Tuesday, March 27, 2012


A cucumber is a tender, warm-season vegetable that produces well when given proper care and protection.The vines of standard varieties grow rapidly and require substantial space. Vertical growing methods and new dwarf varieties now allow cucumbers to be grown for slicing, salads and pickling, even in small garden plots.


Cucumber originated in India. Large genetic variety of cucumber has been observed in different parts of
India. It has been cultivated for at least 3,000 years in Western  Asia and was probably introduced to other parts of Europe by the Romans. Records of cucumber cultivation appear in France in the 9th century, England in the 14th century, and in North America by the mid-16th century.


Cucumbers add a crisp snap to salads and sandwiches, however they are not a very good source of nutrients. The most abundant nutrient in cucumbers is water. A small amount of beta carotene is found in the green peel, but once peeled the level drops to nearly zero.

Nutrition Facts (1 cucumber, 8-1/4")
Calories 39.13
Protein 2.08 grams
Carbohydrate 8.30 grams
Dietary Fiber 2.40 grams
Calcium 42.14 mg
Iron 0.78 mg
Potassium 433.44 mg
Vitamin C 15.95 mg
Folate 39.13 mcg
Vitamin A 647.15 IU


Cucumbers are usually started by planting seeds directly in the garden. Plant after the danger of frost has passed, and the soil has warmed in the spring. Warm soil is necessary for germination of seeds and proper growth of plants. With ample soil moisture, cucumbers thrive in warm summer weather. A second planting for fall harvest may be made in mid- to late summer.

Cucumbers may be transplanted for extra-early yields.  Plant transplants 1 to 2 feet apart in rows 5 to 6 feet apart when they have two to four true leaves. Do not allow transplants to get too large in containers or they will not transplant well. Like other vine crops, cucumbers do not transplant successfully when pulled as bare-root plants.

Plant seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep and thin the seedlings to one plant every 12 inches in the row or to three plants every 36 inches in the hill system. If you use transplants, plant them carefully in warm soil 12 inches apart in the row.


Cucumber plants have shallow roots and require ample soil moisture at all stages of growth. When fruit begins setting and maturing, adequate moisture becomes especially critical.  Cucumbers respond to mulching with soil-warming plastic in early spring or organic materials in summer.

Side-dress with nitrogen fertilizer when the plants begin to vine. Cucumber beetles should be controlled from the time that the young seedlings emerge from the soil.

In small gardens, the vines may be trained on a trellis or fence. When the long, burpless varieties are supported, the cucumbers develop straight fruits. Winds whipping the plants can make it impractical. Wire cages also can be used for supporting the plants. Do not handle or harvest  the plants when they are wet.


Pick cucumbers at any stage of development before the seeds become hard. Cucumbers usually are eaten when immature. The right size depends upon the use and variety. 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 of highest quality 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 any missed fruits nearing ripeness so that the young fruits continue to develop. The cucumber fruit grows rapidly to harvest size and should be picked at least every other day.

Harvest cucumbers early in the morning (before have been heated by the afternoon sun) and refrigerate immediately. Store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator in loose or perforated plastic bags. Supermarket cucumbers are covered with an edible wax to protect them from moisture loss.  This does not apply to the English cucumber.  That is one of the reasons I like it, plus it has very small seeds. 

There are two types of cucumbers common to the home gardener - pickling cucumbers and slicing cucumbers. The phrase "cool as a cucumber" is an apt one. Growing in a field on a hot summer day, the interior flesh is 20 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature.

Pickling cucumbers — Pickling cucumbers should be picked every day, since they can quickly grow too large for use. Do not leave over-mature, yellow cucumbers on the vine. If a single cucumber is left on the vine, the vine will stop producing altogether.

Slicing cucumbers — Slicing cucumbers should be harvested as needed. But there is no practical use for baseball bat size cucumbers. They are tough and the seeds are woody.  I do not let those go to waste though.  You can peel and deseed and use in salads.  Harvest when they are 8 inches long or smaller. As with pickling cucumbers, remove the over mature ones as soon as you see them or they will halt the growth of new cucumbers.

Cucumbers are often soaked in salt water to remove some of the naturally high water content. Cucumbers will otherwise give up water and dilute the salad dressing.


