Fresh cucumbers are nothing short of amazing. Their slightly sweet flavor and crisp texture makes them one of the greatest sources of refreshment for us farmers while working in the fields. They grow fast and are numerous when they finally come in, we seem to always be inundated with cukes and subsequently need to develop a good repertoire to avoid the drudgery of eating them plain every day. We’re currently growing two varieties here on the farm, each with their own unique characteristics that lend themselves to different styles of preparation.
The variety that will prove to be the most versatile in terms of flavor is our classic green slicing cucumber, its actual name being a boring old serial number. If you want to feature cucumber flavor in a dish, this is the way to go. The simplest way to start taking your cucumber game to the next level is making marinated cucumber salads, or refreshing yogurt dips. Both call for similar ingredients, the former being best when peeled, seeded and seasoned with salt, a little honey, rice vinegar, dill, and raw diced onion. Making a tzatziki yogurt sauce is also very simple, we recommend peeling, seeding, and grating the cucumber, and then wringing out all the excess juice by wrapping the grated pulp in a clean dish towel and twisting the loose end over the sink. This will concentrate the flavor and make a thicker textured sauce. Folding the wrung-out pulp of one or two cukes into a bowl with a cup of yogurt, raw diced onion, and salt and pepper to taste makes a delicious sauce for burgers (meat or veggie), crab cakes, chicken wings, or even a tasty and refreshing salad dressing.
If you’re feeling frisky, you can make an awesome summer beverage addition by peeling your green slicing cukes, and putting them into a blender until they are completely pulverized. Then, by placing the pulp into some cheesecloth set in a bowl, you can let it drain all its refreshing liquid overnight in the fridge. Simply tie off the loose end of the cheesecloth to make a little bag, and hang it somewhere in your refrigerator to let it drain into the bowl. When you have a lot of cucumbers, this can make your next mojito superlative.
If you’re in our CSA we’re also sending you dill flowers this week, and with them an invitation to attempt your first batch of dill pickles if you’ve never tried before. The little leaf cucumbers in your share are perfect for pickling. Simply make a 5% brine solution with sea or kosher salt and water and find a container you can pack your little leafs into rather tightly along with the dill flowers. Add the brine to the container until it is almost at the top and place a cloth secured with a rubber band around the mouth of your vessel. Put this in a cool dark place for a week and see what happens! Of course, if you don’t want to go down the fermentation route, you can do a quick pickle by heating equal parts vinegar (apple cider, white, rice, or white wine) and water, adding a good amount of mustard seed, whole crushed garlic cloves, dill flowers, and black peppercorns as well as salt to taste and dumping over little leaf cukes that have been split down the middle into fourths. Put a lid over them, and let cool in the fridge overnight. In the morning you’ll have the perfect accompaniment to any and all sandwiches!
One more thing: cucumbers don't like temperatures below 50 degrees fahrenheit, so keeping them in the fridge will accelerate their demise. If you can, keep them in a cooler, dark part of your house and away from other fruits; apples, avocados, bananas, peaches, and tomatoes are some of the highest producers of ethylene, a hormone that causes cells to degenerate. Needless to say, the cucumbers don't like it!