Overcuked

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Can a surfeit of cucumbers be said to be a bounty?

I’m thinking no. It is, instead, a testament to bad planning.

Even the turkeys have had enough

In May, the idea of healthy, vigorous cucumber vines flourishing in the hoophouse and growing a robust crop of cool, crisp cucumbers is very appealing. So appealing that I planted seven – seven! – cucumber vines of the diva variety.

I chose diva because it is parthenocarpic. Or, rather, I chose diva because it doesn’t need pollination; it was only later that I learned that ‘parthenocarpic’ means ‘doesn’t need pollination.’ Also, my friend Christl had some seeds which she graciously shared with me.

I planted all seven and was crushed – crushed! – when only one sprouted and grew. A couple others germinated, but then just sat there, two inches tall, growing nowhere. But the one that grew, boy did it grow! And I was happy.

In May, the vision of a bumper crop is what drives us to plant gardens. In August, the reality of a bumper crop is what drives us to leave cucumbers in neighbors’ cars in the dead of night.

Not all bumper crops are a burden, of course. If you have too many tomatoes, it’s easy to make a simple sauce and freeze it. Too many winter squash? They’ll keep fine in a cool, dark place. Leeks and greens, blanch and freeze. But cucumbers do not lend themselves to any of that. Pretty much the only thing you can do with cucumbers, besides just eat them, is pickle them. (If you have suggestions, please please pass them on.)

We’re on our second huge batch of refrigerator pickles already, and those don’t even use up the divas, which aren’t pickling cucumbers. The diva surfeit is compounded by the reasonable, if not abundant, crop of kirbies.

When next May rolls around, I ask all of you to remind me about the cucumbers. Don’t let me be seduced by a mental image of a wall of cucumber vine, heavy with fruit. Don’t let me get carried away by the enthusiasm of the first warm days of the year.  Either that, or leave your car doors unlocked.

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Comments

  1. They are beautiful! I love cucumber water so sometimes I freeze cucumber slices in water. I think that’s too easy to be a ‘tip’. But it’s nice to have something so fresh tasting in the winter. Or of course there’s cucumber vodka or vinegar!

  2. cucumber drinking vinegar:
    take 7-8 cukes, throw them in blender, then into glass bowl, bottle, jar, etc. cover with distilled white vinegar. Let sit in a dark place loosely covered for 2 weeks. every day, shake the jar just once. after a week or two, throw the whole thing into a pot and simmer for 10 minutes, then pour off just the vinegar ithrough a strainer nto a bottle and cool. put a shot of vinegar into glass, fill with rest w soda water or just water. or even better… gin. sounds weird? but tastes AWESOME and drinking vinegar is really good for you.

    cold cucumber soup
    http://allrecipes.com/recipe/cucumber-soup-i/ (basically though… cukes, vinegar, shallots, and I like a little cream and cumin, but that’s me)

    cucumber vodka is AMAZING

    also, i think gazpacho is literally the perfect summer food because if you do it right, it comes entirely from your garden.

    also: refridgerator cukes? you’re doing it wrong:) fermented sours FTW.

  3. Don’t the movies show you slather your face with mud (or have someone assist) then tilt your head back and put a slice of cucumber on your eyes? I am sure I saw Tommy Lee Jones do this in Man of the House.

    So, invite your neighbors to a mud party!

  4. I’ve been giving away bags of cucumbers and eating cucumber salads. Have you made an Israeli Salad? Why is it that the pickling cucumbers seems to produce fewer cucumbers than the slicing cucumbers?! It would be so much more convenient if it were the other way around. Anyhow, I agree with Stephen on the cucumber water. Just slice up a cuc and put it in a pitcher of water. (Sometimes I add a sprig of mint.) Very refreshing.

  5. Whenever I have a surplus of large cukes, even of the big “non-pickling” cucumbers, I simply slice them up into chips and make bread-n-butter pickles! They are SOOOO delicious, and I always wish I had another jar of them.

  6. I had way too many cucumbers last year and and also an overly-productive apple tree. In desperation, I turned to Google and found an apple cucumber chutney recipe. Sounded like a strange chutney combo, but I had nothing to lose. It turned out really well. The chutney is delicious, and is a great thing to put on a plate with bread and cheese and call a meal. http://theroundhouse.freeforums.org/cucumber-and-apple-chutney-t459.html

  7. I like the salad and the soup and the vinegar (it sounds weird, Amanda, but I trust you). As for the face mask, that just doesn’t sound like it uses up enough cucumbers. We’re going for quantity here, people!

