cucumbers

Fridge pickles

Posted by Lisa on July 04, 2012
CSA, cucumbers, preserving, putting food by, recipes, summer / 4 Comments

We’ve mentioned these pickles here before, but boy howdy, have we got some cucumbers for you this week. Wait until you see your CSA share. Wait until you see the market tables. If you love to pickle – or if you’ve been meaning to learn – now is the time!

We’ll share some other great approaches to pickling here soon, but we think these fridge pickles are a great way to begin. Maybe you’ve been curious about making your own pickles for a long time but feel a little intimidated. Or maybe you’re a seasoned pickler, staring at this week’s share, looking at the thermometer, thinking there is no way in heck you’re going to be doing any canning this week. Either way: hie thee to your kitchen! These are very fast, very easy, and very delicious.

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Fridge Pickles
adapted from dlyn

Crunchy, garlicky, and just sour enough, we can’t stop reaching for these. Pour a simple brine of water, vinegar, and salt over cucumbers, garlic, and herbs. Leave the jars alone for a few days … and voila! Pickles! They aren’t canned, so they need to be stored in the fridge. They’ll keep at least a couple months in there — if they last that long. Makes 6 pints or 3 quarts.

For the brine:
2 quarts water
1 cup white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup canning or pickling salt (kosher salt is also fine, but may result in cloudier pickle brine)

For the pickles:
Cucumbers, enough to fit snugly into your jars, washed well and sliced into spears
Garlic, 1-2 cloves per pint jar or 2-3 cloves per quart jar, smashed and peeled
Herbs (dill is classic; we also love thyme), 1-2 sprigs per pint jar or 2-4 sprigs per quart jar, rinsed well

Clean your jars thoroughly with soap and water. They do not need to be sterilized.

Combine all brine ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally to be sure the salt dissolves completely. While the mixture is coming to a boil, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Place a smashed garlic clove or two in the bottom of each jar. Add the sprigs of your chosen herb.

Fill the jar the rest of the way with cucumber spears. Really cram them in there — otherwise some spears will float above the brine when you add it, and this can lead to premature spoilage.

Add another smashed garlic clove to each jar — wedge it down between some cucumber spears so it won’t float when you add the brine.

Pour the simmering brine over the vegetables, being sure they are completely submerged. If your brine isn’t simmering, bring it back to a simmer before pouring it over the vegetables.

Put a lid on each jar.

Leave at room temperature for 2-3 days (less time when the weather is very hot, more when it’s cold) and then, if you can stand it, put them in the fridge for an additional 1-2 weeks.

We usually break into the first jar right away but give the rest of the jars the additional slow fridge fermentation before eating them.

 

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How to be cool as a cucumber

Posted by Lisa on July 02, 2012
CSA, cucumbers, farmers markets, Frog Bottom Farm recommends, recipes, the farm, Vegetables A-Z / Comments Off on How to be cool as a cucumber

The heat these days has us thinking of summers past, and of the ways we dream up to feel a little cooler. This year, as every year, we are grateful for the creeks on the farm,  for family-friendly local businesses with air conditioning, and for neighbors with pools. And thank goodness so many of the vegetables growing right now taste so good with little to no preparation! It’s nature’s remarkable gift.

To help y’all stay cool, and to celebrate the beginning of our cucumber season, we’re reposting a piece we wrote almost three years ago. Read on to learn about our four varieties and to get some recipe ideas — cucumber salad, pickles, even a cocktail!

Sometimes, the only way to beat the heat is to embrace it.

We’re talking trips to the river, dinner outside at the picnic table, burgers and squash and corn on the grill, peach juice dripping down your arms, sweet tea and margaritas, the ice cream truck, ceiling fans, sprinklers, naps. And cucumbers!

Here at Frog Bottom we grow four kinds, enough to help you stay cool for a few weeks at least. We often sample the different varieties at market. If you’re a member of our CSA, be sure to try all the varieties before the season is through. The strange bumpy ones (see below) are our favorite.

About Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes summer squash, zucchini, watermelons, muskmelons, gourds, winter squash and pumpkins. Cucumbers originated in India and have been cultivated by humans for at least three thousand years, and possibly much, much longer – carbon dating places some seeds found near the Burma/Thailand border as being from 7750 BC! It’s said that the ancient Romans soaked their cucumber seeds in honeyed wine before planting them, in an effort to combat their fabled bitterness. In the Book of Numbers, the Israelites complain during their long exodus from Egypt: “Remember how in Egypt we had fish for the asking, cucumbers and watermelons, leeks and onions and garlic. Now our appetite is gone.”

Cucumbers spread slowly to Northern Europe, where the climate was not particularly suited to growing them, but they were readily adopted by native North American Indians when seeds were first brought by the Spanish conquistadors. Throughout the 1500s European trappers, hunters, and traders bartered with North American tribes for their fresh vegetables and fruits, including cucumbers. Letters from people who visited colonial New England in the 1600s praised the cucumbers and other kitchen garden vegetables there as being bigger and better than what could be grown in England at the same time.

One thing is certain: throughout all these millennia of cultivation, the bitterness has been almost entirely bred out of cucumbers. At Frog Bottom, we’re very careful to pick them while they’re still young – crisp and sweet. Their high water content and mild taste are what make them so refreshing on these hot, sticky summer days.

We grow four varieties here at the farm.

Here’s a pickler:

It’s called a pickler because it’s the perfect length for a canning jar, but this is a great all-around pickle for salads as well. In the bins at market and at CSA pick-ups, you can distinguish the picklers by their short, plump shape and their slightly bumpy skin.

This one, just slightly longer and smoother than the pickler and with slightly tapered ends, is our American slicer:

It’s another versatile cucumber, great on salads and sandwiches or just eaten out of hand.

This is a European burpless:

It’s very long and fairly thin, with smooth skin on the outside and almost no seeds inside. Very tasty!

Our favorite is the Asian cucumber:

It’s the ugly duckling of the bunch, with its wrinkled bumpy skin and funny shape, but what it lacks in classic beauty it more than makes up for with its crisp, sweet flavor. Try one!

Storing Cucumbers

We don’t wax our cucumbers – which means you don’t need to peel them! It also means they won’t keep as long as some store-bought varieties. Stick them in the crisper drawer of your fridge as soon as possible after buying them. Leave them there for up to a week but use them as soon as you can.

Preparing Cucumbers

We’ve chosen non-bitter varieties and we pick them young. So at our house, we never salt the cucumbers and rarely peel or seed them. It seems a waste of time and flavor when there are so many good things to do with them! We love them as a snack right out in the field while we’re picking. And of course they’re wonderful sliced or diced and added to salads and sandwiches. But we like them so much – and we’ve had such a bumper crop these last two weeks – that we love to dress them up a bit too.  Here are some of our old favorites, and a couple new approaches.

Ali’s Cucumber Salad

We make some variation on this salad two or three times a week during cucumber season. Don’t be afraid to play around with ingredients and quantities. It’s wonderful with wedges of fresh tomato and corn sliced right off the cob, both available at farmers markets now!

Several cucumbers (2 Asian or European, 3 American, or 4 picklers), chopped or sliced
3-4 scallions (minced) or half an onion (coarsely diced)
Handful basil leaves, chopped or torn
Handful feta or goat cheese, crumbled
Juice of half a lemon or a few glugs of your favorite vinegar
A few glugs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Chow down!

Serves two with leftovers. Easily doubled.

Fridge Pickles

If, like me, you have been meaning to make your own pickles for what seems like a decade now, I am here to tell you: Get up from your computer this very instant and go to your kitchen! It takes about nine minutes! You make a simple brine of water, vinegar, and salt. Then you pour that over cucumbers, garlic, and herbs. Leave the jars alone for a few days, and voila! Pickles! I made them for the first time just last week, using this recipe from Donalyn Ketchum, and they are, in a word, perfect. Crunchy, garlicky, and just sour enough, I can’t stop reaching for them. These pickles aren’t canned, so they need to be stored in the fridge. They’ll keep at least a couple months there, but I doubt they’ll last that long! Also, you can use just about any herb. I meant to use dill but saw, as the brine was coming to a boil, that my dill had gone slimy. So I used fresh thyme instead. Yum!

