Invasion of the Giant Cucumbers.

July in the South Carolina vegetable garden—particularly if you've been traveling for two weeks—is not the happiest place. Although our son's girlfriend diligently fed the animals and watered the gardens, some tasks—like weeding and cutting out dead foliage—had to wait until I returned.

After petting the pups and checking on the chickens, the first place I headed when we arrived home was to the large veggie garden to check on its progress.

Big mistake.

Tomato vines sporting nasty black spots.

Lettuce, underplanted in the tomato beds, now bolting and leggy.

Beans trellising up neighboring raspberry bushes.

And cucumber vines spilling over their bed, oblivious to the trellises, sprawling throughout the garden and blanketing the herb beds, the kids' raised bed, and the path through the garden.

I searched desperately for my inner Zen.

When that didn't work, Peter turned me around, and we headed back toward the house. After all, attacking an unruly garden while in the throes of jet lag isn't a smart strategy.

(Honestly, my tired brain screamed, “Rip it all out!” I'm glad I waited a bit.)

Truly, though, even with the ugliness of the garden, the harvest is pretty amazing.

Especially the cucumbers.

We arrived home to a produce-drawer full of cucumbers harvested by our house-sitter.

Exciting! Honestly, last year, our cucumbers flopped.

The next day, I harvested these:

And yesterday, as I cut back vines and attempted to whip the garden back into shape, I found these:

Holy cucumbers.

I love cucumbers. The kids actually eat cucumbers without complaint, too, which is miraculous. And I especially adore the fact that my calorie counter shows that a cup of cucumbers equals 16 calories. 

I could eat 75 cups of cucumbers to reach my daily calorie intake!

That's a LOT of cucumbers.

Hoping to add a little variety to my diet, I enlisted my friends over at the

Garden Delights Facebook page

for recipe ideas.

“Pickles,” of course, topped the list of recommendations.

I've promised Mikey that we'd attempt to make pickles, since he is a pickle fiend. I've never canned, but 2012 will be the year I learn to can.

Thankfully, our local

farmers' market

received a grant this year to teach canning. I'm planning to head there Saturday for my introduction to canning.

I'm ridiculously excited!

Until then, though, my friend Janet at

The Queen of Seaford

sent me the following recipe that I'm excited to try. Shrimp and cucumbers? How can you go wrong? What a perfect, light, cool summer dish. I believe this will be lunch today...

Cucumber and Shrimp Salad

One can (4.5 oz) shrimp, drained2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced1/4 vinegar (can substitute rice or white wine vinegar)1 tablespoon sugar1 teaspoon soy sauce1/2 teaspoon salt1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds  (Heat sesame seed in ungreased skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes until golden.)Place shrimp and cucumbers in a bowl. Mix vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and salt.... pour over cucumbers and shrimp. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.Remove to a lettuce lined bowl with slotted spoon. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

Tonight, though, I'm planning a family-favorite: chicken souvlaki with tzatziki sauce. It's so simple—and everyone likes it. (Well, the kids at least like the chicken. They'll have to eat their quota of cucumbers sliced instead of in the sauce.)

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce

1 lb. chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil1 tbsp. sea salt1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

In a large bowl, combine olive oil, sea salt, and rosemary. Add chicken and toss to thoroughly coat. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

For tzatziki sauce:½ large cucumber, seeded and diced.½ cup plain yogurt1 tbsp. lemon juice¼ tsp. salt1 garlic clove, minced

Prepare tzatziki sauce while chicken is marinating. Combine cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and garlic, stirring well. Set aside.

Place marinated chicken cubes on skewers, grill for approximately 5 minutes per side or until thoroughly cooked. Serve with the tzatziki sauce and pita bread.

And wine. The wine gives you strength to face the tasks in the garden.

I'm a little afraid to go back into the garden today for fear that I'll add to the cucumber collection—although I do plan to call our local food back to see if they can use some surplus cucumbers. (Do you know about

ampleharvest.org

? It's a great tool to help you find a local organization that can benefit from your surplus garden goodies.)

Do you have any favorite cucumber recipes? If you do...PLEASE share!

Otherwise, I might start a national “sneak-a-cucumber-on-your-neighbors'-porch day,” much like

National Zucchini Day

.

I think it's a good tradition, don't you?

Happy harvesting!

XO ~

Julie

tagged under: ampleharvest.org, Chicken souvlaki, cucumbers, edible gardens, garden maintenance, Growing gardens, Growing locavores, recipes, Shrimp and cucumber salad, tzatziki