    The chutney also sounds weird, but in a good way. Problem is, no apples! And it’s the wrong time of year for them.

    Cucumber water has never done much for me. It tastes like a really watery cucumber.

    Keep ‘em coming!

  8. Sounds like time to make some pitas in the pizza oven and stir up a bunch of tzatziki to dip them into!

    • Kevin’s daughter suggested raita, which is just tzatziki from another continent. That’s a good call.

  9. That sounds like a delicious problem to have.

    –Cucumber spinach smoothies: Cucumber, spinach/lettuce/other green, and an ice cube or two, plus fresh mint, chives, or basil if desired. Blend until smooth, and serve ice-cold. If you have a Vitamix-type blender, you can put the cukes in with the seeds and skin. If you have a less-robust blender, do a small test to (1) use up 1/2 a cuke, and (2) see if it blends the seeds fine enough for your taste.

    I have heard that blending in some plain yogurt makes this into a nice chilled soup, but I haven’t tried this.

    –Edible salad bowls: Halve them length-wise, scoop out the seeds, shave a small piece off the bottom, and use them as individual edible “boats” to serve a cold dish like a grain salad or an egg salad. Depending on your preference, leave all the skin on, or peel it into stripes, or remove it all. Give diners a knife to cut up their boat, or, depending on age and formality, give them permission to pick up the boat and eat it sea-monster-style. If you start by slicing the cuke width-wise into thirds, you can make edible salad cups, instead.

    –Slice them into sticks (with or without seeds, to taste). Sprinkle salt into your cupped palm and dip the sticks into the salt, then eat them. Optionally, add some black pepper or cayenne pepper powder. I know we’re not supposed to eat salt by the handful, anymore, but this is really easy, and is a nice summer treat.

    Good luck with the cucumbers!

    • The sticks-and-salt is excellent! I’ve done that and it does go through a lot of cukes.

      As for the smoothie, I have a thing about pureed green things. I’m all for them, when they’re soup, but I just can’t like them when they’re a smoothie. I know, I know! It’s the same thing with another name! I think I had a seminal experience with wheat grass that put me off drinking green things.

      But I’m going to combine the smoothie suggestion with the soup suggestion. I have some great goat yogurt.

      I love the boat idea, but if I did it, my husband would say, “Who are you and what have you done with my wife??” I’m going to keep that one in my back pocket.

  10. One of our common rowing friends ordered a cucumber margarita at Beech Tree Cantina on a recent outing, and it was surprisingly tasty and refreshing. It’s not frozen, but more like the cucumber had been muddled for the drink—maybe you shoud check it out.

  11. Hmmm, one plant yielded too much bounty. I guess next year you’ll have to ruthlessly prune back the one seedling from the one seed you’ll plant….

  12. If you’ll remind me about my chard issue I’ll give you a heads up on the cucumbers!

  13. SueQ — Everything’s better in a margarita! That’s going to be on the menu.

    PH — Yeah, you’re right. Except that I strongly suspect that there are actually three plants — the one that definitely thrived, and then the two that just barely germinated. Now there’s such a tangle of vines that I have no idea. But it’s true that, if one is too many, there’s no good solution.

    Karen — Deal!

  14. I make freezer pickles, which is like bread and butter pickles. I have kept them in the freezer two years, and they were fine. With this recipe I use whatever cukes I have on hand. If the skin is tender enough to eat, then I leave it on, but if it is tough I peel them.

    Freezer Pickles

    2 pounds cucumbers, washed and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
    1 medium onion (if you use red onion the pickles will be pink. Doesn’t bother me, but some may be put off.)
    2 tablespoons kosher salt
    2 cups sugar (I have reduced this to 1-1/2 cups with good results)
    1 cup cider vinegar
    3 bay leaves
    2 tablespoons celery seeds
    1-1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds

    In a non-reactive heat-proof bowl, mix cucumbers, onions and salt. Set aside.

    In a non-reactive medium saucepan, heat remaining ingredients to just boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumbers and let stand overnight or for no more than 24 hours.

    Pack pickles and onions into freezer containers, allowing 1 inch headroom. Pour juice over, making sure pickles are completely covered. Seal tightly; freeze.

    Allow to thaw completely before serving.

    These are fantastic on a post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich.

