Veggie Guide: Cucumbers

Veggie Guide: Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a well loved summer vegetable at our farm available late June- September. The length of the season is highly dependent on the first frost date and growing conditions for the year, but on average, CSA members and farmers market customers can expect cucumbers from us for 10-12 weeks each growing season. 

CSA members can expect regular cucumbers in their box but never a crazy amount. Most weeks we aim for 1-2 cucumbers most weeks with just a couple weeks of larger peak quantities of 3-4 cucumbers for bigger salads. We have cucumbers available in the online store for bigger cucumber projects or preservation but aim to never overwhelm you.

What we grow 

We grow two main types of cucumbers at our farm: Slicing varieties (the thicker skinned type you are most familiar with from the grocery store), and more occasionally some thinner skinned, snacking varieties. These snacking types are more susceptible to insect damage, so as a no-spray organic farm we view these as an added bonus in good season. 

Storage tips 

Standard cucumbers should be stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator and will last about a week in there, getting softer the longer they are in there. For best quality they should be used within 5 days. Any cut pieces should be wrapped in plastic or stored in a container. The thinner skinned snacking varieties we grow should be stored similarly, but will need to be used a bit faster as their skin breaths. 

Cucumber recipes from around the world

Here in the Midwest, most of us are familiar with the traditional cucumber salad made with cucumbers, onions, and a tangy, creamy dressing (if you don’t we shared a recipe below), but you may be less familiar with the salads from all around the world that focus on the humble cucumber. From Mexico City to Japan, China, and the Middle East, cucumbers are served as condiments or in salads alongside any number of meals. Here’s a few of our favorite preparations. 

Photo by: The Leek & The Carrot

MIDWEST: Creamy Cucumbers

Recipe by The Leek & The Carrot

Yield: 2-4 servings

Time: 15 minutes (thought it gets better the longer you let it sit)

INGREDIENTS:

4 cucumbers, cut into 1/8-inch slices

1 sweet onion, halved and sliced

1/3 cup Greek yogurt

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoon white vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Dill, optional

PREPARATIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, combine cucumbers and onions.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, mayo, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper until smooth. Pour over cucumbers and onions and toss gently to combine. Garnish or season with dill (if you like).
  3. Serve immediately or chill for an hour to let the flavors really meld together.

Photo by: The Mediterranean Dish

LEBANON: Fattoush Salad

Recipe by The Mediterranean Dish

Yield: 6 servings

Time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

2 loaves pita bread

Olive oil

Kosher salt

2 teaspoons sumac, divided, more as needed

1 heart of Romaine lettuce, chopped

1 English cucumber, cut in half, seeds scraped, then chopped or sliced into half moons

5 Roma tomatoes, chopped

5 green onions (both white and green parts), chopped

5 radishes, stems removed, thinly sliced

2 cups chopped fresh parsley leaves, stems removed

1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)

Dressing:

Juice of 1 lemon or 1 ½ limes

⅓ cup olive oil

1 to 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, optional

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoons sumac

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Scant ¼ teaspoon ground allspice

PREPARATIONS: 

  1. Break the pita bread into small bite-size pieces. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan until shimmering, and add the pita bread. Fry briefly until browned, tossing frequently. Using a pair of tongs, transfer the fried pita chips to a plate lined with paper towel to drain.  Season with salt, pepper and sumac. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, green onions with the sliced radish and parsley.
  3. To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon or lime juice, olive oil, pomegranate molasses (if using), salt, pepper and spices.
  4. Pour  toss lightly. Finally, add the pita chips, and more sumac if you like, and toss one more time. Transfer to small serving bowls or plates. Enjoy!

Photo by: Hungry Huy

JAPAN: Sunomono Japanese Cucumbers

Recipe by Hungry Huy

Yield: 2 servings

TIme: 10 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

2-3 cucumbers

1/3 tsp salt to draw out moisture

Dressing:

3 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

PREPARATIONS:

  1. Slice all the cucumbers very thin and transfer to a medium sized bowl.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and toss with your hands to ensure even salt coverage to draw out moisture, Wait 5-10 minutes.
  3. Then rinse the cucumbers thoroughly to remove the salt, drain, then squeeze all the cucumbers to remove as much water as you can (don’t be afraid!).
  4. Mix the rice vinegar, sugar, salt, soy sauce until dissolved, then add to cucumbers.
  5. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Photo by: Cookerru

KOREA: Oi Muchim (translates to Spicy Cucumber Salad)

Recipe by Cookerru

Yield: 2 servings

Time: 10 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 (260g) medium cucumber or 3 small-sized cucumbers (see recipe notes)

1/4 medium-sized onion sliced

1 green onion sliced

3 cloves garlic minced

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar or regular white vinegar

1-1 1/2 tbsp Gochugaru adjust to taste

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

1/2 tsp salt or to taste

PREPARATIONS:

  1. Thinly slice the cucumber to about 1/4 inch thickness.
  2. Add the cucumber to a large mixing bowl, followed by the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Toss well with your hands or a pair of tongs until the cucumbers are evenly coated and the sauce is absorbed, for about 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Photo by: Cookie & Kate

