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As I said in my last post, I recently traveled to Chicago, but before I was there I spent some time camping on Long Island.  Due to those trips, I was away from my garden for a while.  Luckily, my garden partner Tiffany can usually pick up the slack when I’m away (and vice versa).  On Saturday I made my way over to our garden, knowing Tiffany had been there while I was away.  As it was about 95 degrees here in New York, I was hoping to make a quick trip and then head back home and sit in front of the fan.  No such luck!  But then again, can you ever make just a quick trip to the garden?  There is always something else you can do, if you make the time.

While I was in Chicago, I read an email in which Tiffany gave me a garden update–things looked good, however, she had had to leave before she could get to everything and, in her words, “the cucumbers need some love”.  Boy was that the truth!  I’ve never grown these plants until now and I’m learning that they are a little tricky.  The last time I had seen our cucs, they were litke little toddlers, slowly sprouting up and starting to climb the supports we had put in place for them.  When I saw them on Saturday, they were like full blown teenagers–tall, gangly, and unruly!  The plants are strong-willed and independent, branching out for whatever they can wind their tendrils around, however, they are also fragile and impressionable.  Cucumbers need your guidance, no matter how much they think they know the best way to grow, they need your help. 

Here is an example for you–the cucumber vine started growing up the nearby grapevine, the grapevine is in the middle, you can see the light green, tightly wound cucumber tendrils toward the bottom:

So Saturday, with my water bottle by my side and my big floppy sunhat on my head, I spent a good two hours tending to my teenaged cucumbers.  I made a lattice out of string, a stick, and the nearby swing set so our plants can grow a little bit wider instead of just growing up up up.  Here you see the fruits of my labor

Before:
After:

Since we started our plot on the late side, we don’t have any full grow cucs to enjoy quite yet.  My neighbors Nick and Michelle have a very large cucumber plant and told me to take any that were full size since they haven’t been around.  I took a couple beautiful fruits and I decided to make my very very favorite cucumber treat, tzatziki sauce!!  This is a pretty standard recipe that you’ll see everywhere, I just do it by sight and taste so if you need something more exact, you can easily find one in a cookbook or online.

3 medium cucumbers, peeled, sliced, cored and chopped
3 cups plain greek yogurt (or use whatever plain yogurt you have and strain it)
dill (fresh or dried, fresh is best)
big spoonful of chopped garlic
salt and pepper

 First, you need to prepare the cucumbers.  MAKE SURE TO SEED THEM!!! It’s really easy, just run a spoon and scoop out the seeds.  This is a must-do because they make the sauce watery and kinda gross.  I’ve been lazy before and left them in and it really does make a difference.

Next, you can either put them in a food processor or chop them up.  Some people prefer the sauce with superfine cucumbers, but I like the chucks so I just do it by hand.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and leave the chopped veggies in a strainer for about a half hour and from time to time press them down to get more of the water out.

Finally, mix the cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, and dill.  Add in a little more salt and pepper.  As for amounts, I’d say maybe two pinches of dried dill and about 4 pinches fresh….but just taste it and see.  Once you put it in the fridge for at least an hour, the flavors will be stronger so you can always taste and add more later on.

I hope you can make it with fresh cucumbers, it is a simple pleasure of summer to make recipes from fresh food.  Enjoy on grilled meats, fish, or veggies.  If you are anything like me, you will eat it on it’s own with a spoon!!

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