Gordon’s Cup

If your work day has been relentless and nobody likes what you made for dinner and the A/C is broken, here’s what you need to do: make yourself a Gordon’s Cup. Cucumbers, lime, simple syrup, gin, and a pinch of salt: really, how can you go wrong? You’ll have to plan ahead just a little bit, to make and then cool the simple syrup, but that’s very easy. Make some now and it’ll last you through many of these drinks! Oh, and don’t skip the salt. Just a tiny pinch is really delicious. This recipe from Molly Wizenberg has everything you need to know.

Sautéed Cucumbers

The truth is, we haven’t tried this yet. I’m really eager to know if any of y’all have! Larousse Gastronomique includes several variations. Mark Bittman, author of the accessible, encouraging, and comprehensive How to Cook Everything, and writer of the weekly The Minimalist column in The New York Times, notes that a cucumber is “a vegetable that is rarely cooked but ought to be – at least occasionally.” He suggests a simple sauté of butter, onions, and cucumbers, finished with cream or yogurt and a handful of chopped dill. It’s next on our list; has anyone tried this?

* * *

And you? What are y’all doing with cucumbers this summer? At market and at CSA pick-ups, people have told us about cucumber soup and tzatziki. We’d love it if you’d post those recipes – and everything else you’re making with cucumbers – right here in the comments section.

Sometimes of a Monday morning

Posted by Lisa on June 27, 2011
cucumbers, onions, pigs, the farm / 2 Comments

Sometimes of a Monday morning, the sun is fierce and the list is long and the back is weary.  But we look around then, too, and we see this good good life, and we get back to work.

Cat on a chicken coop roof

Shallots fore, cucumbers aft

Onions

Onions 2

Clearing brush

Greetings & salutations

Water

All these photos are from this morning.  I once swore I’d never have a smartphone, that it didn’t fit in with the ways we’re trying to slow down and pay attention — but boy am I happy to discover it’s just another tool.  It’s the way I use it that matters.  I love tucking it, with its tiny camera, into my pocket and setting off for a walk on the farm with the little guy.

For those who are curious: the pigs have been in a small yard their first week here, so we can finish the fencing around their whole two acres and so they can get a sense of where their home is before exploring all the nooks and crannies of their corner of the farm.  We were a bit worried they’d find the big space a little frightening.  But they’re settling in sweetly, and the fence is almost done, so we’re excited to give them full run of their acres, sometime tonight or tomorrow!

It’s tzatziki time!

Posted by Lisa on June 23, 2011
cucumbers, recipes, summer / 4 Comments

Here’s something delicious to do with a few of your many many cucumbers this week: tzatziki! It will wow your friends and family and your only regret will be that you didn’t make double the recipe. This stuff goes fast.

Tzatziki is a classic Greek appetizer made from strained yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, and herbs, and similar dishes are made all over the Middle East and Mediterranean.  It manages somehow to be both refreshing and substantial at the same time, which is exactly what I’m after these days.  Heavy braises and long slow roasts make me sweat just thinking of them – but these hot sticky early summer days are tiring, and a girl needs some fuel!  Enter tzatziki.

Here’s our version.

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Our only caveat is that you need to plan ahead here.  The recipe is straightforward and easy, but you’ll need to strain your yogurt, and salt and drain your cucumbers.  And ideally you stick it in the fridge for a couple hours after you mix it up, to let the flavors blend.  So it’s not something you can whip up at the last minute for a potluck or to accompany a Sunday dinner outside by the grill – although it would be right at home in either of those settings!

Frog Bottom Farm Tzatziki

1 quart yogurt (preferably full fat with no added stabilizers or sweeteners – just cultured milk; or, substitute 2 1/2 cups Greek yogurt and skip the yogurt straining step)
2 large cucumbers (or 3 picklers), peeled, seeded, and chopped (instructions below)
1 tablespoon salt
juice of one lemon
one clove garlic, chopped
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or mint or both
additional salt and pepper to taste

