A bounty of cucumbers has come with the arrival of cooler temperatures in North Texas. Not that that’s a bad thing, but finding some inventive ways to use them has become a bit of a challenge. There is absolutely nothing wrong, of course, with sliced cucumbers, crispy cucumbers in salad, and chopped cucumber added to egg salad and tuna salad.
But, what else is there?
Actually, as it turns out, there a whole lot of “else.”
- The new family favorite has become the “bottomless bowl” of sweet/sour sliced cucumber waiting in the refrigerator. So simple — and so ready for healthy snacking any time of the day or night. Simply chop some onion to toss with thinly sliced cucumber, and combine with a 1:1 solution of sugar/vinegar. Marinate at least overnight and stir occasionally. The cucumbers can be eaten individually, served as an accompaniment to any meat, fish or poultry entree, or become a stand alone salad on a crisp lettuce leaf, garnished with dill or parsley. Add sliced avocado or cherry tomatoes if you wish.
- Refreshing tall drinks: Add cucumber slices to ice water as a quick pick-me-up. Or, wean the kids off of soft drinks with a punch made from lemonade, white grape juice, cucumber and lemon slices — add a maraschino cherry and a straw just for fun! Experiment with ingredient proportions until you find what works for you.
- Spend a bit more time and prepare a traditional Thai Salad. Thinly slice a cucumber, along with 1/2 a carrot, julienned, and 1/2 a green onion, thinly sliced. Combine about 1/4 cup of white vinegar with a teaspoon of oil and add 2 Tablespoons of sesame seeds, about a 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, a generous dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir all together, chill slightly and serve.
There are, of course, cucumber sandwiches, cucumber soups, and healthful blender smoothies like this one for a cucumber/apple/mint cooler. There are also cucumber dips, cucumber sauces for fish, cucumber-laden gazpacho and cucumber pickles. It all depends on how inventive you need to be, and how much time you want to spend in the kitchen.
Here is one special favorite recipe, worth keeping if you like semi-exotic flavors and want something other than traditional potato salad. This one uses sweet potatoes and boasts a bit of Caribbean soul.
Although they are technically a fruit rather than a vegetable, cucumbers can, however, be sauteed, roasted, baked or grilled, much like
tomatoes, apples and bananas! They are almost as versatile as tomatoes, and when your cucumber vines produce an armload almost daily, it is wise to have a variety of ideas handy so that they don’t go to waste.
Chop young, firm cucumbers and add them to stir-fry dishes as you would use summer squash or zucchini. Drizzle fresh cucumber spears with soy sauce as a no-frills appetizer, or serve them in yogurt with pita chips and hummus as healthy game night snacks.
There are literally hundreds of varieties of cucumbers, but they fall into two basic categories: Pickling strains and slicing strains that are intended to be eaten fresh. They are low in calories, high in hydrating properties, and chock full of nutrition. If that’s not good enough, cucumbers are also known to possess anti-inflammatory compounds and hold anti-aging and anti-wrinkling agents.
So, if you’re not sharing in the cucumber harvest this year, why not consider planting some next year. It’s never too late to reap the benefits.