Aside from pickling, there is no practical way to preserve cucumbers. There are many ways to make a pickle. They can be fermented or quick packed in a vinegar solution and processed in a boiling water bath and kept on the shelf for up to a year. There is no great challenge to making pickles. Pickles can be made by the quart or by the five-gallon crock. If you do not want to can, pickles can be made in the refrigerator or in the freezer. Pickling cucumbers are best to use because the skin is less bitter than slicing cucumbers and they have smaller and fewer seeds. However, you can successfully substitute slicing cucumbers.

Pickles are ready to eat in 3 or 4 days. They will keep in the freezer for up to one year.

I purchased a Kerr canning book some years ago and that has been my bible for my pickling, for that matter all of my canning.  With the internet now, you can probably find many ways to pickle cucumbers. 
I have not done a chapter on beet, because I do not like beets except when they are pickled.  I use the Kerr recipe for my beets but I double the spices because I like them spicier. 

My Story

I prefer the long English cucumber in that it has very small eatable seeds.  I’ve invented a butter milk cucumber pickle that I really like. 

I peel the cucumber and slice into slices about 1/4 of an inch thick.  Mix 1 tsp dried dill, 1 cup buttermilk, pinch of salt, 1/2 tps onion powder, 3 Tbs sugar and pinch of pepper.  Slowly add white vinegar to you taste (I use 1/2 cup).  Chill over night so flavors can soak into the cucumber. 


Cold Cucumber Soup

One large cucumber, cut lengthwise, 4 ways
2 cups fat-free plain yogurt
lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves

Start by peeling and removing the seeds of the cucumber.  Split it long ways into quarter pieces and sprinkle salt over it and let them set for about an hour.  Puree all the ingredients together in the blender. But first it's important to rinse the salt from the cucumber slices. Once the cucumber has been pureed,  add the yogurt, a few drops of lemon juice, honey, salt and some pepper. Blend it altogether. As a final ingredient add the finely chopped mint leaves fresh out of the garden.  Keep this in the refrigerator until ready to serve it. The great thing about this recipe is that there's no cooking involved and it's low fat.  Serves 2 people.

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 band. 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 band 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.

Cucumber and Yogurt with Dill Soup

You can 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 smooth. Chill for about 2 hours before serving. Makes 1-1/2 cups.

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 cilantro 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.

Cucumber Sauce (Thai A Jaad)
Crunchy, pleasantly cool and sweet - the perfect condiment or topping.
6 oz. rice vinegar 
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt 
1 oz. water
3 cups cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced (great way to use those over sized cucumbers)
1/4 cup red chili, sliced     
1/2 cup shallot, sliced 
In a pot, bring vinegar, sugar, salt and water to a simmer over medium heat stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Set aside to cool.
Add cucumbers, chilies and shallot.  Let soak for 20 minutes to marinate.  Makes 2 cups of sauce
This sauce can be refrigerated and marinated over night.

Thai Cucumber Soup 

Tbs.  sliced green onion
3 Cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1/3 C. red wine vinegar
1 Qt. chicken broth
2 C water
3 Hot chile peppers, seeded and minced
Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
Tbs. lemon grass, chopped
Tbs.  fresh garlic, minced
1 Tbs. fish sauce
1 Tsp. soy sauce
1 Tsp. ground ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C sour cream

Melt the butter in a deep pan over medium heat. Add the green onions, and cook until soft. Stir in the cucumbers, vinegar, chicken broth, water, chile peppers, parsley, cilantro, lemon grass, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, and ginger. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer over medium heat until the cucumbers are soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in the sour cream until evenly blended, and simmer 10 minutes more.

Cucumber, Pepper and Onion Relish

One of the great things about gardening is sharing the bounty. I love to pick a handful of tomatoes to take with me to a pot luck or cut a bouquet of fresh flowers to give to a friend. If you are lucky enough to receive an armload of fresh cucumbers, make relish. 

(1) large cucumber
(1) banana pepper
½ medium sized onion (I used a Vidalia onion.)
1 ½ cups of white vinegar
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
1 Tsp. black pepper

Begin by peeling the cucumber and removing the seeds from the pepper. Then thinly slice the cucumber, pepper and onion. Put the cut vegetables into a clean mason jar. Any jar with a lid will do. The idea is to be able to store the relish in the refrigerator.  In a bowl mix vinegar, water, sugar and black pepper. Stir until sugar dissolves. Pour liquid over sliced vegetables.  Cover with lid and refrigerate for an hour before serving. This recipe usually lasts  for two or three weeks.