First, strain the yogurt. We use a nylon nut milk/sprouting bag like this, but you could also use coffee filters or cheesecloth. If using a nut milk bag, hang it into a large jar (a half gallon or one gallon jar works well) and secure with a rubber band.  If using coffee filters, line a colander or large strainer with two coffee filters and set the colander/strainer inside a large bowl.  Cheesecloth can be used either way. Carefully pour the yogurt in.  Whichever method you use, you want to leave room for the whey to drain out of the yogurt, so be sure the bottom of your bag or filter isn’t touching the liquid as it drains out.  Some whey will drain out immediately, but be patient; the longer you can wait, the creamier your tzatziki will be.  You could probably use the yogurt after 45 minutes or so, but wait about two hours if you can.  Or strain the yogurt the day before you make the tzatziki and store it in the fridge overnight. When we use a quart of Dannon All Natural Plain Yogurt, we end up with a little over two cups of thick strained yogurt and a little more than a cup and half of whey.  We’ll try straining our own yogurt later this summer, and anticipate the ratio of yogurt to whey will be a bit different.

(Don’t pour that whey down the sink! It’s full of good healthy stuff including lots of Lactobacilli, which are said to be good for gut health and general immune health. It will last for about forever in the fridge. You can add it to a smoothie, use it in place of water or other liquids in baked goods, use it as a starter culture for all kinds of lactofermented fruits and vegetables and beverages, use it in soaked grains like overnight oats … most recently we’ve been using it in a our daily almost-no-knead bread and in a pickle recipe, which we’ll share here soon.)

Next, prepare the cucumbers. This process takes about 45 minutes, largely unattended.  We pick our cucumbers quite young and of course never wax them, so we rarely peel or seed them for any recipes.  However, tzatziki really does benefit from cucumbers that have had a lot of the liquid removed.  First, peel the cucumbers.  Then seed them.  You can cut them in half lengthwise and run a spoon along the seeds, scooping them out.  Or quarter them lengthwise and use a small paring knife to cut out the seeds.  Next chop up the cucumbers and place them in a colander, place the colander in a large bowl, and sprinkle the cucumbers with about a tablespoon of salt.  Toss.  The salt will draw water of out of the cucumbers.  Let them drain for about half an hour.  Press to release any remaining water, and then pat them dry with a paper towel.

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Now you’re ready to mix it all up! Put the strained yogurt in a large bowl.  In a food processor, blend the cucumbers, the lemon juice, the garlic, the herbs, and a few grinds of black pepper until well blended.  Add the cucumber mixture to the yogurt and stir to mix.  Taste to see if you need additional salt; we don’t find it necessary.

Tzatziki tastes best if you put it in the fridge for a couple hours to allow the flavors to meld. But we won’t tell anyone if you dig in right away.

* * *

Serving ideas: Use tzatziki as a dip for vegetables like carrots or cucumbers.  Spread it on crackers or nice bread.  Use it as a spread in a sandwich with other summer vegetables.  Add it to falafel in a pita.  It’s also a great side dish or dipping sauce for meats and fish.

(Photo of the finished tzatziki coming soon! We ate our last batch so fast we didn’t get a photo.)

Learning to juggle

Posted by Lisa on June 20, 2011
CSA, cucumbers, goats, spring, the crew, the family, the farm, tomatoes / Comments Off on Learning to juggle

Well! It’s been nearly a month since our last post here.  Looks like our big plans for more recipes, cookbook giveaways, more interviews, an easy-to-use recipe index, and discussion forums are taking some time to implement.  We’re still learning to juggle the start of the CSA season and life with a toddler.

Things have been busy over at the farm Facebook page though!  We encourage you to check in there regularly to share your recipe ideas, get ideas from other CSA members and market customers, and enjoy some more snapshots of our farm season.  You don’t even have to have a Facebook account!

We hope to be back later in the week with some tasty ideas for using cucumbers.  (In the meantime, our “How to be cool as a cucumber” post should help.)  And until then: some photos from the last month.

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Last week in pictures: in which we pick a lot of tomatoes

Sun sugar harvest

Sun sugars!

Arlo loves sun sugars too!

Lulu tidies up her pasture.

Snipping garlic (and just off camera is a baby who thinks this is a hoot)

Our onion quality control guy

Cucumber and beet seedlings in the greenhouse

Planting peppers

Here's Katie in a tangle of tomato vines, pearl millet (a "green manure"), and yellow nutsedge (a terrible weed)

Farm hands!