  15. Greek salad: cukes. tomatoes, onions, feta cubes, kalamata olives, dressing: olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, chopped Mediterranean mint, chopped parsley.

    I watched Jacques Pepin cut them in roughly two inch pieces, then thirds length-wise, then seed them, then ‘turn’ them, then saute them and then serve them with a fish dish. Julia Child declared them delicious.

    I’ve never tried it, but it seems to me that in the right hands, cucumbers would make an awesome sorbet….

  16. And holy crap. that Turkey poult is going to have to be a pet.

  17. Too many cukes ..not likely at my house.Our kids have always favored the cucumber,sweet onion,sour cream and minced dill salad..we also like cucumber on buttered bread sandwiches.After reading about your over productive diva specimen ,went to ebay to buy seed.Well seed is very dear,you should let several mature an sell seed on ebay..I WOULD BUY IT AND RECKON A FEW OTHERS MIGHT , TOO.

  18. Cucumber-infused vodka and gin are pretty delicious.

  19. I make a tomato,cucumber,feta salad for breakfast. Slice however many tomatoes, cucumbers you think you’ll eat & arrange on a large plate. Add really good feta chunks ( you could also add olives). Mince parsley, mint & basil & sprinkle over the vegetables, drizzle with a lemon, olive oil vinagerette-preferably homemade. Serve with warm crusty bread & a pot of hot tea. I can eat a whole plate. My daughter in law said “you can make this again”. We ate a huge platter.

  20. We make huge batches of relish for pickling when we have this problem. Those beauties look like you could make noodles with them also (we’ve done this with zucchini in the past). Seed, then slice into long strips on a mandoline, salt, then allow to drain for a while. These are especially good as the base for a cold noodle salad– throw in some Thai basil, grated carrot, some peas, spinach, peanuts, chicken, leftover grilled fish, whatever you have– and make a dressing with sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and some rooster sauce or wasabi for kick. Mmm.

  21. I second bread and butter pickles. I also make slices of dill pickles for burgers or sandwiches with larger cuc’s and they are good too. I have never had too many cuc’s but could you grate and freeze portions of a cup at a time to make tzatziki or raita? Just squeeze the water out before adding to the yogurt. I would probably double the amount of cuc since you are going to lose half the volume. I am not sure how well this would work, just a thought.

    My fav cuc soup is this one. I have never seen it on the internet but it is sooo good and I always add more cuc’s than the recipe states:

    This is from a friend of mine in book club and it is wonderful. It’s
    one of my mother-in-law’s favorites.

    White Gazpacho

    Ingredients
    3 medium cucumbers
    1 large clove garlic, chopped
    3 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth, cooled
    3 cups sour cream
    3 tablespoons white vinegar
    2 teaspoons salt

    Peel and cut cucumbers into chunks. Place cucumbers and approximately
    1 cup of the broth into a blender and blend briefly. Add the other
    ingredients and blend just long enough to mix. Pour in a bowl, cover,
    and chill well. Serve cold.

    Toppings
    ½ cup sliced scallions
    3/4 cup sliced almonds
    ½ cup chopped parsley
    2 chopped tomatoes

    Toast the sliced almonds in non-greased, non-stick frying pan on
    medium heat, stirring frequently until almonds are golden brown. Chill
    scallions, parsley and tomatoes until serving. Serve all toppings
    separately at table.

  22. I love the white gazpacho and all the boozy ideas, but I’m a little leery about pickling these guys. The only time I’ve pickled slicing cucumbers they’ve turned to mush.

    Laura, your freezer pickles stay crisp? My guess would have been that freezing just accelerates the cuke-to-mush process.

    • They are not super crisp, like dill chips, but they are not mushy. There is a bit of crunch when you bite them.

      When I first found that recipe I did not believe anything good could come from freezing cucumbers, but I tried it because I had so many cukes, I was tired of eating them, I had no more containers to ferment them, and so I was ready to take a risk with some moderately expensive ingredients.,

  23. Cutty Sark says:

    Ferment them.
    A staple in russian/eastern euro kitchen. This is different form pickling with vinegar and much better for your stomach.
    Here is a very easy description:
    http://ewainthegarden.blogspot.com/2011/07/fermented-cucumber-for-winter.html

    • Cutty — The one time I fermented pickles it ended in tears. Not literal tears, just crappy pickles that we never ate. Even so, if we had a surfeit of pickling cucumbers, I’d give it a try. But slicing cucumbers, in my experience, just don’t pickle well.

