The recipes that show cucumbers are more than just a boring salad ingredient

Jayne Cherrington-Cook
·5-min read

Watch: Top tips for growing cucumbers

Jo Jo Yee is a passionate gardener and cook and has some great tips on growing your own veggies and great recipes to make with them.

While often thought of as a very British ingredient – cucumber sandwiches, anyone? – the humble cucumber originates form South Asia and has been grown as a crop for over 3,000 years.

Read more: New to gardening? Tony Smith shares his beginner’s guide to growing your own fruit and veg

If you fancy growing your own, they’re a great choice – they’re abundant and easy to grow. Yee had a bumper crop this year and says they can be grown in a greenhouse or in the ground.

“Cucumber plants can quite happily grow outdoors as well as under glass,” says Yee.

“There are some ridge cucumbers that are quite happy to sprawl on the ground outdoors and be perfectly productive. It depends on the variety.”

Unfortunately, cucumbers do have one major enemy – powdery mildew!

A fungal disease that affects the leaves and stems of the plant, it manifests as white powder deposits on the plant. At first sign, you need to remove the affected leaves, but Yee says that prevention is the best way to get on top of it.

Read more: The best pumpkin and squash varieties to buy now

“What I do is keep the greenhouse well ventilated” advises Yee. “I also remove any excess foliage so that it helps to improve the air circulation.

“The other thing to do is when you're watering the plants, water at the base, don't water the leaves and only water early in the day - not in evenings - to allow the plants to dry out before night fall.”

One inventive way to grow cucumbers is vertically, which helps prevent any soil borne diseases.

“I use a bamboo support structure and they can climb upwards,” explains Yee. “Then I've even got a horizontal mesh where the fruit can hang downwards, which makes for really easy picking.”

Read more: How to cook perfect rice at home

Generally, a healthy cucumber plant can produce up to 10-15 cucumbers and if you’re bored of regular salad, Yee has some really tasty alternative recipes to use up those surplus veggies!

Watch: Use your leftover cucumbers and tomatoes to create a punchy Thai style beef salad

“This is probably my favourite salad of all time,” says Yee about her Thai Beef and Cucumber Salad, which uses chillies and herbs to create the perfect, easy-to-make midweek meal.

THAI BEEF CUCUMBER SALAD

Ingredients

250-300g of beef steak such as beef bavette, rib eye or sirloin
Sunflower oil, to brush
Salt & pepper
2 medium cucumbers, topped and tailed, cut into pieces
2 handfuls of mixed sized tomatoes (cherry tomatoes - halved, medium sized tomatoes - cut into wedges)
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thinly
Handful of mint, leaves picked and torn
Handful of coriander, leaves picked

Dressing

3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp palm sugar (or your choice of sweetener)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small red chilli, finely sliced

Method

1) Preheat a pan on high.

Brush steak with oil and season with salt and pepper.Add steak to the pan and cook to your liking. (For medium, cook for approximately 2 - 3 minutes each side.)

Remove from heat and set aside to rest.

2) Meanwhile, make the dressing. Into a jug or bowl, add the garlic, fish sauce, palm sugar, lime juice and palm sugar and mix well.

3) Place cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, mint and coriander into a large bowl. Pour over 3/4 of dressing and gently toss through.

Use young cucumbers that are crunchy with small tender seeds like 'Mini Munch'. Popular tomato varieties like 'Sungold' or 'Tigerella' all work well in this salad.

4) Slice beef across the grain into bite sized pieces.

5) Arrange salad onto a serving platter. Add beef and drizzle over remaining dressing.

Watch: Use your leftover cucumbers to whip up a zingy Chinese cucumber salad

Not only is this an easy way to use up surplus cucumbers, but it’s an easy way to add some flavour.

Yee says: “This is my favourite way of using up cucumbers, because it really takes a bland neutral cucumber and turns it into something really delicious!”

You’ll also get to release some stress as you have to bash the cucumbers up! This helps create a coarse texture so that it holds onto the zingy sauce nicely.

CHINESE CUCUMBER SALAD

Ingredients

2-3 medium sized cucumbers, topped and tailed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp rice vinegar (or Chinese Chinkiang vinegar)
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
Pinch of sea salt

Method

1) Smash cucumbers using a heavy blunt instrument like a pestle or rolling pin. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Transfer into a large bowl.

Use young cucumbers that are crunchy with small tender seeds - a variety like 'Mini Munch' works well.

If using cucumbers with large seeds or a lot of watery content, use a spoon to scrape out and discard the pulp. Peel the cucumbers if they are bitter.

2) Into a separate bowl, combine garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, light soy sauce, sugar and mix well.

3) Add dressing to cucumbers and toss through, making sure each piece is coated in the dressing. Add salt to taste.