Cucumbers

Posted by Lisa on June 22, 2010
cucumbers, recipes, summer, the crew, the family, the farm / Comments Off on Cucumbers

Sticky cucumber harvest

Here at Frog Bottom last Friday:

Miles and Katie and Shannon and Ali hunched over the cucumber rows, plucking the mature ones from the undersides of the vines and filling their buckets for the weekend farmers market and CSA pick-up. It was a sticky sticky day, like all the days have been of late.

I ate my first cucumber salad of the season: two or three cucumbers halved lengthwise and sliced, minced scallions, minced parsley, olive oil, lime juice, feta cheese, salt and pepper.  Easy, fast, and unbelievably delicious.  We eat some iteration of this salad as often as possible during the summer!

And Arlo tried his first cucumber.  Tasty enough, he decided, but also really fun to squish between your toes.

* * *

Last July we wrote a post called “How to be cool as a cucumber” — definitely worth another look during these sweltering first days of summer.  Hie thee!  Learn a bit about the cucumber’s origins, learn about the different varieties we grow, and get some recipe ideas, including our go-to cucumber salad recipe, easy fridge pickles, and even a cucumber cocktail!

Shannon shows off an Asian cucumber

(Here’s Shannon showing off an Asian cucumber.  It’s a bit funny looking, to be sure, but it’s our favorite. Read all about it!)

Last week in pictures

Posted by Lisa on June 21, 2010
beets, CSA, cucumbers, last week in pictures, lettuce, melons, spring, Swiss chard, the crew, the farm, tomatoes, weeds / Comments Off on Last week in pictures


Picking cucumbers

So long, lettuce! See you again come fall.

Picking parsley

Parsley prep

Washing beets

Wheel hoes in the chard

The tomatoes are coming! The tomatoes are coming!

This watermelon is about the right size for Arlo right now.

Beautiful beets!

How to be cool as a cucumber

Sometimes, the only way to beat the heat is to embrace it.

We’re talking trips to the river, dinner outside at the picnic table, burgers and squash and corn on the grill, peach juice dripping down your arms, sweet tea and margaritas, the ice cream truck, ceiling fans, sprinklers, naps. And cucumbers!

Here at Frog Bottom we grow four kinds, enough to help you stay cool for a few weeks at least. We often sample the different varieties at market. If you’re a member of our CSA, be sure to try all the varieties before the season is through. The strange bumpy ones (see below) are our favorite.

About Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes summer squash, zucchini, watermelons, muskmelons, gourds, winter squash and pumpkins. Cucumbers originated in India and have been cultivated by humans for at least three thousand years, and possibly much, much longer – carbon dating places some seeds found near the Burma/Thailand border as being from 7750 BC! It’s said that the ancient Romans soaked their cucumber seeds in honeyed wine before planting them, in an effort to combat their fabled bitterness. In the Book of Numbers, the Israelites complain during their long exodus from Egypt: “Remember how in Egypt we had fish for the asking, cucumbers and watermelons, leeks and onions and garlic. Now our appetite is gone.”

Cucumbers spread slowly to Northern Europe, where the climate was not particularly suited to growing them, but they were readily adopted by native North American Indians when seeds were first brought by the Spanish conquistadors. Throughout the 1500s European trappers, hunters, and traders bartered with North American tribes for their fresh vegetables and fruits, including cucumbers. Letters from people who visited colonial New England in the 1600s praised the cucumbers and other kitchen garden vegetables there as being bigger and better than what could be grown in England at the same time.

One thing is certain: throughout all these millennia of cultivation, the bitterness has been almost entirely bred out of cucumbers. At Frog Bottom, we’re very careful to pick them while they’re still young – crisp and sweet. Their high water content and mild taste are what make them so refreshing on these hot, sticky summer days.

We grow four varieties here at the farm.

Here’s a pickler:

It’s called a pickler because it’s the perfect length for a canning jar, but this is a great all-around pickle for salads as well. In the bins at market and at CSA pick-ups, you can distinguish the picklers by their short, plump shape and their slightly bumpy skin.

This one, just slightly longer and smoother than the pickler and with slightly tapered ends, is our American slicer:

It’s another versatile cucumber, great on salads and sandwiches or just eaten out of hand.

