Sunday, September 25, 2016

September 25, 2016- The garden and cucumber salad

Right here at the top of the post I want to introduce a new feature. Julia has agreed to add a recipe  to my floral musings. I will do what I can to add pictures.

Julia's cucumber salad
So let me tell you how to make cucumber salad with sour cream.
You will need some cucumbers, of the kind called "slicing cucumbers", although English (or burpless) are fine too. No yellowish cucumbers, and not so big around as they will be way seedy. I used four cucumbers from the farmer's market which, with the ends cut off, totaled 36 cucumber inches. Peel them, cut the ends off, run the tines of a fork lengthwise down the outside of each cucumber all the way around. I do not know why my grandmother (who made this dish) did the fork thing, but she did and so it is forevermore. Next slice the cucumbers across (lots of little slightly scallopy circles), between 1/8" and 1/4" wide. I ended up with about 8 cups of cucumber circles.
Put them in a colander, along with a bit of even more thinly sliced onion. I used 1/4 cup of very thinly sliced onion. Sprinkle the cucumbers and onions with kosher salt - I used 1-1/2 tsp. or so. Mix the salt around. Now place the colander on the rimmed baking sheet or something else (9"x13" pan, big shallow bowl).

Put a flat plate on the cucumbers, choosing a plate that is both flat and slightly smaller than the colander. (If your plates are too big, you can use a plastic yogurt container lid or I suppose a cut-to-fit paper plate or piece of parchment.) Next put something wide and heavy on the plate. I use one of my canisters full of flour or sugar or rice. Or maybe a big bottle of olive oil. The idea is heavy; we're pressing the cucumbers.

Now walk away for an hour, leaving your tower on the kitchen counter. At the end of an hour, the cucumbers will have exuded a bunch of liquid.
Take your little tower down, throw the exuded liquid down the drain, stir the cucumbers with a fork, and reassemble your tower. Repeat twice, so that the cucumbers sit around for about 3 hours. Now disassemble your tower for the last time and put the cucumbers/onions (which will have reduced volume by about 1/2) in a mixing bowl. Add sour cream - today I used about 3/4 cup. Taste. Add a bit of salt if you like; add a bit of freshly ground pepper. Sometimes I add a teaspoon of lemon juice or cider vinegar. Sometimes not.

Put the mixture into a pretty bowl and if you are feeling festive, sprinkle with paprika as my grandmother did.

There are plenty of cucumbers still at the farmer's market in Iowa City, one of the best markets we have ever been too.

Now you get me again. (Philip)
Here in Iowa it is raining. We have been here before. There was June, 2008. In fact you can look at the blog archive for that month. There are no pictures of flooding, but there is narrative. We had a vacation that month. We drove to the airport in Cedar Rapids with the water lapping at the edges of the interstate and the median strip too. The road was actually closed later that day. My recollection is that to get to Cedar Rapids after that (about 30 miles north of Iowa City), you pretty much had to go to Des Moines (100 miles west) and then double back. You learn a lot about watersheds in this kind of water event.

So in Iowa City, the Iowa River runs through the University, down the hill from downtown. In Cedar Rapids, the Cedar River through the downtown district. In 2008, both rivers flooded big time. Right now the major flooding will be in Cedar Rapids, early this coming week. That is one of the odd things about flooding. There can be a prediction of when the worst will happen. And that can be days away. Another odd thing is how little it affects some people. We are not near the river. We are sort of on high ground.There is a local creek, but that is really local.
There was also the flood of 1993, during which our nearby creek flooded (and the river as well) but not our house. I sound like an old timer. Wait - I am an old timer. 1993 was the first 100 year flood; 2008 was the first 500 year flood. I don't think we have heard what we're going to call this one.

Let me talk about the garden and flowers.
First of all the cactus finally bloomed. There were pictures last week leading up to the flowering. It just did not make the deadline for this post. Bloom was Monday.
Here was that bloom.

This was about 7 p.m. on Sunday evening. There were 9 flowers on the one cactus. As a bonus a single flower bloomed on the smaller plant next to the big plant.

I have commented before about the wonderful mystery of why all the flowers bloom at the very same time. That happened with the Night Blooming Cereus too.

This was an hour later. It was pretty much dark then. The flowers looked a little bit like light bulbs at that point.

This was about 9 p.m. The flowers were fully open. They would last almost 24 hours.

                                                         These were the same flowers in daylight.

How about the rest of the garden.

Here is another Japanese anemone. I like the colors.

I decided to defy convention and planted zinna seeds about August 1. If you wondered if that was too late,  here is one of the first flowers. The plants look great.

Imagine  this covering a wall.

Here is a clump of toad lilies. I have a number of these plants around the garden.

Come in close.

Closer still. It is an amazing flower.

Garden cleanup continues. The days get shorter. Leaves are coming down. Pleasant, wonderfully cooling breezes, just start up sometime.
Any time you are in the neighborhood please come by. If you have never seen a toad lily it is a treat.


Callie Weston said...

Hi.I live in El Paso. Gardening is different here as the desert rules! Was recently in Cedar Rapids visiting friends, and my friend Phyllis, from Madison introduced me to your garden. I felt welcomed by the cactus(!), and, yes, we saw the toad lilies. Glad you have a blog. Thanks!

Linzee said...

Beautiful photos this week! Love the night blooming cereus, especially.

Catherine Woods said...

I love Julia's version of cucumber salad, similar to my own, but with a longer time being pressed. I got my recipe back in high school, from a classmate whose family had emigrated from Hungary to my Illinois town way back in 1956 (serious troubles in Hungary back then, for those who may not know.) Anyway, I can imagine how refreshing your version is! Thanks for sharing. (I do that fork thing too.)

The photographs of the toad lilies are splendid, the red zinnia pops, and this week's photos overall are lovely, plus, I enjoy the commentary that goes with. Thanks.

As for the flooding in Cedar Rapids, it's sad. For years I played the bassoon with what was then called the Cedar Rapids Symphony and my sense of connection to CR continues although I've been long gone. I recall following the news showing the devastation of the 2008 flood, including at the Paramount Theater. I'm glad to see, in following the current story, that much was learned from the 2008 experience, and I hope that means a better outcome this time!

philip Mears said...

Callie- I am glad you were able to visit. One thing I like about the garden is how open it is. It helps that it is on a corner lot. Why garden unless you are going to share with visitors?
Linzee- I hope to have many different colors of orchid cactus in the future.
Catherine- Thanks for the comment about Julia's recipe. She is already working on the next one.
I really must see about dividing or moving some of the toad lilies. I think I can do that in the spring when they first come up. Some would do better in more sun.