Cucumber growers in a pickle over what to do with bountiful harvest this year
Johanna Hicks | Hopkins County Extension Agent/FCS

July 2, 2005 -- It seems Hopkins County gardeners have an abundance of cucumbers this year. I have received phone calls from five individuals within a two week time period, who are looking for creative ways to use cucumbers in addition to pickle-making. With that in mind, I decided to give you a little background on cucumbers and include a few ideas for using those delectable delights.

The cucumber has been cultivated in Asia for 3,000 years, and spread to North America in the 1500s. The world's largest cucumber was grown in 1988 in Australia. It weighed in at 59 pounds -- definitely not edible! They are ready for harvest 50 to 70 days from planting and should be harvested according to their size and intended use. Slicers for slicing should be harvested when they are 5 to 8 inches long and 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. For gherkin-style pickles, they should be harvested when they are approximately 2 inches long.

Harvest often. According to my resources, one ripe cucumber will stop a plant from producing. Cucumbers become bitter with size and should not be allowed to reach the yellowish stage. Yellow cucumbers are over mature, course, less attractive as a food, and will be strong flavored and of poor quality.

Cucumbers are a source of vitamin A and C, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. When preparing cucumbers for a salad, you may wish to cut off the blossom end as this part may taste bitter.

For a refreshing summer dish, serve sliced chilled cucumbers with low-fat salad dressing, or toss diced cucumbers in a salad with lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, cheese, and carrots. Still need more ideas? Try this tasty recipe:

CUCUMBER CREAM CHEESE SPREAD

2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

2 medium cucumbers, peeled, grated

1 small onion, grated (optional)

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve on whole wheat bread or with crackers.

Here's one more for your recipe file:

COOL CUCUMBER RICE

3 large cucumbers, diced

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1 medium bell pepper, diced

1 bunch green onion, chopped

1/2 cup lite soy sauce

6 cups cooked rice

Combine tomatoes, bell pepper, and onions. Add soy sauce and let marinate for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve over cooked rice. Makes a great side dish with chicken.

For information on pickling and preserving other foods, come by the Extension Office, 228 Hinnant St., and pick up free publications. We are here from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

WILDFLOWER KNITTING CAMP

Information about various opportunities frequently come my way, and here's one that was worth sharing. If knitting is your "bag", you are invited to "tote" your knitting needles and join other knitting enthusiasts for fun workshops.

The 4th Annual Wildflower Knitting Camp is scheduled for Aug. 5 and 6, at Camp Tyler. The cost is $45 and includes supplies, food and lodging. Workshops include Beginning Knitting, Knitted and Felted Purses, Fun Fur Embellished Sandals, Knit a pillow top or bag using cables and various stitch patterns. Also included will be a gallery of the artists' work, demonstrations, swimming opportunities, movie, field trip, good food and games.

This camp is for anyone ages 8 to 108. (Young children must be accompanied by an adult.) Contact my office at 903-885-3443 for registration information.

CLOSING THOUGHT

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission. -- Eleanor Roosevelt

Johanna Hicks

Texas Cooperative Extension- Hopkins County

Extension Agent - Family & Consumer Sciences

228 Hinnant St.

P.O. Box 518

Sulphur Springs, TX 75483

Phone: 903-885-3726

Fax: 903-439-4909

e-mail:jshicks@ag.tamu.edu

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