Cucumbers don’t seem to share the notorious reputation of summer squash for its summertime over abundance however they are productive. They’re also not quite as easy to preserve as something like tomatoes which are easily frozen, canned, or dried for delicious meals later on. If you’ve got baskets of cucumbers piling up on your kitchen counter try a few of these easy suggestions to make the most of your summer bounty.
Add them to smoothies.
Cucumbers are cool, mild, and refreshing making them an excellent choice for summertime smoothies.
If you’re up for a more traditional preservation route there are many recipes for water bath canning pickles. Check out these recipes from Ball:
If canning isn’t your thing, try checking recipes for “refrigerator pickles.” These can’t be kept at room temperature like their canned counterparts but they will keep in the fridge for a long time.
Make frozen treats.
Cucumbers make wonderful additions to homemade fruit sorbets or popsicles. They’re nice and juicy without a lot of intense flavor.
Toss them in drinks.
Cucumbers are an awesome homegrown way to add excitement to your drinks. Sangria, gin & tonics, or even ice water with your fresh cucumber slices is sure to impress your guests.
For those who haven’t heard of it gazpacho is a soup made from blended vegetables that’s served cool. It makes a great summer lunch and there’s tons of recipes to suit everyones’ tastes. Check out this recipe from the BBC, Green Cucumber & Mint Gazpacho.
Fermented foods are great for your gut and pretty easy to make. Try this recipe for awesome fermented cucumber pickles.
Try a different cucumber salad.
Tossing a cucumber slices onto a plain salad can quickly get boring but their are plenty of recipes if you’re willing to branch out try searching for Asian cucumber sesame salad recipes or check Pinterest for more recipes.
Add them to a stir fry.
It may sound a bit odd if you’re accustomed to only eating fresh cucumbers but cucumbers are delicious in a stir fry or alone. Try frying some with a touch of oil, soy sauce, and ginger.
Make fresh salsa.
Cucumbers can easily be added to fresh salsa recipes like this one for taco night!
Make your own soap.
If you’re into crafts or diy projects or have ever tried soap making you may want to try adding some of your cucumbers. Search “cucumber soap” for recipes.
As is the case with many vegetables cucumbers are actually very versatile. If you’ve got an abundance this season trying a few new recipes can help you eat more from your garden and spend less time in the grocery store. What’s your favorite way to use cucumbers?
Fermenting food is actually one of the oldest and safest methods of food preservation. Despite this fermenting food as a means of food preservation has largely been replaced by canning and freezing. While fermented foods may require a little extra care and attention they are still pretty easy to make and are beneficial to eat. Eating a diet that includes fermented foods promotes healthy gut flora and good digestion.
Fermented cucumber pickles are an easy way to get started with fermented foods and they’re just as tasty as home canned ones! They’re also easy to make in small batches, perfect for people with smaller gardens.
Here’s what you’ll need:
spices (dill, pepper, garlic, etc.)
jar or crock
*optional – grape leaves
Rinse your cucumbers and remove any that are bruised or damaged. If you’re making a large crock and can fit them in whole they’re ready to go. If not slice your cucumbers however you desire. Spears and slice both work fine.
Mix your cucumbers, onion slices, and spices and pack them into your jar or crock leaving an inch or so of head space.
Don’t worry that the recipe isn’t specific. It doesn’t matter! Unlike canning you can mess around with ingredients without making your food unsafe. If you’re not sure what spices you’d like small batches are wonderful for trying different combinations.
In a quart jar mix 1 1/2 TBS salt and water until the salt is dissolved and pour over your cucumbers. Repeat this process as needed until they’re completely covered.
Place some sort of weight over your cucumbers to hold them under the water. You can purchase a crock weight, use a plate, or use a clean rock. In my mini batch pictured above I washed a small rock and used it.
If desired you can also layer clean grape leaves over the top of your cucumbers before weighing them down. The grape leaves help keep the air away from your cucumbers and the tannins in them help the cucumbers stay crisp.
If you’re using a jar you can now lightly put the lid on. Don’t screw it down tight. If gases can’t escape your jar will explode. If using a crock you can lay a clean towel or cloth over it. Let your pickles ferment for 2-3 days on the counter.