Cucumber Sandwiches

1 loaf party rye bread or pumpernickel
2 fresh cucumbers, sliced (English cucumbers)
1 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese (I like the new whipped creamed cheese)

Fork together cream cheese and Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix (I have added a little sour cream or mayo to make mixture easier to spread). Spread cream cheese mixture onto the small slices of party rye, or party pumpernickel (I prefer the pumpernickel) and arrange a cucumber slice on top of each one (You do not need to peel cucumber).  Sprinkle lightly with dill.  Try to assemble these about a half an hour before you need them. If made them up too early, the cucumber makes the bread soggy.  I like to take this to summer pot lucks or serve as an appetizer when having guests.  Everyone eats them and  I never have any leftovers.  Great for showers too.  Do not assemble sandwiches until you are ready to serve.

A variation I had years ago was on an open Brownsberry oatmeal bread with a slice of roast beef on top.  I still remember it being terrific and sometimes I'll put a small slice of roast beef on mine.  You could also add a small piece of smoked salmon on it also. 

Cucumber Ranch Dressing

3 cups mayonnaise
2 tbsp. sherry cooking wine
2 tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 pound pineapple chunks
1 pint honey
4 tbsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp.  white vinegar
2 medium cucumbers, diced

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate 4 hours.  You may want to cut this down.  Makes a huge batch.

Cucumber Cocktail

1 Kiwi, peeled and sliced
2 C. diced cucumber
1/4 C. water
1 Tsp. lemon juice
Dash salt
1 C. ice; finely chopped

Mix in blender until smooth.

Cucumber-Lemon Spritzer

3/4 C. water
6 Tsp. brown sugar
1-1/2 C. diced peeled cucumber
1/3 C. lemon juice
1 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 Cups sparkling water, chilled
1 Small cucumber, cut lengthwise into 4 spears

Combine 3/4 cup water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool.
Place sugar mixture, diced cucumber, lemon juice, and ginger in a blender; process until smooth. Cover and chill.

Cucumber-Seafood Appetizers

2 English Cucumbers
Mild salsa to taste
½ C. sour cream
1/4 C cream cheese 
1 Tsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
¾  Pound shredded thawed frozen shrimp or crab (drain well)
Tiny shrimp and dill for garnish

Cut cucumbers into 1 inch rounds. With a melon baller scoop out the middle without going all the way through, so you have a small cucumber bowl. Mix salsa, shrimp and sour cream mixture.  Fill cucumber with shrimp mixture. Top with one tiny shrimp or a sprig of dill or parsley.  You can make it more decorative by peeling the cucumber with green stripes leaving the skin on part of the cucumber.

Do not toss the scoops of cucumber.  Perfect for a salad.

Variations:  Add chives and chopped bacon to stuffing mixture to really goose up to a whole different  level.  Another variation could be to put in little roasted potatoes that are cut in half and roasted till golden brown.  Scoop out like the cucumber and stuff with the goosed up version of the filling or put the filling in a scooped out bread bowl and use bread you scooped out to dip.

Cucumber Salsa

1 Small cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely diced

1 Plum tomato, finely diced

1 Green onion, chopped
1 Tbp. minced cilantro
1 Tbp. sour cream
1 1/2 Tsp.  fresh lime juice
1/4 Tsp. minced garlic
1/4 Tsp.  minced jalapeno
1/4 Tsp. salt
1/8 Tsp.ground cumin
1/8 Tsp. white pepper

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Cucumber Mousse

1 Package lime-flavored gelatin
3/4 C. hot water
1/4 C. lemon juice
1 Tbs. grated onion
1 C. sour cream
1 C. cucumber, pared, seeded, and chopped

Dissolve gelatin in water. Add lemon juice and onion. Chill until almost set. Stir in sour cream and cucumbers. Fill a wet mold with mixture and chill thoroughly. When set, invert onto a platter and garnish.

Tomorrow I'll give you my chapter on egg plant.  

Be happy and God bless you and yours.

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