Cucumbers: Summer’s Underrated Culinary Staple
Boston Pickling CucumbersWe’re guessing you don’t spend much time thinking about cucumbers, especially in mid-winter. But, if you were to think about them, you might agree they’re a culinary staple. Even if you are among the few people who don’t like pickles (!), surely, you would agree that summer menus just wouldn’t be the same without them. Wouldn’t you miss cucumber and tomato salads? Or, how about English tea cucumber sandwiches?
Interesting Facts About Cucumbers Plants
Cucumbers Gardening Tips
Minimum of 6 hours. Plenty of sunshine is the key to growing cucumbers successfully.
Cucumbers LOVE water and will become stressed (and bitter) if they don’t get enough consistently. Take care not to over-water, especially when seeds are first planted.
Well-drained, light soil, rich in organic matter; pH 6.0-7.0. Soil must be warm – at least 65°F – for cucumbers to grow well.
40°F to 75°F
For an earlier harvest, start seeds indoors about a month before the last anticipated spring frost. Or, they can be direct sown outside after all danger of frost has passed. Ambient air temperature should be above 40°F; warmer is better but not super hot.
Indoors: sow 3 seeds per pot in 2-inch pots, ¾” deep; thin to 1-2 plants/pot. Direct-Sow Outdoors: 1″ deep, 6-8″ apart or plant them in mounds, 3 plants per hill, with each hill around 2-3 feet apart.
3-10 days+. Ideal germination temperature: 60-90°F; will germinate faster at higher temperatures.
Cucumbers are heavy feeders so be sure to start with soil rich in organic material and add organic fertilizer when the first flowers appear.
Black plastic mulch helps to speed soil warming and protect young plants.
To avoid problems, don’t plant them in the same spot every year.
If the leaves turn yellow, that means the plants need nitrogen
Sunflowers, corn (tall plants to provide shade from hot afternoon sun), beans, peas, radish, okra. Don’t plant with potatoes or aromatic herbs.
Yes, at least 8″ deep. A bigger container is better.
Cucumber fruit can ripen at different times on the same plant. It’s important to pick each fruit as it’s ready to avoid leaving it on the vine too long which will cause it to become bitter.
- Cucumbers (“cukes”) are the second most popular backyard vegetables (some call them fruit) in the U.S., after tomatoes, estimated to be grown by almost half of all home gardeners.
- There are two different classes of cucumber plants: one produces fruit well suited to pickling, while the other produces fruit for slicing. We offer one of each.
- Slicing cukes, known primarily as a nice crunchy addition to salads and sandwiches, fresh, cool cucumbers complement a number of summer recipes. Cucumber somehow pairs naturally with plain yogurt, tahini or sour cream and is a great foil for spicy ingredients.
- As for pickles, everyone knows they go with everything.
- They’re easy to grow but don’t like it when it gets too hot; it’s best to plant them among taller crops that can provide some light shade
- They continue to produce throughout the summer even as you harvest fruit.
- They’re relatively slow-growing, so you should plant them as early as possible, noting that they’re especially susceptible to frost.
- Like many other fruits (yes they are a fruit and not a vegetable), cucumbers are low in calories and high in fiber (especially if you eat the skin). They contain a number of nutrients including vitamins A, B, C, and folic acid, as well as magnesium and potassium. Several studies have demonstrated that they have cancer-fighting properties as well. As if that weren’t enough, they also help you stay hydrated as they’re 96% water!
- 9 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes (peel first, see below)
- 2 1/2 cups chopped green bell peppers
- 2 1/2 cups chopped white onion
- 4 medium jalapeños, chopped (substitute 2 of the jalapeños for 2 cayenne peppers for extra hot salsa)
- 8 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 6 teaspoons canning salt
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 (12 ounce) can tomato paste
- Remove tomato skins. Make an “X” in the bottom of the tomatoes, then place in boiling water for 60 seconds. Then, remove the tomatoes from the water and place directly into an ice bath. The skins should slip right off.
- Make the salsa. Place all of the ingredients in a large pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until thickened and cooked.
- Prepare cans to be sealed. Transfer the cooked salsa into clean, sterile jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Use a funnel for this. Wipe rims of jars and, then place lids on top.
- Process with a water bath. Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Your saucepan needs to be tall enough to have the water cover the jars by 2 inches.