Garden Wonderland/Disaster

Some days beg to be enjoyed outside, like the strangely cool late July day we’ve been having here in the Midwest.  Days like this one seem choreographed to bring a smile to my face.  The woodpecker landed at the suet feeder just as I step outside.  Six butternut squash were waiting to be picked in the garden, and my sunflowers are getting close to flowering.

Daylilies

I know flowers are part of the life cycle of the plants, just external reproductive systems, but it seems like such a gift to be able to enjoy their ephemeral beauty.  Even things like green beans and eggplant get the cutest little flowers on them.

Eggplant blossom
Eggplant/Eggplant Blossom

And of course, squash and cucumbers both get these beautiful yellow flowers, which leads me to consider the less than pleasant thoughts of the day.  One of the many mistakes I’ve made this year is not using strong enough trellises to train my cucumbers. Below is my garden map for this year:

Overly ambitious: yes.  Squished: yes.  Impossible: no.
Overly ambitious: yes. Squished: yes. Impossible: no.

As any seasoned gardener could have warned me, cucumbers and squash all inhabiting the same area will make a spiny, tangled mess.  Harvesting the zillion (exaggeration, perhaps it’s only been half a zillion) cucumbers I’ve already amassed for the season has been a challenge.  Next year: real trellises.  And probably fewer cucumber plants.

Nightmare of the Living Vines: Part I
Nightmare of the Living Vines: Part I

On that note: A recipe for the gardener with too many cucumbers.  This is a recipe that my father grew up with which always reminds me of mid-summer suppers.  The crucial element here is time.  You need to let the cucumbers sit in the salt to lose some of their moisture or you’ll be left with a less pleasant salad.

Cucumber Salad (from my Grandma)

3-4 cucumbers

1 cup Half and Half (won’t use the full amount, but can add to your taste)

5 Tbsp. White Vinegar

3 Tbsp. Sugar

1 small onion, sliced thin

Salt

Peel and slice the cucumbers. You’ll want to slice them thinly if possible, and a mandolin or the “slice” side of a cheese grater works well for this. Arrange in layers in bowl, salting each layer as you go. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in refrigerator for several hours.

About an hour before serving, rinse the cucumber slices thoroughly and drain.

Mix the vinegar and sugar in a small bowl and pour over the cucumber slices. Add half and half until covered. Add sliced onions and stir into cucumber mix. Refrigerate until serving.

Note: you may wish to provide a separate bowl for this salad, since it can be sloppy on the plate… but a good kind of sloppy.  Midwestern vinegary-sweet-summery kind of sloppy.

Happy eating and happy gardening!  What’s your favorite use for cucumbers?  I could use more suggestions for the half-zillion in my fridge…

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