Garden Fresh: The Cucumber

Sick of the Royal Wedding? Not me. Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton don't seem to give a damn themselves, which spares us the fairytale nightmare that doomed his mother. Furthermore, Prince Charles is the new Godfather of organic agriculture, so he gets auto-props from this grower.

Vevo trumps TV at home with the kid, so I'm not exposed to the orgy of "Brit-fawning," as reporters delve into every aspect of English upper-class frippery. I dodge the news, should my preferred anchor slip into a Madonna-style fake accent. Still, it's unavoidable, so I'll join in, not to fawn, but skewer.

I planted cucumbers this year -- out of curiosity -- but Bill Dawson of The Franklin Conservancy informed me, "They'll overrun your garden." I opted for the quintessential use of the vegetable: the cucumber sandwich, staple of afternoon tea and cricket matches.

Cucumber Sandwiches

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons malt vinegar (Sarson's from the Kroger British Aisle)
  • Butter
  • 8 slices white bread (Mrs. Ninnie Baird's, of course) with the crusts cut away

Place the cucumber slices in a bowl and drizzle vinegar over them. Cover with a plate and marinate 30 minutes or more. Butter the bread slices all the way to the edges. Drain the cucumber, ditch the liquid, and arrange the slices, with salt and pepper, on the buttered bread. Cut the sandwiches diagonally into quarters, and serve.

Verdict: Bland has never been so compelling. The tangy crunch of the cucumber contrasts with the yeasty softness of the bread, and the sandwiches complement the slight sweetness and bitterness of tea.

I get it. I won't fawn over cucumber sandwiches, but I can't skewer them either. Still, all but two of the cucumber plants will go into the compost pile, as Charles would have it, and I'll keep the Sarson's for fish and, uh, french fries.

A note on growing cucumbers: I planted Burpee Hybrid II seeds after Valentine's, fertilized immediately, and again as the sprouts turned into vines. When the plants start producing I'll fertilize again, maybe twice. I'll heed Bill Dawson and get the remaining vines on a small trellis, which will make the cucumbers more shapely and attractive, for whatever, maybe a Greek salad.

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John Kiely
Contact: John Kiely