A world of food: What to do with too many cucumbers!
August 16, 2008 § 2 Comments
Every time I plant cucumbers, I am looking forward to crispy crunchy summer cucumber goodness. But when the summer hits, the cucumbers start growing, and growing, and growing, and I find that my limited number of plants has produced a massive simultaneous bounty of cukes! This year,to avoid such a situation, I planted a single plant. Unfortunately, it met an early demise when my boyfriend was preparing part of the garden to plant beans and got a little carried away, straying into already planted territory with his hoe. We planted a few lemon cucumbers to replace our little slicer, but they won’t be ready until September. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my friend had planted an ambitious amount of slicing cucumbers and was already overwhelmed with the harvest — I now have no fear of missing out on cucumbers this summer.
In years past, I have planted pickling cucumbers and found myself in my kitchen at late hours of the evening making a simple spicy, garlic dill pickle. Pickling cucumbers have a bitter flavor that seems to suck the moisture out of your mouth, and are really only good for pickling (a friend won’t even grow them for pickling, her strategy is to use slicing cucumbers for pickling instead). I find that pickling in the evening is best because cucumbers ripen during the hottest part of the year, and the last thing I want to do on a 100-degree day is stand over a pot of boiling water next to a pot of boiling brine. Luckily, I did so much pickling in the past two years that I get to skip it all this year and instead enjoy the cool evenings without the mess and heat of pickling activities.
Slicing cucumbers tend to come on and ripen in an unabated manner, providing loads of cucumbers to deal with all at once. If you grew your own cukes and are feeling overwhelmed, have no fear, there are some tasty things you can do with them that will help you consume your bounty and maybe even look forward to more.
One of my favorite options is Japanese cucumber salad. I often order this when I go to a sushi restaurant as a starter, and I discovered that it is extremely simple. To spice mine up a bit, I add about a tablespoon of fresh diced ginger, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, and about 1 tablespoon of sriracha or diced hot chili peppers (last year we had an abundance of hot peppers, so I froze a gallon bag of them and I am just reaching the end of that supply). I slice my cucumbers after peeling them using cheese-grater slicing blade. My boyfriend has warned me that this blade is highly dangerous, so I pass on that wisdom here: watch your fingers! It produces evenly thin-sliced cucumbers that are very easily able to absorb the rice-vinegar and seasoning as they marinate (and it’s easier than getting out the food processor).
Another tasty option is tzatziki, a Greek sauce used as an appetizer or in gyros (see Kalyn’s World’s Best Tzatziki Sauce recipe). My variation on tzatziki is to peel the cucumber and then grate it with the fine side of my cheese grater. Instead of chunky sauce, this produces a “stringy” cucumber consistency in the sauce, but I find that it’s easier to neatly get on a piece of pita bread.
A similar dish is cucumber raita, an Indian salad commonly served at my favorite Indian restaurants (in Eugene, Evergreen and Taste of India). With a minty flavor, this dish is refreshing and pairs well with curries and spicy dishes.
One common trick to using cucumbers is to salt them and let them rest and then squeeze the excess moisture out. This is important in the Japanese salad because it allows the cucumbers to better absorb the vinegar mixture. With the tzatziki, the excess moisture would make the sauce significantly more runny.
Another recipe to consider is the Spanish gazpacho. My mom used to make a version of this using about half cucumbers and half tomato. The cold soup is quite tasty on a summer evening, and I’ve heard many describe it as the perfect “summer” dish.
For more ideas, check out this cucumber recipe page, courtesy of Dr. Barbara Cohen, planetary scientist, and apparent cucumber aficionado. I found that Allrecipes.com had 272 cucumber recipes, so there’s certainly no shortage of ideas. Also, you may want to visit this informative site about the different varieties of cucumbers, or this time line of pickle history.