Pickles and Cucumbers
Those long, dark green, slicing cucumbers (also known as English Cucumbers) are a very popular addition to summer salads, dip trays, and spa treatments. We grow quite a lot of them, and they are delicious, but... if asked, any Kirby will point you towards the Kirby Pickle as the best choice, no contest. The name can be confusing. Our immediate family had nothing to do with the development of this delicious little cucurbit, but it is pretty neat that we share a name. And it isn't sold already steeped in brine - this variety is called a pickle most likely because it was bred as a pickling variety. A Kirby Pickle is a small, spiny, dark-and-light-green-striped cucumber. The skin is thinner so you really don't have to peel it, and the seeds are smaller without all that gel stuff in the middle (like a regular cucumber would have). They're the very best thing for a tomato and cucumber salad, or eating out of hand.
They are also far, far superior for pickling. Stuff 'em into a jar with a sweet brine or a sour brine and (with a little work and attention) you'll have the best, crispest, homemade pickles you can find. Just remember, the darker end of the pickle is usually bitter, so you'll want to leave at least a half inch to avoid that bitter taste.
Season: July - early October
There's usually a little time between plantings, and Mother Nature is always unpredictable, so it's best to call ahead of time to check availability.
Cucumbers and pickles do best when stored at around 50 degrees. The best place in the average home is usually the crisper drawer - just be sure that temperatures don't go below 40. Cucumbers will suffer cold damage if stored below 40 degrees. Wrap loosely in plastic to keep them from drying out.
Cucumbers are most often eaten raw or pickled.
They're also well known as a topical skin moisturizer.
Our favorite way to eat pickles (other then right off the vine) is sliced thin with tomatoes and onions. Toss with your favorite vinaigrette. We tend to use cider vinegar, a little olive oil, with salt and pepper to taste.
Making little bowls out of cucumbers can be a fun way to serve appetizers and small salads. Just cut the cucumber into four inch sections (or smaller depending on the dish) and scoop the center to create a space for the filling.
Cucumbers are also wonderful in gazpacho, or featured in it's own chilled soups.
Fresh cucumber sliced very thin with a vegetable peeler is a delicious addition to sandwiches.
Try adding a slice or two of cucumber to a glass of water. Or... fill a whole pitcher with water, then add a sliced up cucumber and keep it in the fridge for a very refreshing drink on a hot day. Try adding some mint too!
About Cucumbers and Pickles
India is the ancient home of cucumbers. From there they slowly worked their way over to Mesopotamia (where apparently they were munched by Gilgamesh himself), then on to Italy, France, back around to China and eventually to England, all by various routes. The Spanish are credited with bringing cucumbers to the Americas. There are many, many, varieties grown throughout the world, far beyond the several we usually see here in the United States.
Since a cucumber is mostly water, it's not too surprising that the majority of nutrients found in cucumbers are in the skin and seeds of the fruit. They are an excellent source of Vitamin K, a very good source of Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and B5.