Since my hillside garden is growing cucumbers galore this year, I decided to try a couple of new recipes — something with less sugar than I remember my mother's recipe using, and more color besides the food coloring my younger brothers would sneak into her marinading dishes.
Since my hillside garden is growing cucumbers galore this year, I decided to try a couple of new recipes — something with less sugar than I remember my mother’s recipe using, and more color besides the food coloring my younger brothers would sneak into her marinading dishes.
Originally growing wild in India at least 4,000 years ago, cucumbers today are the fourth most popular vegetable in the world, even though by definition cucumbers are a fruit.
According to several historical accounts, Christopher Columbus brought cucumbers to Haiti in 1494 where they were grown by Spanish settlers.
European trappers in North America introduced cucumbers in the 1500s to Great Plains and Rocky Mountains native Indians. Those tribes quickly saw the potential and nutritious value of cucumbers and one of its many cousins, watermelons.
Cucumbers are members of the Cucurbitae family – cucurbits for short, which includes zucchini, squash, melons and pumpkins.
I didn’t grow up with cucumbers but my niece did. My brother used to tell me they didn’t bother to pick them because when Rachel was little, she would run out into the backyard and munch them right off the vine.
I tried that when I picked my first few cucumbers this year, thrilled I could even find them. Instead of burrowing through ground level greenery, I grew the vines over a wood trellis my handyman had said was a hazard to walk under.
We cut off the rotting legs and planted the trellis in the middle of the garden anchored by rocks to slow down the wood decomposing. Cucumber vines now grow over the trellis, and cucumbers hang down so I can monitor their growth and pick them when they are ripe.
Cucumbers like to grow in well-manured, slightly acidic soil with plenty of water. They grow fast so they require daily checking to pick them before they get too mature and sour.
I also find it interesting that my basic juicing recipe calls for green peppers and cucumbers for “younger-looking skin.” Cucumbers are 95 percent water but some dermatologists say they have antioxidants that help reduce skin irritation.
With the potential of also being overrun with homegrown tomatoes, I looked for recipe options with both cucumbers and tomatoes, and little to no sugar. I settled on using basic cucumbers and tomatoes, literally fresh from my garden, and fresh dill.
This is a revised version of a Rachael Ray recipe:
Summer Cucumber Salad
3 medium tomatoes cut up into small pieces
1/8 red onion, peeled and chopped
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
A generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)
2 splashes red wine vinegar
Coarse sea salt
Chopped fresh dill
Directions: Mix sliced tomatoes, onions and cucumber with olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt. Let stand about 20 minutes. Re-toss and serve.
At first I was tempted to add a little sugar but after a few bites, it was good as is. For a little extra flavoring, maybe add a little dash of black pepper?
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a rapidly changing climate. Copyright 2014 used with permission by Rolla Daily News and Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at chargardens@ gmail.com.