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Cucumber time in the Garden

Cucumbers, although available year round in the stores nowadays, are most plentiful during the summer months when many folks are raising them in their gardens.

A very versatile vegetable, cucumbers can be used in so many ways other than as pickles or salad enhancements.

This creeping plant is native to northwest India, and apparently was first grown in the Himalayas of Sikkam and Nepal. From there the British introduced it to England and northern Europe.

Although the cuke at first drooped and almost refused to grown in these cooler countries, the British nurtured it in heated green houses until a heartier stock was developed. This type began flourishing in the northern hemisphere.

Cucumbers Used in Many Dishes

Cucumber dishes are ideal accompaniments with fish and seafood. The Asian people also have made use of this vegetable in numerous ways throughout the years.

In India, CUCUMBER SALAD has been served as a mild contrast to hot curries. It helps cool the palate after a bite of red-hot curry.

Slice cucumber paper thin; season to taste with olive oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, salt and pepper.

SHRIMP WITH CUCUMBER has been a Chinese dish for many years. Marinate 1 lb. shelled and deveined shrimp in 1 tablespoon dry sherry, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch (which has been dissolved in the sherry and not lumpy).

Peel, quarter, and scoop out the seeds from 2 cucumbers and cut into 1-inch pieces. Sauté the cucumbers 3 to 5 minutes, in 1 tablespoon oil (peanut, olive, or vegetable oil) until transparent.

Sauté the shrimp in 1 to 2 tablespoons oil until they're pink. Then stir in the cucumbers and cook another 2 to 3 minutes.

You may want to garnish with chopped parsley.

American Cucumber Recipes

My dad enjoyed cucumbers as a SIDE DISH throughout the summer. Mother often sliced a bowl of fresh cucumbers and added vinegar to cover. She let these set for about an hour to absorb the vinegar. Then as each person took their serving, they could add salt and pepper as desired. Sometimes she sliced them into individual dessert dishes and added vinegar.

FRIED CUCUMBERS is another old-time American dish, dating back to pioneer dish, and an easy vegetable to prepare. I remember a customer at my mom's little general store buying cucumbers and telling about going home to fry them.

Fried cucumbers, fried green tomatoes, and fried summer squash were some of our favorite summer vegetables when I was growing up.

Slice cucumbers and sprinkle with salt and spread out on a paper towel or tea towel; press for an hour or more by setting a plate or platter on top of the cucumbers with something heavy on the it. This will remove excess moisture from the cucumbers.

Dip slices into flour or bread crumbs and fry in shortening or oil in frying pan until golden and tender. You also can dip into beaten egg before coating with flour.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired.

(c) Mary Emma Allen *****************

(In addition to writing cooking columns, Mary Emma Allen writes for children. Her latest book is a coloring book to accompany her children's anthology, "Tales of Adenture & Discovery. Visit her web site to view more "Country Kitchen" columns: http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea; mailto:[email protected])