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Cukes made me the gardener I am not

Larry McDermott

Life on the farm

 

Before anyone makes an assumption about my gardening ability, let’s just get this right out there. I’m a vegetable killer.

The sight of me entering the gardening zone on our farm makes strong vines wither. Tomatoes leap to their deaths. Tall and taut flowering plants who serve as sentries to repel the invasion of evil bugs become tin men in my presence.

But the cucumber. Now there’s a friend. Happy to see me. Growing bigger by the minute in my presence. That’s because you don’t need a green thumb to grow a cuke.

And besides that, the cucumber is one of the most nutritious and versatile vegetables in anyone’s garden. How do I know this? I’ve been told by my local expert.

Tomatoes are in a category by themselves. They are the garden fruit that we long for. Everybody has their favorite varieties and can tell you how they should look and taste. And when tomato plants fail, you can hear the wailing a mile away.

“Blight got my tomatoes this year,” they will say. You can almost see the slight glistening of a tear in the far corner of their eye.

But cucumbers. Have you ever heard anyone say, “Oh man, my cucumber crop got wiped out. Worst year I’ve ever seen.”

What you are more likely to hear is, “Y’all need any cucumbers?”

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I learned that the cucumber is technically a fruit. It’s hard enough for me to wrap my head around the tomato being a fruit, but the cucumber?

I just know that they are one of my favorite garden staples. You can pick one and chomp down on it right on the spot if you need hydration.

Eat cucumbers regularly and you can kiss your bottles of vitamins goodbye. A cucumber has vitamins C and K, pantothenic acid and folate, plus potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium and antioxidants.

Plus, they are high in fiber, 96 percent water and contain no sugar. So, if you’re interested in keeping that trim and svelte look you’re famous for, cukes are for you. And if you buy cucumbers grown without pesticides, don’t peel the skin because it’s loaded with nutrition. If you buy them grown conventionally—yuck, sorry. You should always peel them.

We are now making a cool and refreshing drink using frozen cucumber slices, blueberries, lemon and water.

You can let your taste buds go wild making this water. In addition to the cucumber, you can add lemon, lime, orange, mint, basil leaves, melon, lemongrass, ginger, strawberries or pineapple. Not all at the same time, of course.

If you don’t have your own garden, head on over to your local farmers market this weekend and pick up some cukes.

You could make yourself a great drink. Maybe throw caution to the wind and add one of those little umbrellas to it. You could be cool—as a cucumber.

Larry McDermott, a retired journalist, owns a 40-acre organic farm in Rutherfordton, where he grows blueberries, keeps bees and raises horses, dairy goats, and chickens. Email: hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com or see farm happenings at www.facebook.com/hardscrabblehollowfarmllc