Cucumber, the utility player

Summer's stars and certainly featured players at our farm are all 
the many varieties of tomatoes and squash that are ripening 
almost by the minute and in great abundance this time of year. 
The tables at the farmers markets are full of much red, orange, yellow, dark and striped green goodies and we are all searching for recipes that highlight this bounty.

one of many squash beds going crazy at the farm
top photos features roasted garden squash & grilled flank steak
with garden tomato panzanella
from bistro plats du jour at the girl & the fig

But the "veggie party" isn't only about 
dark bold colors—pale and light should not be overlooked. 
So, in the wake of our tomato talk, squash chatter and zucchini zeal
we want to coo about our cucumbers!

cucumbers growing at the farm
cucumbers amidst the squash at the farm
and cucumbers co-existing with other vegetables
at the farm behind the fig
Cucumbers are like a utility player, sitting patiently in the crisper 
while you create dishes where flashier vegetables are the stars. 
But that tomato gazpacho will taste better with some chopped "cucs" 
added for crunchy texture. Pureed cucumber added to lemon and lime juice 
with some sugar suddenly makes a "frosty" slush really healthy.  
And in their "supporting role," besides added to a salad or substituting 
for a cracker to scoop dip, they can make a dish really come to life. 
Our chefs love 'em to be the delivery to for a succulent meal.

Lamb, chickpea, cucumber, feta salad
photo by Steven Krause for
Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig's Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country
You probably know the benefits of cucumber slices on  puffy eyes, but did you know they can help  prevent a hang over or even better will remove crayon on a wall 
or clear up a pen mistake? (really!) 
while the squash "stars" seem to take center stage at the farm,
the cucumber plants to their right are holding their own.
While cucumbers are originally from the Indian subcontinent, 
they are grown on most continents now.
At our farm, we have jade, English, Armenian, lemon, 
Sikkim and poona kheera cucumbers.
Each variety is distinctive—some typical green (certainly the jade), but not all.
 They might "pale" a bit at first glance, when compared 
with "stand up and notice me" tomato and squash. Until you look a bit closer.
Did you know there are close to 100 varieties of cucumbers?
Armenian cucumbers, known as the "snake cucumber"
can grow to 36 inches, but taste best harvested when 12-15 inches.
You can eat the pretty skin of these-looks great sliced on a plate!
The Armenian cucumber is particularly interesting, 
since it is really "a melon with a cucumber taste."
English cucumbers, like the slicers, are the most common.
The Sikkim cucumber, a historic plant from the Himalayas of Sikkim and Nepal, 
first discovered in 1848, is a large, fat fruit and can actually 
reach several pounds in size. 
Wonder what our chefs will make with this? 
who says a cucumber has to be long and green?
photo of  Sikkim Cucumber courtesy of Gardenista
peeled Sikkim cucumber may be more yellow than green
but still pale and light
Poona kheera cucumbers are Indian and look a bit like
the common "slicer" in  size, but are even lighter in color. 
But, as we've been saying, the demure pale color 
belies how vibrant these fruits can be. 

Like the Sikkum, these cucumbers have a skin that is dark russet color. 
When these first appear, they are green and spiky, but they will eventually 
ripen to look like "typical" cucumbers you are used to seeing. 

And while they can get a traditional looking green skin, 
they actually taste best at their palest color. 
Check out this great short video detailing the 
ideal time to harvest a poona kheera cucumber. 
Might seem as if it needed more time to darken, but not so!
The palest of our cucumbers, but by no means a lightweight, are the lemon cucumbers
Not named for a lemon flavor but with their size 
and pale yellow color they sure look like lemons! 
Tender and sweet, lovely in a salad and excellent for pickling, 
they have a crunchy texture and non-bitter skin. 
not a lemon, but a cucumber!

Like any really good utility or supporting player, 
the cucumber doesn't only perform well in one place.
Cucumbers not only help transform a dish in the kitchen, 
but can enliven the bar scene. 

Food writers at the San Francisco Chronicle have said, 
"the salad days for cucumbers are over. 

They are all grown up and have taken to bar crawling." 
While cucumbers have been a traditional garnish for the classic Pimm's Cup, 
a gin drink that hails from 1823, the girl & the fig bartenders 
mix up a cucumber-lemon verbena drop.
Summer is an especially good time to try these other cucumber cocktail recipes.

How creative are you in the kitchen with cucumbers?
And, have you tried any of the more unusual varieties?

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