Year after year, cucumbers have been the most dependable and prolific plants in my garden, making them an easy sell for me each spring. This year, I got so carried away with tomatoes and peppers, I almost forgot them, until my friends from Teich Garden Systems (who build our Good Food Gardens) gave me an heirloom pickling cucumber plant. I almost forgot them again until this morning, when I found the plant cleverly creeping up the legs of an old-cast-iron trellis, with two chubby cucumbers hanging heavily from its vines. These first cucumbers mark the glorious beginning of weeks upon weeks of green, as well as meals and menus inspired by their vibrant green skin.
Best picked when evenly green, firm and crisp, cucumbers should be eaten as soon after picking as possible, when their cells are bursting with water. It's that crisp edge that makes them so refreshing raw, dipped in hummus, tossed into a Greek salad , or sliced (any size, skin on) with lemons in ice water, a spa trick that's easy to adopt at home.
They are also the inspiration behind three of my favorite summer foods: chilled cucumber soup; pickles; and tzatziki, a garlicky yogurt-based cucumber dip that's perfect with pita and as a topping for lamb burgers, gyros, or kebabs.
And if you happen to have a garden bursting with green, or a good farmers' market nearby, take the color and run with it with a summer supper made of tzatziki with grilled flatbread, pesto stuffed into grilled arctic char, a summer squash carpaccio, and a peppermint and lime herb refresher. Bon Appetit!
P.S. If you didn't get your cucumber plants in yet, it's okay to plant some now for a fall harvest. Cucumbers grow quickly and like lots of space, sun, and water, so give them room to grow either out (at least two feet apart) or up (they work well when trellised or allowed to creep up a link fence) and keep the soil moist.