Cucumbers drove my father to distraction. He was an achieved kitchen gardener, happy with his tomatoes and beans, who made a ritual out of the choosing of his sweetcorn, and created a effective and productive asparagus mattress. However his cucumbers curled. It didn’t have an effect on their style. However to my father’s aesthetic requirements, that vegetable comma signified failure.

It actually wasn’t his fault. The situation is frequent sufficient to have its personal title: crooking. It’s brought on by any variety of issues, from pollination to poor rising situations and pest interference. The state of affairs was barely improved when he started to plant these creeping vines not outdoors alongside the bottom however in his glasshouse, in pots, to hold down closely from stakes. 

Curly or straight, their form didn’t have an effect on their flavour. Uniformly, his cucumbers have been exceptionally cucumber-y, which was why, till just lately, I loathed them. 

What was the purpose of those watery greens – 95% water, certainly – that leaked throughout a Seventies blended salad. That water does comprise electrolytes, nonetheless, which is helpful in case you’re dehydrated, they usually do present numerous vitamins. 

However the place they rating, in case you’re struggling to slither into your bathing apparel, is that they’re low in energy, fats, and ldl cholesterol. Then, having laid too lengthy within the solar, you’ll be able to smother your self in slices of cucumber to appease the pores and skin and cut back the irritation and swelling. A taxing evening on the tiles? Slices of cucumber laid over the eyes lower morning-after puffiness. 

For much more magnificence purposes, cucumber blended in a processor and sieved makes a pure toner, left on the pores and skin for half an hour then rinsed, that may assist clear the pores. Equal portions of cucumber juice and yogurt makes an area again that helps dry pores and skin.

So what of their qualities as a meals?

They’ve a beautiful crunch however an illusive flavour that some evaluate to the melon which isn’t such a stretch once you be taught that the cucumber, being a part of the identical Cucurbitaceae household because the melon, is, in actual fact, a fruit. I desire the melon. Left to ripen to yellow, cucumbers develop into unpleasantly bitter and are good for nothing, although there are some deluded individuals who take into account them match for soup on this state.

Whereas cucumbers at their peak are a key element of gazpacho, left to function on their very own there’s not so much to commend them. With, in my humble opinion, one exception: the cucumber sandwich. 

Together with strawberries, in my household these signified summer time. My father would very thinly slice a malted granary loaf and unfold it with tender butter. He’d peel a cucumber and slice that as finely as he may, layering it over the buttered bread. Salt was sprinkled over earlier than it was coated with one other buttered slice of bread. Then he’d lower off the crusts, divide the sandwich in two after which into slender fingers. 

Except for grating a cucumber into Greek tzatziki with a beneficiant tablespoon of finely chopped mint, these sandwiches have been about the one approach I could possibly be bothered with cucumber. 

Till just lately, that’s, once I found Smacked Cucumber Salad. It’s a Chinese language dish, which isn’t any shock, on condition that cucumbers originate in South East Asia. However don’t let that cease you making this dish in south west France. It goes amazingly nicely with duck dishes, slicing the richness of the chook. It’s greatest made with these small courgette-length Center Japanese cukes however an everyday one is okay.

  • 1 cucumber (about 300g)
  • ½-1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons Chinese language rice vinegar or crimson wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon crimson chilli flakes or extra to style
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil

Slice the cucumber lengthways in half and lay the 2 halves lower aspect down on a board. Smack them arduous alongside their size with a rolling pin or meat cleaver. Slice the halves diagonally into 1cm items.

Put the slices in a sieve or colander, toss with salt, and set above a bowl to exude their water for 20 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine collectively the remaining elements. Shake the cucumber to get rid of any remaining liquid then decant right into a serving bowl, pour over the sauce, combine completely and serve directly.This column written by Julia Watson initially appeared within the July 2021 version of The Bugle.

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