This post is for Patrick, at Bifurcated Carrots.
Cucumbers don't always grow so well in hot climates, at least not cucumbers that fit into our traditional view of cucumbers, the Cucumis sativus view. They tend to get bitter and angry in the dry weather and often give up even trying. Nevertheless, us warm-climate dwellers are lucky, because we have something that matches or maybe even surpasses cucumbers: Armenian cucumbers (aka serpent melon or snake melon and I'm sure many other names). Armenian cucumbers are not cucumbers, although they taste, look, and crunch similarly. Instead, these cukes are melons, Cucumis melo. Eaten at an immature stage (they don't taste good as they ripen, just watery and bland), they're denser and a bit sweeter, and to me, better than a regular cucumber. They're also productive. When I say productive, I mean rabbits on ecstasy productive; they reproduce like fruitflies, like weeds, like bad jokes. Unlike those things, however, I happily embrace the plentitudes of Armenian cucumbers.
Slender and very long, ranging between 10 and 20 inches in my experience, the pale green fruits have beautiful frilly edges that make the sliced fruit look like flowers.
Sometimes the fruits curl into funny shapes as they grow. I've seen Armenian cucumbers raising python heads, hunching like slugs, and curling pig tails.
Despite my gratitude for a plentiful crop, and as much as I love them, I'm running out of inspiration about how to prepare them. I've made the Thai Cucumber Salad that I shared last August several times over, and nearly every day, I've had the simplest, easiest of cucumber salads, slices tossed with onion, white wine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar.
Unfortunately, when I put this salad together on Tuesday for a friend, I added an extra ingredient, the tip of my thumb. (This leads me to an extended side note, please bear with me. I love my little mandoline. It was cheap, it works well, and it is darned sharp. But that is just it, it is darned sharp, sharp enough to take off a sizable chunk of thumb. When my thumb refused to stop bleeding after several hours—remember, hands bleed a lot—I had to visit my doctor so she could cauterize my finger with silver nitrate. Cutting one's thumb hurts like a bitch. Cauterizing one's cut thumb with silver nitrate hurts like a giant bitch with medusa curls and glowing red eyes. It really isn't fun. So, here is the moral of the story. Remember that plastic tool that comes with a mandoline that a cook can use to awkwardly hold whatever it is the cook is slicing? Remember how clumsy it is to use? Get over it. Use it, because if you are anything like me, keeping your fingers is at least a minor priority.)
Having my thumb bandaged up and sensitive to even the most minor bump is quite frustrating, but I think you can help me feel a little better. Take my mind off my throbbing thumb by helping me figure out what to do with my cukes. When it comes to cucumber bounty, what are your favorite solutions? Come on folks, send the inspiration my way.
My thumb thanks you.