In the blistering heat of August, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as crisp, cold cucumbers. Whether sliced into ice water or cut into sticks, cucumbers are my go-to summer veggie. I don’t just love them for their cool crunch, though. Cukes not only have vitamin C and antioxidants for gorgeous skin1-3, but they even contain compounds with cancer-fighting properties.4-6
All of which is great for Jeff and me, because oh, do we have cucumbers.
So many cucumbers. Out of control cucumbers.
Would you like some cucumbers?
Greenhorns in the garden
Just how did we end up with all these cucumbers? Funny you should ask…
You see, for the first time ever, this year we have a real garden. Truthfully, Jeff and I didn’t think that was possible, because our yard is small and shaded by half-century old trees. We get part sun at best, and only in a few spots. Yet Jeff and I love to grow things, so in spite of our obvious sun deficiency, last year we planted a cucumber plant in a shallow patch of dirt by the house.
It struggled mightily, turned out 3 cucumbers over the entire summer, then pooped out.
Our neighbors across the street—we’ll call them J & L—watched this process with interest. (And a hefty dose of amusement, no doubt.)
You see, every year, J & L grow an exuberant garden, bursting at the seams with cucumbers and tomatoes, amongst other veggies. Over the past few years, we’ve gotten to be good friends with the two of them. By the end of last summer, they finally felt comfortable enough to say something to us, ever so gently, about our lack of gardening prowess.
We protested that our “crop failure” was due to lack of sun. They smiled knowingly, then offered to mentor us on the next go round. They told us most of our problem wasn’t lack of sun; rather, that we hadn’t prepared our soil appropriately. We smiled and nodded, certain they were wrong.
(Except for the fact that they were right.)
This year, with their expert instruction, we installed two small garden beds that are producing beyond our wildest dreams—even with part sun!
In the side bed where last year’s sad, spindly cucumber grew, this year a luxurious heap of vines sprang forth. (Note that all the pics are a few weeks old and the plants aren’t looking quite as luxurious anymore; I’ve been a little behind, thanks in part to babysitting all these cukes! 😉 )
They’re offering up more English slicers and Cool Breeze cukes than we can possibly eat.
In the main bed, we planted tomatoes that, while a little slow to start, are bringing forth an abundance of German Stripes and Jet Stars. (I took this pic early in the summer.) We also grew a bumper crop of spring radishes that have been delicious grated over salads, their abundant greens blended into radish top soup. There’s even some rainbow chard that I refused to pick when the leaves were young and tasty because they were just so pretty. Now they’re too bitter and sharp to eat, so I just consider them my garden bling. 🙂
Oh, and did I mention that in exchange for helping our neighbors put in their garden this year, they gave us some primo garden space in their garden?
In the luxurious full sun of their perfectly situated bed, we planted Purple Cherokee and Sun Gold tomatoes, and they’re going great guns as well.
In fact, our Sun Gold plant is threatening to take over their garden by force. (And anyone who happens to be working in it!)
And just look at our first purple Cherokee of the season—it’s 3 tomatoes in 1. (Literally!)
Unfortunately, as summer got underway, things got a little crazy for J & L. So for the most part they turned their cucumber patch over to us, with instructions to care for it and distribute the bounty.
So we’ve been giving cucumbers away to anyone who’s interested: Friends, family, coworkers, you name it! (We’re starting to feel really popular; I hope it doesn’t end when cucumber season does…)
And then there are the cukes that hide from us, only to be found when they’re comically overgrown:
Or the ones that curl into weird shapes:
So as you can see, we’ve been up to our eyeballs in cucumbers of every shape and size. Luckily that means we’ve been eating loads of cucumbers in every way imaginable, and I’m excited to share some of my favorite cucumber recipes with you soon! First up: an oil-free lemon tahini dressing that makes cucumbers (and the rest of your veggies) completely irresistible. Check back Monday for the recipe!
So, what’s growing in your garden right now? Anything threatening to take over? And what’s YOUR favorite way to enjoy cucumbers? Share a comment below!
1. Linus Pauling Institute. Vitamin C and skin health. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/skin/vitaminC/. Accessed July 23, 2014.
2. Fernandez-Garcia E. Skin protection against UV light by dietary antioxidants. Food Funct. 2014 Jun 26.
3. Poljsak B, Dahmane R, Godic A. Skin and antioxidants. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2013 Apr;15(2):107-13.
4. Lee DH, Iwanski GB, Thoennissen NH. ScientificWorldJournal. Cucurbitacin: ancient compound shedding new light on cancer treatment. 2010 Mar 5;10:413-8. doi: 10.1100/tsw.2010.44.
5. Scott J. Cucumber bitterness explained. Available at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/cucumber-bitterness-explained. (Cucurbitacin)
6. Milder IE, Arts IC, van de Putte B, Venema DP, Hollman PC. Lignan contents of Dutch plant foods: a database including lariciresinol, pinoresinol, secoisolariciresinol and matairesinol. Br J Nutr. 2005 Mar;93(3):393-402.