Once they’ve fermented they can be moved to cold storage like a refrigerator or root cellar and they’ll last for months!
In my dreams of a picturesque garden there are always trellises. They may bring to mind quaint little fairy tale cottages, but trellises aren’t just for their good looks. There are so many plants that can be grown on a trellis and so many reasons to grow them that way.
Trellising saves resources.
Want to grow more vegetables in little spaces? Grow up! One of the easiest ways to make the best use of small garden spaces is by growing plants on trellises. Plants like pole beans are extremely productive and can be grown in narrow rows if trellised.
Trellised plants also use less water. Instead of watering an entire sprawling plant you can just water the base where the plants roots are located.
Trellises add structure.
Adding structure and height to a garden is often done to make gardens more beautiful. but there are other benefits too. Song birds will appreciate having places to land in your garden and they can help control insect populations.
Having the plants up off the ground also increases air flow and can help minimize plant diseases.
Trellises add shade.
Trellising plants can also help you add much needed summertime shade. A vining vegetable crop like cucumbers can be grown on a slanted trellis above a bed of a cool weather vegetable like lettuce, thereby helping you to grow a late season crop. Deciduous perennials (those that drop their leaves in the fall) can be grown on trellises on the southern side of houses to shade the home in the heat of summer and let the sun through in the winter. Some plants, like pole beans, gourds, and flowers like morning glories, have such long vines they can easily cover small structures (like teepees) making excellent summer forts for kids.
Trellised plants are easier to harvest.
Vegetables on trellises also tend to be easier to harvest. Instead of searching through a sprawling jungle of squash plants, you can easily spot them hanging from a trellis. Plus there’s little or no bending over. The fruits also tend to be cleaner and more uniform, perfect for market growers.
What can be trellised?
Many plants do well on a trellis and some require one. Below are some of the vegetables, flowers, and perennials that make ideal candidates for trellising.
There are tons of trellis designs and it can be hard to choose. The major deciding factors will be your garden’s style, your budget, the materials you have on hand, and which plants you plan to trellis. Trellises can be whimsical, practical, or a mix of both. They can be shaped as arches, forts for children, or simple fences.
Use natural materials.
Many people choose to make simple teepees like these which can be made from bamboo, straight saplings, or branches, and held together with twine or wire. There are also many different shaped designs using the same materials.
Hog panels or sections of wire fencing are another popular choice. Hog panels and sturdier fencing can be used two ways: as a fence or bent over as an arch.
Purchase or build trellises from lumber.
If you have money to purchase trellises or a knack for woodworking, there are designs for folding trellises that can be stored each season as well as more creative designs. You can also install large trellises in front houses or over patios.
Some people also repurpose old junk into awesome trellises. Things like iron bed frames and gates, old umbrella frames, and old antennas are great for climbing plants.
When designing any trellis it’s important to think about what you’re growing. Is it a permanent trellis for a perennial that will be in the same spot for years or something you’ll want to rotate next year? You’ll also need to decide on the size. Obviously pea plants require smaller trellises than grape vines. Some plants, like pumpkins, melons, and larger squash varieties, will need sturdy trellises to support the immense weight of their fruit.
How do I trellis plants?
Some plants (including morning glories, beans, and cucumbers) are easy to trellis. Simply sew seeds next to a trellis and they’ll do the work. Some plants, like tomatoes, need a little help: they need to be manually trellised. You can use tomato-specific trellis methods like the “Florida Weave” which surrounds the plants with twine. Or use traditional trellises and attach plants with tomato clips or even old scraps of fabric. Just be sure that your method does not cut into the plant as it grows.
For some large-fruited plants like pumpkins, melons, and large squash varieties, you may need extra support. You can create small “hammocks” for each fruit from an old shirt or other stretchy material that can be tied off to the trellis as the vine cannot support the fruit’s mature weight.
If you’re ready for a super productive and beautiful garden this year it’s time to get some trellises ready! The best time to add trellises is before planting, not after, so don’t delay! It’s finally spring and setting up trellises is a great way to get out in the garden.
Want to know more about trellises? Check out these posts: