Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Invasion of the Giant Cucumbers.


July in the South Carolina vegetable garden—particularly if you've been traveling for two weeks—is not the happiest place. Although our son's girlfriend diligently fed the animals and watered the gardens, some tasks—like weeding and cutting out dead foliage—had to wait until I returned.

After petting the pups and checking on the chickens, the first place I headed when we arrived home was to the large veggie garden to check on its progress.

Big mistake.

Tomato vines sporting nasty black spots.

Lettuce, underplanted in the tomato beds, now bolting and leggy.

Beans trellising up neighboring raspberry bushes.

And cucumber vines spilling over their bed, oblivious to the trellises, sprawling throughout the garden and blanketing the herb beds, the kids' raised bed, and the path through the garden.

I searched desperately for my inner Zen.

When that didn't work, Peter turned me around, and we headed back toward the house. After all, attacking an unruly garden while in the throes of jet lag isn't a smart strategy.

(Honestly, my tired brain screamed, “Rip it all out!” I'm glad I waited a bit.)

Truly, though, even with the ugliness of the garden, the harvest is pretty amazing.

Especially the cucumbers.

We arrived home to a produce-drawer full of cucumbers harvested by our house-sitter.

Exciting! Honestly, last year, our cucumbers flopped.

The next day, I harvested these:


And yesterday, as I cut back vines and attempted to whip the garden back into shape, I found these:

Holy cucumbers.

I love cucumbers. The kids actually eat cucumbers without complaint, too, which is miraculous. And I especially adore the fact that my calorie counter shows that a cup of cucumbers equals 16 calories. 

I could eat 75 cups of cucumbers to reach my daily calorie intake!

That's a LOT of cucumbers.

Hoping to add a little variety to my diet, I enlisted my friends over at the Garden Delights Facebook page for recipe ideas.

“Pickles,” of course, topped the list of recommendations.

I've promised Mikey that we'd attempt to make pickles, since he is a pickle fiend. I've never canned, but 2012 will be the year I learn to can.

Thankfully, our local farmers' market received a grant this year to teach canning. I'm planning to head there Saturday for my introduction to canning.

I'm ridiculously excited!

Until then, though, my friend Janet at The Queen of Seaford sent me the following recipe that I'm excited to try. Shrimp and cucumbers? How can you go wrong? What a perfect, light, cool summer dish. I believe this will be lunch today...

Cucumber and Shrimp Salad
One can (4.5 oz) shrimp, drained
2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
1/4 vinegar (can substitute rice or white wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds  (Heat sesame seed in ungreased skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes until golden.)
Place shrimp and cucumbers in a bowl. Mix vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and salt.... pour over cucumbers and shrimp. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.
Remove to a lettuce lined bowl with slotted spoon. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Tonight, though, I'm planning a family-favorite: chicken souvlaki with tzatziki sauce. It's so simple—and everyone likes it. (Well, the kids at least like the chicken. They'll have to eat their quota of cucumbers sliced instead of in the sauce.)

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce
1 lb. chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

In a large bowl, combine olive oil, sea salt, and rosemary. Add chicken and toss to thoroughly coat. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

For tzatziki sauce:
½ large cucumber, seeded and diced.
½ cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. salt
1 garlic clove, minced

Prepare tzatziki sauce while chicken is marinating. Combine cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and garlic, stirring well. Set aside.

Place marinated chicken cubes on skewers, grill for approximately 5 minutes per side or until thoroughly cooked. Serve with the tzatziki sauce and pita bread.

And wine. The wine gives you strength to face the tasks in the garden.

I'm a little afraid to go back into the garden today for fear that I'll add to the cucumber collection—although I do plan to call our local food back to see if they can use some surplus cucumbers. (Do you know about ampleharvest.org? It's a great tool to help you find a local organization that can benefit from your surplus garden goodies.)

Do you have any favorite cucumber recipes? If you do...PLEASE share!

Otherwise, I might start a national “sneak-a-cucumber-on-your-neighbors'-porch day,” much like National Zucchini Day.

I think it's a good tradition, don't you?

Happy harvesting!

XO ~

Julie

9 comments:

  1. That's a lot of cucumbers! The shrimp and cuke salad sounds really good.

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  2. It's good you had your house sitter harvest your cucumbers. I forgot to ask my dog sitter when I went on vacation for a week and came back to monster zucchinis. I've never made tzatziki sauce. It sounds cool and refreshing.

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  3. Love Souvlaki and imagine your tzatziki was wunderbar!! Let me know how you like the cukes and shrimp.

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  4. Growing cucumber is such a great fun right! big harvest!

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  5. That is a lot of cucumbers. Unfortunately with the heat I couldn't get my seeds to grow. :)
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  6. Glad to hear you didn't rip it all out! The cukes I started from seed this year got eaten by some sort of bug, I fear. I found an eight inch pot of cucumbers at Home Depot. There were probably 10 individual plants. I put them in the garden, but lost a few immediately because the stems were brittle and delicate. I think there are three surviving out there now, each about four to six inches long. I'm hoping to eventually train them up a trellis, and maybe see some cucumbers by late August!

    My mother makes a cucumber salad with sour cream and sliced cucumbers.

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  7. That's so funny. "Rip It Out" is usually my first response too. Especially if it seems so out of control. Luckily this year I started early enough that my summer garden is done and I am starting new seeds and plants in preparation for my fall garden. Much more fun than slogging water in 100 degree temps! Happy gardening!

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  8. Hooray for cucumbers! Pickles!

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