Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Today I have to ask you, “What kind of person who understands poverty and hunger, would huck 40 or 50 cobs of corn in a ditch?” That’s the question I asked my neighbor years ago when I discovered that was exactly what she did. I couldn’t comprehend that she could bring herself to do it.

Never forgot it, never will. And I never forgot her explanation either. “That’s no big deal, everybody hucks corn.”

There was something in that reasoning that confused me about truth and lies. Something that snagged another concept. And almost immediately I knew what it was. “People do not ‘huck’ corn in the ditch. That is not what they do. They ‘husk’ corn and throw it in a pot, or freeze it, or can it. They do not huck it in the ditch!” Her actions were so disappointing to me. A betrayal of our deep friendship that grew out of common thinking and the solid belief that nothing of value should ever be discarded.

That was twenty years ago, maybe more. And I am still back there recycling that incident. What prompted my return? A bumper crop of cucumbers.

Have you seen the commercial on TV where an expectant mother opens the fridge door and out tumbles cucumbers? So many cucumbers that she is soon up to her chest in them. I don’t even know what the commercial was for, but that is me this year. In thirty years of gardening I have never had this kind of abundance of cucumbers from one measly slim package of seed.

And so, since I don’t huck corn in the ditch, or anything else that is usable and of value, I have been very busy. I have made no less than thirty jars of pickles. Two buckets of pickles-in-a-pail. And in the last month, Hub and I have sipped tea and eaten more cucumber sandwiches than the Queen has in her entire lifetime. And always there are more to pick, leaving no time to peel them, weep them, and remove the seeds as Her Majesty’s kitchen staff do to prevent flatulence in public. We just shove them down our throats with the assumption that everyone in our small social group loves us enough to accept us for who we are. And if we are in doubt we drag them home with us for tea and cucumber (the flatulent kind…unseeded, unwept, etc.) sandwiches.

So in my desperation to use up all these cucumbers, I have gone to the net and looked for boiled, braised, fried, or baked cukes. Not much luck. What surfaced most quickly was a comment that only people who enjoy eating slimy chunks of snot would be interested in cooking cucumbers. That was discouraging to say the least.

Nevertheless I feel like an “Iron Chef” – theme ingredient – cucumbers. And so I have peeled and stuffed the larger ones with wild rice and mushrooms and baked them in sour cream. I have substituted them in zucchini recipes. I have cubed them, simmered them, and added them to lemon dill sauce for topping barbecued pork or fish. All of these efforts passable, none exceptional except perhaps the ones I stuffed and baked in sour cream but that recipe takes too much patience and determination to keep two halves of a cucumber together while browning them in a frypan before transferring them to the oven. And, on the other hand, leaving them in tact and carving out the inside with an apple corer is not an option. That takes the mastery of someone adept at building ships in a bottle.

But it just goes on and on. Every two days, I pick another nine gallons of cucumbers. My nearest neighbor doesn’t grow a garden (something that I have to admit I found a bit annoying until this year) so I have been hauling as many cucumbers to her house as I have been keeping. Eventually I had to say, “Please take these and if you end up hucking them in the ditch, please don’t tell me.”

And then yesterday, oh woe is me, I did something I swore I would never do. It was a crime and Hub was a enthusiastic participant. He and I stood in the garden and hucked fifty or more cucumbers into the ditch! Oh, the remorse. Oh, the guilt. Already I don’t want to talk about it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heh, heh. You need to go through a bumper crop to realize that sometimes there's just no alternative.

Although I use them ground up in gazpacho (got rid of lots of yellow squash that way as well), you need the rest of the vegies to go with them. Unfortunately, everything doesn't come due at once. My cilantro ended up picked and frozen, and the second planting isn't ready!

susan @ spinning

3:59 PM  
Blogger Ptelea said...

You know it is not all bad - eventually the nutrients of the cucumber are recycled into the soil. Sometime you just need to let go of the guilt!

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anne said...

My mom used to pickle cucumbers in a vinegar, onion, and spice concoction. No matter what the season, there were always cucumbers in the fridge. I grew sick to death of the buggers.

As ptelea said, the nutrients are recycled into the soil. Nature has a way of making use of its organic own. Always has, always will. I, too, would suggest you lose the guilt, but it's often as difficult to forgive one's self as it is to forgive others, if not more so. As for Nature- what doesn't bend often breaks. That goes for people too, so bend just a little dear Roberta.

Perhaps you could form a little co-op with your gardening neighbors to help distribute everyone's extra bounty, or set up a free communal/roadside vegetable stand. Or leave the extras in the forest for the creatures.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Roberta said...

susan, maybe I needed to go through a bumper crop to understand the 'no alternative' theory, but I still have the guilt. And did I tell you I also have a bumper crop of tomatoes???

Sounds like you'll be pulling cilantro out of the freezer which I expect is a bit disturbing to the 'stashing it for winter' thinking that we're all doing at the moment.

2:27 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

ptelea thanks for that common sense approach. It helps to ease the guilt somewhat.

And anne, your thoughts are comforting as well. I hope I can forgive myself because a co-op is not going to work. It will be a long drive outside this area before I'll find anyone who will take cucumbers without being paid to do so. :)

There is animal access to the ditch but I'm not sure if any animals in this area eat cukes, although the birds and squirrels might pick up a few of the seeds. Oh, I mustn't think that way. I don't want them dropping seeds that will grow into bonus plants next year as well.

2:34 AM  

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