Harvesting

and seedy are not nearly as tasty. All you have to do once the cucumbers are big enough to suit you is gently pluck them off the vine and carry them into the house. Store extras in the refrigerator while you're figuring out what to do with them.

Very young, tender cucumbers can be used peel and all. "Midgets" are those up to 3 inches. They go into your midget crock—a glass gallon jar will do. "Dills" are those 3 to 6 inches long. Cucumbers over 6 inches long are "slicers" to be used fresh or to make cucumber sandwiches (slice peeled cucumbers and mayonnaise on homemade bread) or instant pickles (put thinly sliced, peeled cucumbers in a salt-vinegar-water brine). Great big cukes don't make good pickles anyway because they get too hollow in the middle.

If you've seen only store-bought cucumbers you may not know about yellow ones, but the life cycle of a cucumber goes like this: blossom, tiny green cucumber, big green cuke, real big green cuke, yellow cuke, brown cuke. Yellow/brown is the proper stage for saving seed or feeding to cows, pigs, or chickens. But some people cook the yellow ones or make pickles out of them.

storing and Preserving: Store green cukes in a basket in a cool, damp place such as your root cellar. Storing at 45-55°F, 80-90 percent humidity, will keep them fresh as long as is possible for cukes—which isn't all that long. Then you'll need to shift to another method. Freezing. I've been told that if you wrap individual servings of sliced cucumbers in foil and freeze them, they make a delicious dish that winter served unwrapped, thawed, in individual dishes. Mix heavy cream with a little dollop of lemon juice and pour it over them. Drying. I used to think pickling was the only way to preserve cucumbers. As on many other points, my readers have educated me. Jeanne Weston from Durango, CO, sent me a lot of advice about home-drying foods, and she says you can dry cucumbers. She has done it and says they make good salad flavorings. She thinly slices them, dries them until brittle, and stores them until needed. Then she breaks up the dried cucumber into small pieces and scatters them over her winter salad.

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