GREECE: Tzatziki

Recipe by Cookie & Kate

Yield: 2 1/2 cups

Time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups grated cucumber (from about 1 medium 10-ounce cucumber, no need to peel or seed the cucumber first, grate on the large holes of your box grater)

1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint and/or dill

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 medium clove garlic, pressed or minced

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

PREPARATIONS:

  1. Working with one big handful at a time, lightly squeeze the grated cucumber between your palms over the sink to remove excess moisture. Transfer the squeezed cucumber to a serving bowl, and repeat with the remaining cucumber.
  2. Add the yogurt, olive oil, herbs, lemon juice, garlic, and salt to the bowl, and stir to blend. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Taste and add additional chopped fresh herbs, lemon juice, and/or salt, if necessary (I thought this batch was just right as-is).
  3. Serve tzatziki immediately or chill for later. Leftover tzatziki keeps well, chilled, for about 4 days.

Photo by: Alexandra’s Kitchen

VIETNAM: Samin Nosrat’s Vietnamese Cucumber Salad

Recipe by Samin Nosrat in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (as shared by Alexandra’s Kitchen)

Yield: 4-6 servings

Time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds (about 8) Persian or Japanese cucumbers, stripey peeled

1 large jalapeño, seeds and veins removed if desired, thinly sliced

3 scallions, finely sliced

1 garlic clove, finely grated or pounded with a pinch of salt

1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

16 large mint leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup toasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil

4 to 5 tablespoons lime juice

4 teaspoons seasoned rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

Pinch of salt

PREPARATIONS:

  1. Using either a Japanese mandoline or a sharp knife, thinly slice the cucumbers into coins, discarding the ends. Place slices in a colander. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt. Toss and let drain 10 minutes. Transfer cucumbers to a tea towel and blot dry.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, jalapeno, scallions, garlic, cilantro, mint, and peanuts. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, 4 tablespoons lime juice, the vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, and a small pinch of salt. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more lime juice as needed. Serve immediately.

Photo by: Little Ferraro Kitchen

Hungry for more? Here’s some more great options from around the world:

  • CHINA: Smashed Cucumbers Salads are a staple in the Szechuan region of China. Traditionally they are smashed with salt, garlic, vinegar and sesame oil and served between meals. It can also be served with chili oil (as described in this recipe). We also love the NYTimes Cooking adaptation of smashed cucumbers that combines the usual flavors with peanuts and cilantro.
  • ISRAEL: Classic Israeli Salad is a wonderful way to use up a lot of great peak season ingredients (cucumber, tomatoes, pepper, onion, and parsley). The recipe provided is simple, traditional variation. Molly Yeh also has a really great formula for a Israeli Salad that requires only three ingredients (and they’re all vegetables) alongside salt, pepper, and olive oil. It’s a great reminder that cucumber salads can be incredibly simple. 
  • INDIA: India has its own very similar version of the classic israeli salad called very simply Kachumber (or cucumber) Salad. The main difference between the Indian and Israeli salads is the use of cilantro instead of parsley, and a bit of cayenne and/or chiles for spice.
  • MEXICO: Mexican Cucumber Snack (also known as Pepinos con Chile y Limon) is a simple way of preparing sliced or speared cucumbers with chili powder and lime as a snack (or side dish if you prefer). Make it a little more traditional by using Valentina salsa or seasoning instead of just chili powder. Or, riff on this concept and turn your cucumbers into a tasty beverage by blending these three ingredients together with some other ingredients like they do here
  • HUNGARY: Hungarian Cucumber Salad is not so different from the traditional Midwestern cucumber salad (that actually draws from German food traditions). It can be made with or without sour cream. We love the version we linked to above because it requires only five ingredients and adds a bright vinegary pop to any meal.
  • SYRIA: We’ll get into pickles a bit more down below, but if you want to feel like you’re visiting Syria, whip up a batch of their customary Aleppo Dill Pickles (which combines traditional dill pickle flavor with spicy, smoky aleppo peppers from the middle east for a refreshingly spicy pickle). 
  • FRANCE: Though not a classic French salad, utilizing something fresh, crunchy, and bright like a cucumber alongside a bit of thinly shaved fennel is a very French preparation. Try this Fennel Salad with Cucumber and Dill from Feasting at Home.
Photo by: Gimme Some Oven

Longer-term preservation

If you get behind on using the cucumbers you’re receiving each week, or want to do some delicious summer preserving for the cooler months, cucumbers provide a few great options. From fridge pickles to canned pickles, ferments to pickle relish, cucumbers allow ample room for experimentation. 

Here’s some great resources and recipes to get you started:

Need cucumbers for preservation? Be sure to check out online farmers’ market during cucumber season to stock up! While we don’t grow pickling cucumbers some of our neighbors (who have switched from dairy farming to organic vegetables this past year) are growing a lot. We will announce this in the newsletter in summer. 

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