malformed fruits in the jazz treatment may indicate that the nutrients and water supplies were interrupted by the genre’s jaunty soundwaves.”

  • They enjoy the scent of Dill

Not only do cucumbers love music‚ but they also show preferences for certain scents‚ despite having no conventional sensory receptors associated with smell (a nose).

Growing specimens were divided into three groups‚ one spritzed with dill‚ another with sage and the final group was left scent free. After snacking on the test cucumbers‚ it was observed that those spritzed with dill were the tastiest‚ while sage made them bitter‚ perhaps indicating that cucumbers derive some type of satisfaction from pickling. Brown explained: “Plants can sense chemicals in the air‚ such as volatiles released during grazing by herbivores and respond by increasing production of protective chemicals. When growing cucumbers‚ it would be wise to avoid wearing or spritzing anything too harsh in scent near your subjects‚ to prevent the cucumbers absorbing it. You don’t want a cucumber that tastes like your aftershave‚ after all.”

  • Cucumbers are more tender and sweeter when they spend the night in a mini "sleeping bag"

The final test saw subjects bundled into tiny sleeping bags for added protection and comfort‚ resulting in their skin growing softer and lighter‚ and their flesh sweeter compared to those left exposed.

Graham said: “It would appear that by protecting the growing skin from the drying atmosphere and light‚ the fruits are tender and sweeter.”

Graham‚ who has investigated and bred plants for over 30 years‚ began working with cucumbers a decade ago in his research lab in Sydney.

He noted that the humble green fruits use a developed sense of touch to help them grow‚ using their tendrils to feel and reach for surfaces to hold onto for support‚ particularly at night. It seems they are aware of their surroundings and can sense objects nearby.

The research was conducted by Brown for Hendrick’s Gin‚ which stated: "Exhibiting traits usually associated with sentient beings‚ the green fruits show undeniably impressive abilities for reacting to outside stimuli‚ and grow larger and juicier as a result of unconventional caring methods‚ indicating they are acutely aware of their surroundings". The gin-maker is now inviting budding botanists to join in a global experiment to cultivate the most flavoursome cucumber‚ taking inspiration from the techniques used by Graham‚ in time for World Cucumber Day on June 14.

Cultivation tips devised by Graham include pollinating the flowers with a soft paintbrush to ensure the crop of cucumber fruits is plentiful‚ placing bamboo sticks around the crop to give them a structure to climb and treating them with manure fortnightly.

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