So many cucumbers coming up all at once, right? So many different things to do with them, you say? Right again.

They can be sliced for salads and sandwiches, pureed in soups and dressings, chopped up for salsa and gazpacho; and pickled with finality (“once a pickle never a cucumber”). With so many uses (and numerous varieties) it’s surprising to know that cukes are not a very good source of nutrients. The most abundant nutrient in cucumbers is water (and there’s fiber, of course, which is not a nutrient, but is a very good thing). There’s a small amount of beta carotene in the green peel, but once peeled the level drops to nearly zero. There are also trace amounts of protein, Vitamins A and C and Iron, but don’t give up other food sources to get what you need.

If you can, harvest cucumbers early in the morning (and every other day – so as not to let them get out of control size-wise) -- before they have been heated by the afternoon sun -- and refrigerate immediately. If you store in loose or perforated plastic bags, most veggies, especially leafy greens like lettuce, beet greens, chard and other fast wilting characters stay fresher longer. (When I was a weekender and would have a literal ton of greens each Sunday, I’d soak the harvest the sink , saladspin it and bring it all home in big ziplocks with a slightly damp paper towel in each so I could eat out of my garden every day at my desk at work.) Supermarket cucumbers are covered with an edible wax to protect them from moisture loss. The wax gives them an unnatural sheen and I try to avoid ingesting it at all costs. Even though fresh cucumbers are dull green in color – they’re so much better.

Here are some well known varieties:

For slicing, try Burpless (yes they really do exist) – they are the original sweet, long, Chinese-type hybrid – these do well on a trellis), the Marketmore 76 (uniform, dark green, straight fruit, disease resistance); and the Straight 8 (evenly dark green fruit). In a compact plant there’s the Bush Crop, Fanfare and Salad Bush – all are disease resistant and high yielding.

For pickling there’s the Bush Pickle (compact plant; good for container growing), the Carolina (medium-sized plant, disease resistant) and, of course the West Indian gherkin for those appealing little crunchy numbers.

Cucumbers can be picked at any stage of development before the seeds become hard. Cucumbers usually are eaten when immature (who wants to eat an old baseball bat with wooden seeds, right?). The best size depends upon what you'll be doing with them. They may be picked when they are no more than 2 inches long for pickles, 4 to 6 inches long for dills and 6 to 8 inches long for slicing varieties. A cucumber is best when it is uniformly green, firm and crisp. The large, burpless cucumbers should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and up to 10 inches long. Some varieties can grow considerably larger. Do not allow cucumbers to turn yellow. Remove from the vine the over mature ones as soon as you see them or they will halt the growth of new cucumbers.

Oh -- one other use for a cucumber that I just remembered – when I was young, on extra hot summer days, my mother would take brief time-outs, in a cool dark room she’d rest with refrigerated slices over her eyes (cotton balls soaked in chilled witch hazel are also really soothing). Freaky to look at, but cool as a cucumber, she’d be, at least temporarily.

Here’s a recipe that I haven’t tried yet, but looks amazing. I’m going to use my current stash in the crisper drawer as follows:

Thai Cucumber Salad

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup rice vinegar

4 pickling or slicing cucumbers, sliced lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

10 whole cilanto leaves

1/4 cup red pepper, julienne (about 1 inch long)

Combine the sugar, vinegar and salt and heat in a small sauce pan until sugar has dissolved (about 5 minutes) do not boil. Set saucepan in cold water to cool the vinegar mixture. When cool, pour over cucumbers and garnish with red peppers. Serves four.

This one I have tried and it’s omigod good:

 

Wendy’s Spicy Cucumber Gazpacho:
 

    2  ¾ pounds cucumber    
     1 cup plain yogurt
     1 tsp Thai red curry paste
     1/3 cup plus 1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
     1/2 jalapeno, seeded and coarsely chopped
     1 1/2 tsp sea salt
     1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
     30 cilantro leaves
     20 mint leaves
     1/3 cup olive oil
     small amount of diced tomato for garnish

Peel, seed and cut the cucumbers into quarters and place half the cucumber into a blender jar. Add the yogurt, curry paste, lime juice, jalapeno, salt and pepper.  Puree. While the blender is running, add the remaining cucumber, cilantro and mint leaves. This will turn the gazpacho a light green.

 

With the blender still running, add the olive oil gradually to emulsify. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with diced tomato. Adjust the quantities of the ingredients to suit your taste (e.g., less sea salt, more lime, cilantro, and mint than this says, and maybe add 1/2 chopped onion) --- Enjoy!!- Low Fat-High Flavor

Serves 4-6

















MORE RECIPES:

Cucumber Yogurt Salad Dressing

This is a delicious, heart healthy, low calorie salad dressing which can be used as a dip for steamed or raw vegetables or as a topping for baked potatoes or steamed carrots. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped (about 2/3 cup)

  • 2/3 cup plain, nonfat yogurt

  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion

  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil or vegetable oil

  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar or white vinegar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

  • 2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until creamy and

Refrigerator Dill Chips

Pickled cucumbers add spice and texture to sandwiches and meals. For highest quality pickles, use cucumbers that are no more the 24 hours from the vine. Use "pure" or pickling salt in this recipe. Table salt contains additives that make a cloudy brine and off color pickles.

  • 2 to 2-1/2 cups sliced cucumbers, about 1/4 inch thick

  • 2-1/2 teaspoons pickling salt

  • 2 springs fresh dill, about 6 inches long or 1 tablespoon dry dill seed or 1 head of fresh dill

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar

  • 1/2 cup water

Prepare the jar, lid and screwband. Wash them in hot soapy water, rinse well and drain. Combine the sliced cucumbers and 1-1/2 teaspoons of the pickling salt. Toss well. Cover with cold water and let stand for 2 to 3 hours. Drain.

In a clean, hot, 1 pint jar, put the dill, garlic, and remaining 1 teaspoon pickling salt. Add the cucumbers slices leaving 1/2 inch head space. Push slices down and firmly pack. Combine water and vinegar and bring to a boil. Pour hot vinegar solution over cucumbers.

Use a plastic knife or spatula to release air bubbles. Insert knife down the side of the jar and gently push cucumber slices toward the center so that the vinegar solution gets between the slices. Pour on more hot vinegar solution if necessary. Leave 1/2 inch headspace (the space between the rim of the jar and its contents). Wipe the rim. Put the lid and screwband in place. Refrigerate for six weeks before eating.

Nontraditional Sweet Freezer Pickles

This is not your typical pickle recipe. No special equipment or ingredients are needed. This recipe produces a crisp, sweet pickle that goes well in salads, on sandwiches or as a side. The secret to the crisp texture is the sugar, so do not reduce the sugar in the recipe. This recipe works well with slicing, pickling, seedless or hothouse cucumbers.

  • 2 quarts cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced (use any variety of cucumber)

  • 1 medium onion, sliced thinly

  • 1 tablespoon salt (table salt, canning salt or kosher salt can be used)

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar

  • 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar

Mix cucumbers, onions and salt in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set the bowl on the counter for 2 hours. Pour into a colander and drain water from cucumber mixture. Combine sugar and vinegar. Stir well and pour over cucumbers. Pack into freezer containers or zip-closure bags. Freeze immediately. Pickles are ready to eat in 3 or 4 days. They will keep in the freezer for up to one year.