One of the things I love most about living in the Pacific Northwest, Washington, Seattle and the Puget Sound area in particular, is, as you may have noticed already, its abundance of superb Farmers Markets. They offer a chance to shop for all kinds of things including a few surprises from time to time, an obscure fruit or vegetable, a spice or herb that's hard to come by or something that’s been on your wish list and all of a sudden there it is, at your fingertips!
And I just love surprises, don't you? And by surprises I mean the fabulous, curious, happy ones, not the "Ohh! Aww! types”. Like the one I got this morning, for example, finding one of my favorite sweaters, Italian Merino Wool (black, V-neck, divine) shrunken within an inch of its life, inside my dryer, washed and dried by mistake. But more of the kind of "Ohhh, goody! I have never seen this before type".
So imagine my glee when this past weekend, when, while browsing the stalls at Portland Farmers Market I came across a vegetable-a cucumber to be exact- that I had never, ever in my life, seen or even heard of before. There, in front of me, was the oddest little creature, the cutest cucumber ever, a Lemon Cucumber.
Of course, I had to ask lost of questions to the farmer, Ron Baune of Rainyway Farm (they grow over 20 varieties of potatoes, mostly heirloom). Lemon Cucumbers (cucumis sativus) are an heirloom cucumber variety dating back to 1894. They are pale to bright yellow, shaped like lemons. When they are pale yellow they can be eaten skin on. As they mature and become a brighter shade of yellow, the skin becomes a tad harder and one must peel it off.
According to The Cook's Thesaurus (what a wonderful site it is!) Lemon Cucumbers “don’t have much of the chemical that makes other cucumbers bitter and hard to digest”. Which makes them even more tempting and friendly, don’t they? We grabbed a few and went on our merry way, already planning how to use them. Mr. Baume told us that they could be used as one would any other cucumber. Cool, out of the fridge with a little sprinkle of salt, in sandwiches, salads and even salsas.
And use them up we did! These lemon cucumbers are so delicious you’ll be tempted to peel them (or not) and eat them like a ripe tomato or even an apple. But, if you can control the impulse, perhaps you can try making a cucumber sandwich or chopping them up, making a quick, fresh Thai Cucumber Salad, like the kind Thai Ginger serves with yummy Chicken Satays. Or perhaps even the tuna salad I concocted yesterday (“recipe” to follow). In any case, if you see these at your local market, count your blessings and buy as many as you can. I guarantee you'll love them and will be, just as I was, happily surprised indeed!
Ron & Joan Baune
4395 SW Minter Bridge Road
Hilsboro, Oregon 97123