      As for the health benefits of fermented foods, I’m not a believer just yet. Most of the claims come from test-tube science, not tracking the actual health of actual people eating actual pickles in a prospective study. The microflora in our gut are so varied and complex that I think it’s hard to extrapolate from what we know about lactic acid to any affect on human health. But it could be — I’m waiting for hard cold evidence.

      Thanks for weighing in. I appreciate the pickle link, and I’m saving it against the day that I have pickling cukes to spare!

  24. Cutty Sark says:

    Forgot one thing:
    Russians aways add fresh black currant leaves to the brine.

  25. Cutty Sark says:

    Oops! Typo: This is different FROM pickling with vinegar.

  26. Cutty Sark says:

    Sorry to hear about your bad experience with sour cukes. I guess you could try this again with this easy recipe. It is really not a big deal! My dad just put a new batch. Horse radish is important, temperature is important (high humidity and really hot weather does not work well).

    The taste is very different from pickled in vinegar. After 1-2 days they are half-sour, my favorite.
    You can do tomatos the same way.

  27. I have been giving many of my extra cucumbers to a family with a teething little girl. It seems the cucumbers are very soothing to her.

    I am starting to think about planting for the winter garden…

    • What an excellent use for cucumbers! I had no idea they could help with teething.

      I, too, should be thinking about the winter garden. But it’s so hard to think about winter in August. Which is why I never have kale in January!

  28. Hate cucumbers, which is funny as I always insist in growing the one plant. The reason is I love cucumber pickle (recipe in cottage smallholder’s blog) and simply grated, squezzed a bit to remove some of the liquid, and mixed with yogurt for a lovely dip. Add mint and call it a greek dip, or instead add ground cumin and a pinch of cayene and call it an indian dip.
    Javier

  29. I love this recipe for Cucumber Salsa. I don’t care for cilantro so I just substitute parsley. Dried herbs work well if there’s no fresh handy.

    http://allrecipes.com/recipe/cool-cucumber-salsa/

  30. I had to look into the Cucumber Margarita idea further.

    If you start with a cucumber puree like in this recipe http://www.chow.com/recipes/30338-cucumber-margarita you could probably freeze the puree in cubes to use in margaritas throughout the year. That’s way more fun than pickles.

  31. Try cutting them up and cooking them with other vegetables like zucchini or adding them to stir fry.
    Slicing up cucumbers and adding them to lemonade is also good. You might try an end run around the calorie count by letting the chickens process them for you. The pigs might like whole cucumbers better than the peels also.

  32. Szechuan cucumber salad. Best cucumber dish ever. I eat this about twice a week in summer + can eat a whole cucumber to myself in one sitting (YMMV).

    1 cucumber, peeled + cut into 1-inch chunks
    1 clove garlic, finely crushed (I use a Microplane)
    about the same volume of grated fresh ginger as you have crushed garlic
    splash fish sauce
    splash chili oil – I like this on the super-hot side so often add a pinch more dried red chili flakes
    splash Chinese vinegar (white wine vinegar will also do)

    Toss together + let stand for about 10 mins (or longer) before serving. Eat + breathe the breath of fire on all comers!

  33. Cat, I’m in with the booze, probably not so much with the salsa. And I suspect that freezing the puree would work, if I manage to get my act together to do it.

    Carol, I’ve told the pigs that you’re their advocate, and they say thank you.

    Fi — That, I will try. But I don’t know what Chinese vinegar is. If you happen to read this (or someone else who knows does), please let me know.

  34. Chinese vinegar is rice vinegar – should be able to find it in any Asian supermarket, or if like me you live in London, most normal supermarkets :-) It’s a little milder than normal vinegar so you can use white wine vinegar if you can’t find it, but maybe add a pinch of brown sugar to compensate.

    I also thought of panzanella (which I had for dinner last night) but it needs tomatoes, sweet onion + bread cubes as well, so not quite as useful for ploughing through the cuke glut. Oh and. Don’t even think of going near those Julia Child-era recipes that have you folding lightly poached cucumber into a cream sauce to go with fish. BEYOND REVOLTING.

    • Ah! My house is never without rice wine vinegar, except when I run out and forget to get more.

      I do love panzanella, and we do have tomatoes. It doesn’t use up a ton of cukes, but it is delicious.

      Another good idea. Thanks.

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