Summer gardens are in full swing! I, as I’m sure many of you do as well, have an abundance of cucumbers and tomatoes. If you’re anything like me, you are looking for ways to use them up. This year I grew tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale and peppers. Looking at the picture up there, you’re probably thinking – that’s not a cucumber. Well, this year I grew Lemon Cucumbers in my garden. I had never heard of or seen this variety before. Well, my lemon cucumbers have a funny back story, at least how they ended up in my garden is funny (to me anyway!) It involves a destructive (yet loved unconditionally) dog, patience, and a trip to home depot.
If you are regular reader, you know that Jessica and I are animal lovers, dogs especially. We both have a couple of dogs, all rescued. They are an important part of our every day lives and we spoil them beyond measure. A little over a year ago, my family lost one of our dogs. It was very sudden though she was very old. She was my princess, a diva to the max, and we miss her everyday. But, with the loss came an opportunity to get a puppy that could become a best friend to my then 3 year old daughter. I had never had a big dog before, but was up for the challenge! I knew it would be an adventure because I read Marley and Me, so I was prepared. (Are you laughing at me yet?) Once we felt we were ready, we decided to adopt a puppy. We searched and searched the shelters around us but just didn’t find one that we felt would fit our family. So in desperation I reached out to this rescue group that has a network of foster homes where dogs are picked up at high kill shelters and go to live at foster homes until they are adopted. The foster homes are located all over the Northeast. They had a 10 week old mixed breed pup. We fell in love with her the second we got her picture. We decided to take the chance based on the her description without meeting her. She had been thrown from a vehicle with her sister and left in a ditch somewhere in New Hampshire, in the middle of winter.
Once we applied, they asked all the right questions about our experience as a dog family. They even called our vet to ask about our history. I was very impressed with their vetting process. My daughter was beyond excited. She finally came in early April of last year, on a van filled with other animals on their way to their foster or forever homes. She was about 14 weeks old, the day she came home, and weighed about 12 pounds. Today, she weighs 70 pounds! We named her Belle. She got her name because the day we lost our beloved Princess Britney, we were actually headed out of town for a Disney trip. We all cried in the car all the way to Florida. But, while at Disney we had a magical time at the Beauty and Beast Castle and with Princess Belle. So, my daughter asked if our next dog could be named Belle. However, our Belle is anything but a princess. She is sweet, and caring, but skittish, and well….sometimes destructive.
Now, back to the story of the lemon cucumbers… In February, my daughter and I spent about 4 hours planting our vegetable seeds in starter pots which would eventually be transplanted in the garden. It took 4 hours because I was doing it with a 4 year old. If you’ve ever done anything meticulous with a 4 year old, you know what I’m talking about. It was a great experience for her to be so involved in sowing the seeds, watering them, caring for them, watching them sprout, then ultimately transplanting them into our garden. My daughter and I were so proud of our little sprout-lets and couldn’t wait to watch them grow and produce our favorite vegetables. Transplant day finally arrived in late May. I got myself all set up in the garden. We had painstakingly prepared the soil, put up a fence so the dogs couldn’t jump in, set up a watering system, etc., all the things you do for a summer garden. My husband carried my little sprouts outside, and put them on the ground near the garden while I mapped out where everything would go. We were just about ready to get going, and I realized I had left my garden gloves in the shed. When I ran to get them, apparently my daughter and husband decided to go inside the house. This left the dog, Miss Belle, outside alone with the cherished spout-lets. Que suspenseful music.
The dog ate the whole tray of precious seedlings. Months of preparation, hard work, and thoughtful caring, all undone by a crazy dog. She ate every single plant but one, a tiny celery. I should have taken a picture, but I was in a state of mourning and didn’t think of it. I’m not sure my husband has ever had so much sympathy for me, ever. He saw that I was on the edge of a breakdown. He disappeared for about 30 minutes. When he came back, he had trays and trays full of tiny plants. I dont even think he looked at what he was buying. There were pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, even lavender, lilac, basil, rosemary, thyme, and more. Apparently, they were pretty much out of all their seedlings, so just bought what he could get. It was really sweet. So I picked though the trays and selected a handful of corporate grown seedlings to plant. One of those said, miniature cucumber. I planted two, towards the end of the garden, near the fence so they could grow up the fence. I thought I’d be getting little mini pickling cucumbers.
About a month ago, the blooms started turning into these melon shaped balls. They were yellow striped. I was so confused. I brought one inside, cut it open, and it smelled and tasted like a cucumber, but with a hint of lemon. I did some research online and learned that it is an heirloom cucumber variety called a lemon cucumber. They are very tasty. They also seem to love my yard, because I have about 30 from flower stage to fully ripe and ready to pick. The best part of the whole lemon cucumber journey has been give them to neighbors. They never believe me. I always make them cut it open, on the spot and try it.
My mom is a huge cucumber fan. I have memories of her making cucumber salad then eating it all in one sitting. I wanted to make a salad that resembled her recipe, but not with quite so much sugar. I created this recipe with rice wine vinegar and a touch of honey, for sweetness but also plain white vinegar for the tangy crisp vinegar flavor. The key to this tasty salad, is the sitting time between making it and eating it. Make sure to let it sit for at least an hour, but overnight is better.