Local Bounty: Cooling Cukes from Vang’s Farm

Japanese cucumbers

As I am writing this, we’ve had another night and morning of chilly winter-like rain. Yet, in my fridge are what I think of as the refreshing veg of warm weather: cucumbers. For me, cukes are the stuff of pickles, tzatziki, and gazpacho—refreshing, crisp, and cooling. Now our weather system may be unreliable these days, but we know that 80 degrees and more are just around the corner. And  cucumbers will be there like a good relief pitcher.

These three cukes are greenhouse grown by Vang’s Farm up in Fresno. Farmers Pa and Pheng Vang drive down here every Friday to be at the Little Italy Mercato, where they sell some of the best Asian produce you’ll find. I’m a regular to their stall and usually get lots of unusual greens, but these cukes stood out last week. Pheng Vang says they’re nearing the end of their greenhouse-grown cucumbers and that their crop grown in the ground will soon be available, but enjoy these now. All are $3 a pound.

Pickling Cucumbers

Despite their name, you don’t have to pickle these cucumbers to enjoy them. They’re just fine to use in a salad or to snack on. But they are the perfect cuke for pickling because their flesh is so naturally crisp and crunchy. They tend to have bumpy or warty skin and are usually smaller than the ubiquitous slicing or table cucumbers you find in the supermarket. I love making my grandmother’s kosher dills with these.

Japanese Cucumbers

Like the long slender English cucumber (you know, the ones sealed in plastic at the supermarket), Japanese cucumbers are a delight to eat because they have a thin skin, sweet flesh, and a minimalist seed bed inside. These are shorter and a little bumpy. Don’t bother to peel or seed them. My favorite use for these is to slice them very thin and place them in a bowl to marinate with rice vinegar, a little sugar, a little salt, and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Refrigerate for about an hour, douse with toasted sesame seeds, pull out a pair of chopsticks and enjoy as a snack on a sultry day.

Persian Cucumbers

These cucumbers are very similar in flavor, size, and texture to Japanese cucumbers. About six to eight inches long, they make for great pickles but are my go to for tzatziki and for my chunky garden gazpacho. Use them to complement spicy dishes. They literally are cool cukes, with interior temps sometimes as much as 20 degrees cooler than their skin. You can also find Persian cucumbers in Middle Eastern markets but it’s a treat to get them straight from the farm. 

Photography by Caron Golden

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