Stay Cool as a Cucumber

By Maria Price

Cucumbers are a great summer treat that are also prolific right now, given the amount of rain we’ve been receiving this season. I like to refrigerate them before eating as it makes them extra crunchy.

Cucumbers are a warm season crop and relish the heat, but also like good hydration. Cucumbers like to vine on the ground, but you can save space by training them upwards on a fence or netting.

Put cucumber seeds in the ground after all danger of frost is over and make sure to put a lot of compost in the soil. Be on the lookout for the spotted cucumber beetle, a yellow pest with black spots. They like to eat flowers, too and can spread a serious bacterial wilt disease. If you cover your plants with floating row covers when the plants start growing, you can exclude this pest at the stage when the plants are most vulnerable. Make sure to remove the row covers once the blossoms start to appear so that pollinators can do their work. Cucumbers also like an application of seaweed or green sand.

The two types of cucumbers that do well for me are General Lee and Diva. General Lee has been bred for the South. They have a superior flavor and high yield and are gynoecious. Gynoecious cucumbers produce only female flowers and are usually blended with 10 percent monecious cucumbers, which have male and female flowers.

Diva is parthenocarpic, which means it does not require pollination to set fruit. If isolated from other pollen producing cucumbers, they will be seedless.

Albert Lueng is a pharmacognosist—someone who studies plants as possible sources of medicine. Leung says cucumbers have a long folk history of use for soothing dermatitis burns and treating wrinkles.

Try filling a pitcher with sliced cucumbers and spearmint and cover with water and refrigerate for a day for a very refreshing drink.

Make the Greek dip tzatziki, a yogurt-based dish (also known by its Turkish name cacik) to accompany fried eggplant or zucchini or meatballs. Grate a large cucumber into a colander and sprinkle with salt and let stand 30 minutes. Squeeze the water out and add 3 large minced cloves of garlic, 2 cups Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and 1/4 cup each of fresh chopped parsley, dill and mint.