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Clear skies. Low 57F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.
Serving Athens and Limestone County: A Community of Tradition and Future
With so many home gardeners taking on vegetable gardening, I thought it would be a good time to single out of few of the more commonly grown veggies and give some growing tips as well as recipes to use for the harvest. In the first of the series, this week the spotlight is on cucumbers.
I’m not gonna lie; I get a little giggly when I start to see the big, yellow flowers start to appear on my cucumber vines. Most folks think of sliced cucumbers in a salad, but cucumbers are a versatile vegetable. They are a refreshing component in cucumber water, cucumber salad, tzatziki, a crisp cold soup, and fancy little cucumber sandwiches but can also be transformed into one of my favorite foods, pickles.
These low-calorie vegetables are about 95 percent water and only contain a trace amount of fat. Although mostly water, they are packed with nutrients. A 100-gram serving, which is roughly 3.5 ounces, contains a whopping 147 mg of potassium, which is responsible for electrolyte balance and lowering blood pressure. They are also rich in calcium and phosphorus, which are both essential for healthy teeth and bones, as well as magnesium and vitamins A, C, and K.
The cucumber originated in India and has been cultivated for at least 3,000 years. It is said that they hitched a ride with Christopher Columbus to Haiti in 1494, beginning their distribution around the new world.
Cucumbers have been attributed with curing bad breath, removing ink, and lessening puffiness around eyes. They have also made it into the Guinness World Book of Records. The longest cucumber measured an incredible 42.1 inches, and the heaviest weighted over 23 pounds. Amazingly, the records are held by two different people, as the records are from two separate cucumbers.
Cucumbers like hot days and moist soil. Plant in full sun, and if possible, train them to grow up a trellis. This helps keep the fruit clean and saves space. They like fertile soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Work a few inches of compost into the soil when planting, and feed them with a low nitrogen fertilizer after they bloom and then every three to four weeks with either a continuous-release or water-soluble fertilizer. As with any fertilizer, follow label directions. and remember, more isn’t always better.
There are a few practices that can help keep cucumber beetles at bay. Plant non-bitter cucumber varieties, as the bitter compound will attract beetles. Tansy, marigolds and nasturtiums also repel beetles. Keep the area free of weeds and debris that could lead to a bacterial disease.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension Services recommend the following varieties for Alabama gardens. Although these are the recommended varieties, there are many others worth exploring for various flavors and textures.
For pickling, try Calypso or Explorer; for slicing, Dasher II or Fanfare; and for a salad bush variety, General Lee.
It was difficult to choose just one recipe to highlight this vegetable, so I chose two. The first is a German cucumber salad, which is a staple on every German table, and the second is my favorite way to make pickles, fresh from the vine to the refrigerator. Until next week, happy gardening!
German Cucumber Salad (Gurkensalat)2 English cucumbers, sliced thin
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (can substitute with white)
1-2 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Place sliced cucumbers in a bowl or in a mesh strainer over a bowl, sprinkle with salt, and mix. This is done to draw out some of the water in the cucumber. Let rest 30 minutes; pour off excess water.
In a separate bowl mix sour cream, sugar, vinegar, dill, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
Mix drained cucumbers with onion and dressing. Refrigerate for at least four hours to allow the flavors to develop. Additional chopped dill can be sprinkled on top just before serving.
Easy Refrigerator Pickles(Fills approximately one quart or two pint jars)
Cucumbers: whole, halved, quartered, or sliced. Slices should be approximately ¼-inch thick.
2-3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
For spicier pickles, red pepper flakes or sliced jalapenos can be added. Use fresh, whole spices and herbs whenever possible. Ground spices tend to darken and discolor pickles.
Mix water, vinegar, and salt until salt dissolves. Fill container with cucumbers (it is not required to use glass canning jars since they are not processed in a hot water bath, but the container you use should have a tight-fitting lid). Tuck dill sprigs in between the cucumbers; add spices and prepared pickling liquid. Put on the lid, and pop into refrigerator. Note: These are not shelf stable so they must be kept in the refrigerator for up to two months. Enjoy!
— Kipp Irland, a member of the Limestone County Master Gardeners, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit https://mg.aces.edu/limestone for more information on the Limestone County Master Gardeners.
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Marnez Adams went to be with her lord and savior June 16th, 2022. Marnez was born to Walter and Clara Thomas on May 22nd, 1938. She spent much of her life working and baking in the kitchen and was a phenomenal cook! She was the kindest woman you could meet, and is greatly missed already by h…
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