Battle of the Cucumbers: PGI for Lea Valley?

Cat and cuke
Darjeeling tea is not the only controversial protected geographical indication (PGI) of recent times (see IPKat post here). Another row is cooking over cucumbers after the Lea Valley Growers’ Association (LVGA) in Hertfordshire lodged an application for a PGI in the EU in respect of cucumbers grown in the area earlier this month.

As readers will be aware, PGIs identify products as originating from a region or particular locality. For a PGI product, its reputation for quality or authenticity is intimately linked to its geographical origin. In Europe, with its rich history of local and specialist agricultural production, many famous products are closely linked to their place of origin. The more well-known European examples include Parma Ham, Roquefort Cheese and Champagne. In the UK, these include the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, the Cumberland Sausage, the Cornish Pasty, Jersey Royal Potatoes and Kentish Ale.

Through a remarkable biological fluke,
cats have evolved to be far better able
than humans to rip off the tough transparent
outer hide of the standard UK cucumber
It is claimed that cucumbers grown in the Lea Valley taste watery, juicy and less bitter than rival UK cucumbers and have thinner skins which do not require peeling. LVGA secretary Lee Stiles stated:
‘The cucumbers produced here are of a higher quality than you'd get from other regions of the UK and abroad. … And if they are called “Lea Valley Cucumbers”, consumers would be more educated about where they come from.’
The move is intended to boost the reputation of cucumbers after it was left in tatters following the E coli virus scare in Europe last summer (here and here). In particular, British cucumbers were boycotted after an outbreak of the infection in Germany was initially wrongly attributed to Spanish-grown varieties. It is estimated by the LVGA that its growers lost approximately £1.5 million per week due to the fall in sales and loss of consumer confidence.

In response, Derek Hargreaves, from the national Cucumber Growers Association said:
‘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.’
The IPKat is not a connoisseur of raw, unpicked cucumbers and asks readers: is there really a difference between Lee Valley cucumbers and the rest?

Rockwool, a.k.a. mineral wool, here
Is rockwool safe for rats? Click here to find out
Lea Valley and water pollution here

The IPKat thanks his old friend Catherine Lee for providing this Epicurian epistle.
Battle of the Cucumbers: PGI for Lea Valley? Battle of the Cucumbers: PGI for Lea Valley? Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, October 27, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. I think you meant to ask as your closing question: is there really a difference between Lea Valley cucumbers and the rest, not Lee Valley, a Canadian woodworking/garden tools designer/retailer.

  2. @Anomymous -- you're quite right. Lea, Lee? They even sound the same!

  3. PGIs seem to be everywhere nowadays. On a BBC TV food programme last night, there was an interview with a lady who had obtained PGI status for Yorkshire forced rhubarb after a 5 year campaign. Personally, I wouldn't have known (or cared) that Yorkshire forced rhubarb was something special. What next? Brighton Rock? Dundee cake? Westminster humbug?

  4. You can spell the name of the river itself either way, but places near the river usually choose one or the other.

    My copy of the London A-Z labels the river as "RIVER LEA or LEE", and has the "Lower Lea Crossing"; the "Lee Valley Regional Park"; and the "Lee Valley Ice Centre", which is right next to "Lea Bridge".

  5. I wonder what the folks at that little food outfit called SARAH LEE might have to say?

    Too bad they don't grow unique leeks.

  6. Does it really matter if there's a significant difference. The LVGA want to brand their cucumbers and the PGI is a cheap way of getting the government to protect their collective trademark on an international scale. Go for it!

    You should be aware that in no circumstances will I ever fully peel a cucumber but my parents were once very proud to be told that I addressed my chemistry like cutting cucumber. We have argued what that meant over the years but I commend the accolade or insult to all teachers


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