As a food writer, I often find my email inbox inundated with press releases about new ingredients, emerging restaurant trends and experts willing to talk about everything from edible tape (to hold sandwich wraps and burritos together, of course) to restaurants entering the NFT (non-fungible token) metaverse to give customers culinary virtual reality services or at least offer them bitcoin-inspired cocktails. The savvier PR people, though, take a bit of time to tailor press releases to their recipients’ coverage area. I typically reward the ones who mention a Maine angle in their pitch by reading past the email’s subject line.

I got one recently pertaining to growing cucumbers in Maine. The product was an online gardening magazine, but the hook was that the social media folks at allaboutgardening.com had analyzed Internet search data to find out which vegetables gardeners across the country were Googling to find information on how to grow them properly. In Alabama, this research shows (just repeating the findings here, not vouching for the method), folks want to learn how to grow beets. In California, they want to raise onions. In Kansas, it’s carrots. And in Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, Texas and Vermont, people want to know more about growing cucumbers than any other crop.

I only had to do a little digging around the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and UMaine Cooperative Extension websites to learn that cucumbers are easy to grow here and generally pretty prolific. Therefore, this Father’s Day installation of Green Plate Special offers both a tribute to my dad (who, when we were children, let us pick and eat the cucumbers in his garden for an afternoon snack) and some advice on how to use up all of the cukes that come from your garden, are given to you by friends and family, or are part of your farmers market haul starting right about now.

Maine Homestead, a pickle and jam company in Lyman, began humbly when owner Krista Gagne needed to use up a 10-pound bag of cucumbers she got from her grandparents’ garden. She bought a Ball Canning cookbook from Walmart and followed the method she still uses today to make the crispiest bread and butter pickles I have ever tasted. She tosses sliced cucumbers (500 pounds at a time now since her pickles are sold in retail outlets throughout the Northeast) with salt and lets them sit for several hours. The salt sucks out the water in the slices. When the cucumbers are placed in the sweet and sour brine, the cells crisp back up. While I’ve not tasted her mustard chips or her dill spears yet, she assures me they are just as crispy.

Since I can buy pickles from Gagne and dozens of other professional preservers around the state, I want to focus on easy ways to use up lots of cukes without turning on the oven this summer: cold soups, spicy salads and stacked sandwiches.

The three general categories of cukes likely to land in your crisper this summer (always store them in the fridge and eat them within 5 days of being picked) are slicing (large), seedless hothouse (medium), and picklers (small). Unlike the ones you find in the supermarket year-round, the skins of these cucumbers are thin and unwaxed. Therefore, there is no need to peel them, and you can use them interchangeably in the recipes below. You may or may not have to scoop out the seeds, depending on the size and variety of your cucumber. I do nip off the ends, but my dogs happily chomp on those, helping them hydrate in the summer heat and helping me avoid food waste.

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Local foods advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is the editor of Edible Maine magazine and author of “Green Plate Special,” both a column about eating sustainably in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her 2017 cookbook. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

A Cucumber and Tomato Sandwich with Homemade Ranch Dressing. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Cucumber and Tomato Sandwich with Homemade Ranch Dressing

If she doesn’t pickle her cucumbers, Maine Homestead owner Krista Gagne slices them for sandwiches on white bread with tomatoes and Ranch dressing.

Makes 1 sandwich with plenty of dressing to spare.

1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt
2 slices bread
3 slices cucumber, cut crosswise
3 tomato slices

To make the dressing combine the yogurt, vinegar, dill, garlic powder and onion powder in a bowl. Let the dressing sit in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

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Assemble the sandwich by coating 1 piece of bread with the dressing and piling on the sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Add a dollop more dressing and top with the second piece of bread.

Spicy Smashed Cucumber and Radish Salad. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Spicy Smashed Cucumber and Radish Salad

This Asian-inspired salad is as comfortable sitting on top of a bowl of rice as it is next to a piece of grilled fish.

Serves 2-4

4 small cucumbers
8 medium radishes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons chili crisp
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 sprigs cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Place them cut side down on a cutting board. Lay a large knife flat on top of the cucumber and use a fist to hit the knife and smash the cucumber in multiple places. Repeat the process with the radishes. Combine the smashed cucumbers and radishes in a bowl with the salt and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain off and discard the liquid in the bowl.

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Add the chili crisp, garlic, cilantro, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil to the cucumbers. Toss well. Refrigerate until chilled. Serve garnished with the sesame seeds.

Cold Cucumber and Dill Soup. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Cold Cucumber and Dill Soup

Easy, quick, elegant and so, so good!

Makes 4 cups

4 cups roughly chopped cucumbers
Kosher salt
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (2% or full-fat)
1 cup buttermilk
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pit removed
2 shallots, peeled roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon toasted ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill, more for garnish
Zest and juice of 1 lime

Toss the cucumbers with 2 tablespoons of salt in a colander. Place the colander in the sink for 30 minutes. Rinse the cucumbers well and pat them dry.

Place the cucumbers in a blender with the yogurt, buttermilk, avocado, shallot, cumin, dill and lime zest and juice. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Add salt to taste. Chill at least 1 hour before serving, garnished with chopped dill.


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