This is a European burpless:

It’s very long and fairly thin, with smooth skin on the outside and almost no seeds inside. Very tasty!

Our favorite is the Asian cucumber:

It’s the ugly duckling of the bunch, with its wrinkled bumpy skin and funny shape, but what it lacks in classic beauty it more than makes up for with its crisp, sweet flavor. Try one!

Storing Cucumbers

We don’t wax our cucumbers – which means you don’t need to peel them! It also means they won’t keep as long as some store-bought varieties. Stick them in the crisper drawer of your fridge as soon as possible after buying them. Leave them there for up to a week but use them as soon as you can.

Preparing Cucumbers

We’ve chosen non-bitter varieties and we pick them young. So at our house, we never salt the cucumbers and rarely peel or seed them. It seems a waste of time and flavor when there are so many good things to do with them! We love them as a snack right out in the field while we’re picking. And of course they’re wonderful sliced or diced and added to salads and sandwiches. But we like them so much – and we’ve had such a bumper crop these last two weeks – that we love to dress them up a bit too.  Here are some of our old favorites, and a couple new approaches.

Ali’s Cucumber Salad

We make some variation on this salad two or three times a week during cucumber season. Don’t be afraid to play around with ingredients and quantities. It’s wonderful with wedges of fresh tomato and corn sliced right off the cob, both available at farmers markets now!

Several cucumbers (2 Asian or European, 3 American, or 4 picklers), chopped or sliced
3-4 scallions (minced) or half an onion (coarsely diced)
Handful basil leaves, chopped or torn
Handful feta or goat cheese, crumbled
Juice of half a lemon or a few glugs of your favorite vinegar
A few glugs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Chow down!

Serves two with leftovers. Easily doubled.

Fridge Pickles

If, like me, you have been meaning to make your own pickles for what seems like a decade now, I am here to tell you: Get up from your computer this very instant and go to your kitchen! It takes about nine minutes! You make a simple brine of water, vinegar, and salt. Then you pour that over cucumbers, garlic, and herbs. Leave the jars alone for a few days, and voila! Pickles! I made them for the first time just last week, using this recipe from Donalyn Ketchum, and they are, in a word, perfect. Crunchy, garlicky, and just sour enough, I can’t stop reaching for them. These pickles aren’t canned, so they need to be stored in the fridge. They’ll keep at least a couple months there, but I doubt they’ll last that long! Also, you can use just about any herb. I meant to use dill but saw, as the brine was coming to a boil, that my dill had gone slimy. So I used fresh thyme instead. Yum!

Gordon’s Cup

If your work day has been relentless and nobody likes what you made for dinner and the A/C is broken, here’s what you need to do: make yourself a Gordon’s Cup. Cucumbers, lime, simple syrup, gin, and a pinch of salt: really, how can you go wrong? You’ll have to plan ahead just a little bit, to make and then cool the simple syrup, but that’s very easy. Make some now and it’ll last you through many of these drinks! Oh, and don’t skip the salt. Just a tiny pinch is really delicious. This recipe from Molly Wizenberg has everything you need to know.

Sautéed Cucumbers

The truth is, we haven’t tried this yet. I’m really eager to know if any of y’all have! Larousse Gastronomique includes several variations. Mark Bittman, author of the accessible, encouraging, and comprehensive How to Cook Everything, and writer of the weekly The Minimalist column in The New York Times, notes that a cucumber is “a vegetable that is rarely cooked but ought to be – at least occasionally.” He suggests a simple sauté of butter, onions, and cucumbers, finished with cream or yogurt and a handful of chopped dill. It’s next on our list; has anyone tried this?

* * *

And you? What are y’all doing with cucumbers this summer? At market and at CSA pick-ups, people have told us about cucumber soup and tzatziki. We’d love it if you’d post those recipes – and everything else you’re making with cucumbers – right here in the comments section.

Listen to your farmers!

Posted by Lisa on July 10, 2009
CSA, cucumbers, farmers markets / Comments Off on Listen to your farmers!

Sticky summer weather is cucumber weather!  And we grow four kinds!  So come see us tomorrow, at market or your CSA pick-up, and stock up!!!  And then check here at the blog again later this weekend, and we’ll tell you what to do with all of them.  Promise.