I am seriously in love with the gardens right now. They are producing crazy amounts of tomatoes and cucumbers! Hopefully, this will continue for the next couple of months before we transition to creating fall gardens (there will definitely be a blog post about that!).This post is an update growing cucumbers (see my first post about growing cukes here: https://greenthumbilina.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/cool-as-a-cucumber/) and then I’ll describe how to make “Crazy Easy Dill Pickles.” If you’re just in it for the recipe and not interested in learning how to grow cucumber plants, scroll down towards the end of the post!
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Nate does not care for cucumbers or pickles, and I love both. Since it’s just me eating the cukes, I decided to just plant two varieties. Our two cucumber plants in the backyard (1 in the greenhouse and 1 in the new raised bed) look to be in bad shape (more on that in a bit) but they are producing a ton of cukes! So much so, that I’m having to give away the extras.
The photograph below is of a regular garden cucumber that I started from seeds (yes – seeds!) in the greenhouse several months ago. The plant started off looking amazing. We’re talking lush green leaves, long tendrils, shooting up and out fast to spread out. Then, as time went on the leaves started to turn yellow-ish or pale green like they weren’t getting enough sun (see photos below). In all likelihood the plants aren’t getting enough sun – the greenhouse isn’t in that great of a position to receive a lot of sun. This explains how “washed out” the leaves look.
Despite how awful this plant looks, it has been producing garden cukes like crazy! It’s amazing. They look and taste great and keep coming. I picked 4 in the past two weeks and there are already 2 more ready for picking and several more on the way! This type of cucumber (actually both of the ones we have growing right now) are vine cucumbers, which means that scramble across the ground or up trellises and bind to items with tendrils (you can see I have trellises for these guys). They prefer warmer soils, and I have noticed the cukes taking off later in the summer when it has been rather hot (it’s been in the 90s for the past month, month and a half now). It’s pretty funny to read some of these online resources regarding growing different plants and I know that I write a lot about what’s recommended. They tell you to plant them a certain way, fertilize x amount of times throughout the growing season, etc. and I have been neglecting this cuke plant in the greenhouse. It does not get consistent water, again probably explaining how terrible the plant looks, but seems to be doing OK. I mean, we’re getting plenty of cukes out of the plant! I think worrying too much about how a plant looks is a good reason why many people give up. Nothing needs to be perfect! If it’s producing, you’re doing something right.
The online resources definitely give you a good idea of what to expect and how to start seedlings or seeds, but I don’t want anyone to feel like they need to follow the “rules” in order to get great produce.
Our second cucumber plant is a variety of English cucumber, which is typically longer and skinnier than the garden variety. This plant I bought as a seedling and at first I didn’t think it was going to make it. The plant seemed to dry out (even though this one is with the other plants that receive the soaker hose system) and just wasn’t doing anything. But, patience really is a virtue. I stuck it out and all of a sudden, bam! The plant started to grow like crazy and has spread out nicely on a trellis.
Now, this cucumber plant looks a little bit better than the one in the greenhouse but I still noticed that some of the leaves (especially near the start of the plant) are getting yellow and drying out. I think that’s a typical succession for many plants. You’ll see that on tomatoes. The fruits near the bottom tend to ripen and this works it way up the plant. That’s not always the case, but I’ve noticed it more often than not.
You’ll notice in the second photograph that the cucumber doesn’t look quite right. It’s a little bulgy and not long and straight as expected. This can be due to a number of reasons: weak pollination (probably not the case since other cukes look fine and I’m getting plenty of new fruit), insufficient water (again, not likely the case because this plant is under a soaker hose system), too much fertlization (hm. again not likely since I have not fertilized those gardens). So, what’s up? I don’t know and may not know, but they still taste delicious.
Speaking of tasting delicious, I made dill pickles using two of the cukes that I picked from the garden and it was so easy that I had to share. The recipe is below and I followed it pretty much exactly since the ratios of vinegar to sugar to dill are especially important when pickling.
Bring 3 1/2 cups water, 1 1/4 cups white vinegar, 1 T sugar, and 1T sea salt to a boil in a pot.
After bringing to a boil and allowing sugar and salt to dissolve, remove from heat and cool completely. I cheated and sped things up by placing the pot in the freezer to cool down.
Next, slice cucumbers into spears (like the ones you get with a sandwich at a restaurant). The recipe calls for 4 cups worth. I’m not sure how much volume mine were, but I sliced up two full cucumbers. I did this by first cutting the cuke in half horizontally and the slicing each half in half lengthwise. After that, it was pretty easy to slice into spears.
I read online that English cucumbers aren’t great for pickling, but I used one garden and one English and they both turned out great!
After spearing the cucumbers, place in a container along with 2 peeled cloves of garlic (whole, do not chop or mince!) and 2 heads of dill. Lastly, pour the cooled vinegar mixture over the cucumber spears and cover container. Allow to soak in the fridge for at least 3 days. The longer the better, but if you are using a plastic container (like I did) you do want to eat the spears within a couple weeks or so of preparation since the container hasn’t been sterilized.
I had my first dill pickle on Thursday (~ 3 days after preparation) and it was amazing! There is just the right amount of vinegar to dill and the garlic helps give the pickles a nice flavor. Now, if you wanted to prepare these and have them for a longer amount of time, I would recommend using a sterilized mason jar that can seal properly. We do not have any on hand and I didn’t really want to go through the sterilization process. Again, these are fine in a plastic container just don’t expect them to last for a long time.