AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Size Matters DATE: 8/14/2009 01:39:00 AM ----- BODY:
Forget what your girlfriends told you, size does matter. Too small and they’re bitter. Too large and they have a tough skin.


Every morning, I forage through the dense cucumber foliage looking for perfectly sized specimens. The way the vines spread and crawl across the garden, cucumbers can be spotted as far as 10 feet away from the original seedling, and buried under another plant's leaves. Sometimes, I get overzealous and pick them when they’re too small. And I’m usually disappointed: the small ones are bitter and would have benefit from an extra day on the vine. Just as often, I discover a cucumber that I somehow missed in my regular morning inspection and is now too big for my taste.

For a cost-benefit analysis, it would make sense to let the cucumbers grow as large as possible. After all, it doesn’t cost any more to leave them on the vine – no extra resources are required. Nor does letting them grow longer hinder the prolific production rate of the plant. However, as they grow the skin toughens, the seeds overtake the flesh and the insides become watery. I may have more volume by letting them grow, but this would be a case of diminishing returns.

That sweet spot is about 5 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. The cucumbers are sweet, crunchy, firm and refreshing. Delicious! I usually eat 2 or 3 a day, just as a snack. With the remainder, I’m making pickles.

Dill Pickles
The recipe for dill pickles is mostly technique with a splash of precision.

For every quart of water (4 cups) dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt. To that, add crushed (fresh) garlic, dill sprigs and black pepper (and jalapenos if you’d like).

Cut cucumbers lengthwise into wedges. Submerge in above salt bath. In order to fully submerge cucumbers, you may need to weight them down with a stainless steel sieve or a plate.

Let them sit at room temperature for 48 hours to ferment and turn slightly sour.

To stop the fermentation, refrigerate them. Enjoy within 2 weeks.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Psychgrad DATE:8/14/2009 11:39:00 AM I have many fond memories of picking cucumbers from my grandparent's garden when I was younger. They are my all time favourite summer vegetable.

The real reason why I want a garden is to grow cucumbers. The rest of the vegetables would be icing on the cake. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Karine DATE:8/14/2009 09:36:00 PM The first paragraph of your post is too funny! :) ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Steve DATE:8/14/2009 10:12:00 PM You sassy thing! I'm not a big fan of raw cucumbers, but I LOVE pickles. I'll have to give this recipe a try. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Tall Kate DATE:8/15/2009 08:11:00 AM I didn't grow cucumbers this year, but my dill is in perfect shape for pickles. I'm heading to the farmer's market this morning; maybe I'll buy a big bag of pickling cukes. I love the simplicity of your recipe. Thanks! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous noble pig DATE:8/15/2009 12:55:00 PM Good luck with all those...I'm just jealous! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Jessica DATE:8/16/2009 11:53:00 AM Thanks for the tips on how to pick cucumbers! From years of grocery shopping with my mom, I somewhat know how to pick out fruit, but not so much when it comes to vegetables! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types DATE:8/16/2009 07:35:00 PM Just slicing up some cucumbers tonight, that are "medium." So I guess that makes them just right and pretty dependable! Wish I had the hours in the day to do a little pickling! ----- --------