Cucumbers continued, part 3 – Cucumber-lemon-limeaid

Cucumbers continued, part 3 – Cucumber-lemon-limeaid

This final recipe is adapted from the Smitten Kitchen. I recommend the blog and the cookbook if you don’t know it. This is a wonderful, refreshing Indian Summer cooler. You will need 1 large cucumber, about 1 lb. Peel the cucumber and cut it in half (if you use an English cucumber from the store you probably don’t need to peel it), remove any large seeds with a teaspoon, and cut it into chunks. Puree it in your blender until smooth, then let the blender run for another 30 seconds to a minute until it is liquid. Strain the contents of the blender through a coffee filter into a jar or carafe. Juice enough lemons and limes (I used about 7 lemons and 3 limes) to make 1 cup of juice and add it to the cucumber juice. Add another 2 cups of cold water and 1/3 cup of sugar (to taste), there you have it. Shake the container a few times and put it into the refrigerator, the sugar will dissolve. A simple syrup would also work but I didn’t find it was necessary and it is an extra step. Other sweeteners such as agave syrup or honey could also work, they will change the flavor. I used organic cane sugar from Trader Joe’s. Serve well chilled. In Smitten Kitchen they recommend adding some seltzer when you serve it, I only had sparkling water on hand and it was fine.

This is good as is or served over ice with a jigger of gin or vodka, with or without the sparkling water. Leaving off the 2 cups of water (but keeping some sugar) it makes quite a good mixer for cocktails. I also froze some of the concentrate in ice cube trays, I plan to use them in margaritas and will let you know how they turn out.


1 large cucumber, peeled and large seeds removed

7 lemons and 3 limes – enough to make 1 cup of juice

1/3 cup sugar

2 cups cold water

Cucumbers continued, part 2

Cucumbers continued, part 2

Here is another recipe for using the cucumbers harvested from my Oakland garden.

Idea 2: Greek-ish salad with tomatoes, avocado, and red onions.

This salad is very popular with my family in the summer. I can often come up with most of the ingredients after a quick trip into the garden. The avocado is my own addition, not really necessary or classic. But my personal feeling is that almost everything is improved with the addition of avocado (or goat cheese). My introduction to this salad was in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where there is a large Greek fishing community. My family used to go to Paul’s for boiled peel-and-eat shrimp with Greek salad. They didn’t use avocado in their salad but did serve it with a wedge of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, black olives, feta, and a single pepperoncini. Their dressing was heavy on the wine vinegar and dried oregano. I always gave my mother the pepperoncini.

Greek Salad

Greek Salad

The ingredients can easily be adjusted to what you have on hand, don’t worry about being exact. I used 4 tomatoes, 2 cucumbers, half of a thinly sliced red onion, some pitted Kalamata olives, and one avocado. Finely chop some fresh oregano and add it to 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar with a teaspoon of salt, whisk in about ¼ cup of olive oil. This is quite a tart dressing but the avocado adds it’s own richness to offset the vinegar. Taste the dressing as vinegars vary a lot in their tartness. Toss the salad with the dressing a few minutes before serving to let flavors meld. Add some fresh feta or goat cheese, yum!

4 tomatoes, cut into pieces

2 peeled cucumbers, halved, seeds removed if large and sliced into ½ inch pieces

½ red onion, sliced

1 avocado, sliced 

small handful of Kalamata olives, pitted and halved (about ¼ cup)

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano

optional: cubed feta or goat cheese

Variation…if you have some stale bread on hand you could tear it into bite sized pieces and toss with the other ingredients. If so you will need more dressing since the bread will absorb a lot, and maybe more salt. Taste as you go. You would end up with a panzanella, or bread salad, which could be an entire meal with some cheese on the side.

Variation 2…in the mood for gazpacho? Leave out the olives and avocado, add 1/2 cubed red pepper and 1/2 jalapeño (seeded and chopped). Pulse everything in your food processor till soupy. The tomatoes and cucumber should add enough juice but you could add a bit of water if needed. Check for salt and pepper. Serve with a few slices of avocado on top of each bowl.

When life gives you cucumbers…

When life gives you cucumbers…

The trouble with having a busy life and a kitchen garden is that plants can quickly get away from you. At the beginning of the season each individual cucumber is watched and eagerly awaited, then greedily plucked and eaten when mature. By the end of August or early September things have changed, the garden can become aggressive and demanding. It’s vacation season and my attention has shifted. The single day a week that is available does not suffice. It should be a rule that gardeners can’t take summer vacations. The cute little baby cucumbers hide in the overgrown vines, easy to overlook until they are suddenly (or so it seems) two feet long. This is a more common complaint with summer squash but I pick those when they are tiny with the flowers still attached, they don’t get much of a chance to get oversized. Also, my neighbor loves squash and will happily pick for her family if I am out-of-town.

A recent harvest looked like this. There are three varieties in the picture, Telegraph Improved (from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed) , Suyo Long (Cooks Garden), and Tasty Green Japanese Cucumber (Renee’s Garden). A fourth variety planted was Chinese Yellow from Baker Creek. Unfortunately, it was planted behind the pole beans and didn’t get enough sun. It looked fine when the plants were small, not so good once the pole beans were 7 feet tall. There was a handful of small cukes but it did not live up to the description on the seed package, my fault. I’ll try again next year.If I had to pick a 2014 favorite variety it would be the Japanese Green, very sweet and mild with small seeds. This summer it was also the most prolific of all those I planted.

All the seeds were planted along a short trellis on May 22nd. The week before I had been given two sunflower plants which were becoming root bound. They are supposed to be good companions for cucumbers so I interplanted them along the row to attract pollinators. Marjoram, another good general companion, was planted at the end of the row.


I pulled up the vines this past week as they were beginning to show a lot of powdery mildew and I need the garden space for fall vegetables. Now the big question is what to do with them before they turn mushy in the refrigerator. I try to eat seasonally and use the produce my garden provides, sometimes that means getting tired of endless meals including cucumbers. But I know that I’ll be grieving the lack of cucumbers come February or the tastelessness of those I buy at the grocery store in desperation.

My creativity was pushed to the max to use them up, here are some ideas:

Idea 1: cucumber sandwiches

My mother was English and these are a classic part of an authentic English tea. She would also make them for any family member or visitor headed to the airport for a flight. Since there is no mayonnaise they keep well and are good at room or cabin temperature. I have very fond memories of those lovingly made little sandwiches. The addition of a few slices of smoked salmon make these a real treat.

Thinly sliced white Pullman type bread is essential to keep the sandwiches delicate. You could use wheat bread (and I’ve done that) but it overwhelms the cucumber taste and changes the “feeling” of the sandwich. These are not deli sandwiches piled high with filling. She used Pepperidge Farm’s bread (sometimes found in the freezer section) but I’ve used Pullman bread in the better grocery stores of the bay area from Acme bakery.

Spread each bread slice thinly with good quality cream cheese, it spreads easier if you let it warm to room temperature. Layer thinly sliced cucumber on one slice of bread, just one slice deep, then place the other slice on top with the cream cheese down. Now remove the crusts and cut the sandwich on the diagonal each way making four triangular pieces. That’s all there is, simple and elegant, smoked salmon optional.

Stay tuned for more ideas.