There’s not much you have to do to a summer cucumber to render it delicious.




In my opinion, no fruit or vegetable epitomizes all that is sweet and ephemeral about summer better than the ubiquitous cuke. It’s the perfect metaphor for any of the delightful, heat-loving crops bursting out of farms and gardens in the Comox Valley all summer long.

In fact, there comes a point in our growing season when cukes are so abundant that farmers can barely get them off the plant before they become big, soggy tubes destined for the compost pile. If we were to plot Cucumis sativus production on a chart, it would show a steady rise, peaking in the hottest days of midsummer. I challenge you, dear reader, to ensure that your cucumber consumption follows a similar trajectory. It would mean the world to our local farmers.

Sure, cucumbers are available year-round but, really, why? Perhaps you’ll find this fact appealing if you’re a small child who subsists on a steady diet of cucumber and buttery pasta. But to me, as a grown adult, eating a cucumber in the depths of winter is about as appealing as being smacked by one. Summer is the cucumber’s time to shine—and it’s our responsibility to put it in the spotlight.

Luckily, putting these crisp, green beauties in the spotlight is pretty straightforward. I haven’t got any major cucumber tricks up my sleeve to impart, which is the whole point of cukes: they’re just so easy! They’re delicious raw and they pair well with most flavours. Anything that’s fatty and/or crunchy will certainly enhance a cucumber-eating experience. I’m a sucker for a Greek salad with briny olives and creamy feta. A nice piece of pork belly or tamari almonds perched atop thin cucumber ribbons dressed in soy, sesame, and ginger could also pass as a complete meal when the heat in the kitchen is just a little too much.

Summers here are hot and short. I’ve got a long list of things I want to do, and cooking isn’t on it. The fanciest thing I plan to do with cukes this summer is juice them. Lots of ’em. Then I’ll turn them into cool, luscious drinks. If you don’t have a juicer, a blender and sieve will do the trick. The internet will show you how. Minimal effort is required to make cucumber juice irresistible: a quick squeeze of citrus, a sprig of mint, a couple of ice cubes, a splash of simple syrup.

Some of you might proclaim, “But, James, we can pickle and preserve the summer abundance!” And sure, you can—and you should—and I will applaud and support your efforts, if that’s how you want to spend the last days of summer. But not me. Nope.

The pickle-smiths of the Valley spend their final days of summer standing over a hot pot of vinegar and spice, madly working to preserve the bounty, and our local farmers absolutely rely on these efforts to find a home for the fruits of their labour. For example, the good folks at COOKS produce over a thousand pounds of pickles each year using cucumbers sourced from two local farms, transforming this fleeting abundance into beautiful pickles for their burgers. (As they say, “Pickles don’t make themselves.”) Cooking over a hot stove in the height of summer, making tasty burgers, and putting homemade pickles atop them? Now, that’s love.

There is a vibrant scene of picklers to be found at the Farmers’ Market and elsewhere around town selling a beautiful array of lovingly made products. That’s the kind of endeavour that will always have my support.

As for me, in the dog days of summer, I’ll be raising my glass to the challenge of local eating with a refreshing cucumber lemonade.