Despite drought, heat and lately deluge, cucumbers produce prodigiously. It’s their manner.
I’m overwhelmed with hundreds of Delikatesse and Snow’s Fancy Pickling, all from only four plants.
Cucumbers are easy to grow, easier than tomatoes.
Amend the planting soil with plenty of compost and composed manure.
Mulch with straw, water regularly and provide a trellis or other structure for vines to climb upward.
In about 60 days, a huge harvest of cukes will be yours. Their copious production is why pickles became main stream. It was the easiest way to preserve the bounty for later. Good Housekeeping magazine in 1884 stated “A dinner or lunch without pickles of some kind is incomplete.”
Dill and cucumbers are natural partners in pickle making. Plant them together, as dill attracts insects that feed on pests drawn to cucumber vines.
You can find red, orange, purple and yellow sweet pickles all over the Mississippi Delta. When I lived in the South, I often was served foods I could never imagine in my wildest dreams. Southerners have for centuries used what they grew; they invented dishes, like fried green tomatoes, to take advantage of vegetables that grew well in the heat and humidity. To make the colorful pickles, combine powdered drink mix, sugar and cucumbers. Refrigerate for a week before eating.
Skip the drugstore
The inside of a cucumber is about 20 degrees cooler than the surrounding temperature. That makes it a natural for beautifying the face, along with the magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and other nutrients contained cucumbers contain. Also, they are 96 percent cool water.
Cut a couple of cucumber slices for your eyes when they are puffy and itchy from allergens. Within minutes, the swelling will go down and the itch will disappear.
Try placing a slice of cucumber on each eye and rest for 15 minutes if your eyes are puffy. Cukes can banish dark circles under eyes, too, and tighten sagging skin. Combine a grated cucumber with a half cup of milk and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Then spread the resulting paste under your eyes and let it stay for 20 minutes. Rinse with cold water. It works and is much cheaper than those pricy cosmetics sold to take off years from your face.
Skip the mouthwash, too. Cucumbers tame bad breath. Press a slice or two to the roof of your mouth with your tongue and hold for 30 seconds. The phytochemcials in cucumbers will kill the bacteria responsible for causing bad breath.
Donate to the hungry
If you cannot use or give away all those cucumbers, remember the hungry. I donate at least 25 pounds every season to my local food pantry, which is part of the Plant a Row for the Hungry network. That organization, started in 1995 by the Garden Writers Association, collects over a million pounds of fresh, nutritious produce annually for the hungry. Click here to find the closest collection point in your area.
Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.
In stores now!
Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including Amazon.com.