Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cucumbers are cool

One of the big surprises of the garden this spring have been the cucumbers. They are about played out now, but they have had a glorious heyday during the past couple of weeks.

I planted the cucumber seeds along with all the other vegetables in April -- okra, tomatoes, peppers, etc. -- and didn't pay any special attention to them. I had just scattered the seed in a row, and within a couple of weeks, they popped up out of the ground. All of them.

They were so strong and abundant as they grew that I transplanted some of them to another row just to see how they would do. They continued to grow. As they grew bigger, I noticed that the vines were beginning to spread out from the rows, and I did a bit of reading and found that they like to have something to climb on. I had a few bean frames in the tool shed, and I put them on top of the plants just to see what would happen.

What happened was that the cumbers covered the ground and started to climb. They produce huge leaves that give shade to the vines and the yellow blooms. I still wasn't paying too much attention to them except to note that they were big plants, very healthy and were continuing to grow.

Then one evening, Sally and I were looking around in the garden, and I happened to stoop down and move on the leaves. In doing so, I uncovered an enormous cucumber. I looked further and found them in all sizes and shapes. We have been gathering buckets full of them ever since.

The bees love the cucumbers. The vines produce a small yellow bloom, and at just about any time during the day, you can walk by the cucumber patch and hear the loud buzzing of hundreds of bees working away. The bees, of course, are one of the reasons why the crop has been so abundant.

The earliest cucumbers are the best-tasting ones, and once they get to be any size at all, they should be picked. If they get big and round and fat (and begin to yellow), they are probably not as good to hear. Sally found a recipe for no-cook spicy dill pickles from Epicurious.com and has put up several jars of those. She and Jane are also making some festive red cinnamon pickles that we will be giving away at Christmas time.

Note: Things in the garden have been pretty busy lately, and I have fallen behind on the planned posts. I will try to catch up on the next couple of weeks.

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