Harvesting and Using Cucumbers

Harvesting and Using Cucumbers
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Cucumbers should be harvested when they are evenly green all over, firm and crisp. You don't want yellow (unless you are growing a yellow variety), white, or overly large cucumbers. At this point the seeds are beginning to harden and they mostly likely will be strong and bitter. Generally it's recommended that you harvest slicing cucumbers at 6-8 inches. I've picked smaller and love the crisp taste. After you pick a few you'll find the length you prefer. Pickling cucumbers should be picked small and young. The recommended length is 2-3 inches for sweet pickles and 5-6 for dill pickles. You must keep harvesting the cucumbers from the plant or it will halt production of the ones left on the plant continue to mature. Give them away to the local senior center, soup kitchen or a shelter if you have too many at one time.
Cucumbers should be stored in a moist, cool place- ideally about 55 degrees. For those of us at home this is hard to do unless you have a root cellar or basement with these conditions. They will last a week if given plenty of air circulation. Generally, it's best to eat them fresh, or store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, but do not store near apple or pears, which produce ethylene and poke holes in the plastic if you are storing them in bags. Wash cucumbers right before using. It isn't necessary to peel them, but you can run a fork down the sides to score the skins if you wish, since homegrown cukes aren't waxed like the ones from the grocery store. I personally don't mind the peel, but I have read that some people cut off the stem end tip and peel lightly to reduce bitterness.

Homegrown cukes are great for juicing and contain potassium and calcium, among other good things. Eat them sliced for snacks or cut into wedges. Serve them on a plate with lunch to the kids. They make a great sandwich sliced and combined with tuna, fresh lettuce and alfalfa sprouts. During our last contest we asked for favorite ways to prepare vegetables and there were quite a few cucumber suggestions including:

-wedges dipped in a spicy Thai sauce

-onions and sliced cucumbers in ranch dressing

-tomatoes and cucumbers in sour cream

-sliced with onion and drizzled with olive oil and vinegar

-salted and drizzled with balsamic vinegar

-shredded and mixed with vanilla yogurt

-cover with cider vinegar, a little oil, diced onions, garlic, salt, pepper.

-sliced and mixed with mayonnaise and milk

-sliced with Italian dressing

-peeled, sliced and topped with lime, salt and lemon juice

-sliced with fresh tomato, sunflower seeds and ranch dressing

-sprinkled with lemon, salt and chili powder

-marinate in vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, and chili powder

Try the following recipes as well:

Janice Gabriel slices the cucumber with a grater very thinly, adds a dash of salt and lets it sit for half an hour. Then she drains it, adds sliced green onion, tomato, and a little balsamic vinegar.

Debbie Long's Cucumber Salad


fresh thinly sliced cucumbers

thin slices sweet onion

1/4 Cup milk

1/4 Cup mayonnaise

1 tsp. of vinegar

1 Tbsp. sugar

salt and pepper to taste

dash dill weed

Mix dressing ingredients and combine with the onions and cucumber. Chill for one hour and serve.

Cucumbers With Yogurt and Mint


1 cup yogurt, low fat or fat free

3 tablespoons chopped mint

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. pepper

4 cups sliced cucumbers

Combine all dressing ingredients and add cucumbers. With homegrown there is no need to seed or peel if picked smaller, but if they are large or store bought, peel and seed first before slicing. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Cool Cucumber Avocado Soup


1 cup buttermilk

ice cubes

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 ripe avocado

1/4 cup chicken broth

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/4 tsp. ground cumin, or to taste

In a large measuring cup combine buttermilk plus ice cubes to measure 1 1/2 cup total. In a blender, blend buttermilk mixture with the avocado, lemon juice, cumin, and half the cucumbers until smooth. Stir in the remaining cucumbers and serve at room temperature or chill.

Cucumber, Garlic and Yogurt Sauce


1 long English cucumber, peeled or two regular varieties

2 cups plain low-fat yogurt

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with a pinch of salt

3 tsp. dried mint, crumbled and pressed through a sieve

1 tsp. olive oil

Sprigs of fresh mint for garnish

Finely dice the cucumber. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Add the diced cucumber and the dried mint, and blend well. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprigs of fresh mint to serve.

Creamy Cucumber Salad


1/4 cup regular or light sour cream

1/3 cup fat-free or low fat plain yogurt

1 1/2 tablespoons herb or wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 large cucumbers, thinly sliced

1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, thinly sliced

In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, yogurt, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, combine the cucumbers and onions. Add the dressing and toss to coat well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to blend flavors.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.


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