Wednesday, October 21, 2009

First Cucumbers

Cucumis sativus, Cucumber

A week ago I checked my cucumber vine and the fruit were only finger size and then we had some rain and they suddenly matured overnight. In the heat of summer you almost have to check then daily as they have the habit of turning into zeppelins very quickly. Cucumbers are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and take up very little space. They have few insect or disease pests and spraying them is never necessary. During the very humid days of summer they are prone to mildew on the leaves but by then the bush has ceased to be very productive.
Cucumbers have been cultivated for over 3000 years and are originally thought to have come from the southern foothills of the Himalayas in India. Worldwide they are used in salads, cold soups, in pickles and even in hot dishes. I like to make the Greek sauce/dip Tzatziki which combines cucumber with yogurt, mint ,garlic and lemon juice. This is very similar to the Indian Raita which has identical ingredients but cumin is added for a touch of spice.This dish makes a cooling accompaniment to curries.
The Turkish Cacik is a yogurt cucumber soup using the herb dill as well as walnuts, garlic and olive oil for flavouring. The other cold soup of note using cucumber is Gazpacho Andaluz ,the chilled vegetable soup of Spain .For this I can't resist adding lots of Tabasco sauce after it is served.
There are also many salads in which cucumber is used as a base. The Chinese Liang Pan Huang Kua combines it with ginger, rice wine vinegar, soy and sesame oil to make a side dish. Burmese cucumber salad called Thankat, calls for it to be cooked until translucent and then combined with turmeric, sesame seeds,  chilli and vinegar. A variation on this adds pieces of Citron peel to the end result.
I have never tried cooking cucumber but various recipes appear in Caribbean and German cook books where it is used in this way.. The German Gefullte Gurken has them stuffed with cold meats and anchovy fillets and then simmered in stock. The Germans are masters of the pickled cucumber and the list of ingredients usually combines white wine vinegar, horseradish, bay leaves, tarragon and nutmeg.
So from this first harvest ,I am thinking of making the Egyptian Michotetta, a cream cheese and cucumber salad. The soft creamy Persian Fetta cheese is perfect for this. The sliced cucumber is combined with red onion, lemon juice , olive oil and salt /pepper for a simple combination of flavours.


  1. Luscios cucumbers and mouth watering recipes!

  2. Ian... صور العظمى وصفات خيار
    Great photographs & cucumber recipes!

    Thanks for the marvelous recipes and view of your garden cucumbers. The Egyptian Michotetta salad sounds like it would make a terrific sandwich on a dense multi-grain wheat bread.

    I think I'll give it a try.

  3. Thanks for you comments. I really like that creamy Fetta chesse you can get in tins or jars marinated in oil with herbs. It is perfect with cucumbers