Too Many Cucumbers
I don’t like or dislike cucumbers. They are fresh and sweet, the seeds are not deliciously crunchy like pomegranates, but they leave a good sensation in your mouth. Despite my indifference, this summer we had a cucumber plant, with huge leaves spreading out over the grass and the deck, trying to find a way to climb over the barbecue, which stands right beside the vegetable garden. The leaves were fat, more or less the size of my open hand, but only 6 or 7 miserable cucumbers came out of all that abundance of green.
One morning, I was coming down the stairs, still in pajamas, and my puffy eyes woke up immediately when I looked out at the window that overlooks the cucumber plant.
On the ground, still fresh and wet by the night’s mist, many yellow flowers were lying there; all chewed, in pieces, the fruit in gestation inside them denied a place in the sun. They were scattered on the pavement like crumpled confetti after a Carnival parade. From that day on, we tried nets and bought plastic owls that flashed scary eyes and hooted like Halloween decorations. Apparently, squirrels and chipmunks, the fearless flower-chewers, didn’t care and kept venturing into our domain. They came during the night and munched in our promising garden, showing no mercy.
People say the animal population grew a lot in the almost empty suburbs and in the countryside during the Covid lockdown. As I prepared my breakfast that morning, I thought that the current math is not in our side: we have more wildlife and one less hunter in the house, as we lost Ziggy last April, one of our cats and the best hunter amongst the many feline companions we had over the years. Something happened in the microcosm of animal kingdom of our backyard, but the reality is sad this summer: twice the size of a garden, a tenth of previous years productions.
In the spring I had even found a new cold cucumber soup recipe online and bookmarked it. As cucumbers tend to be a little boring, and we were going to have so much of it, I was expecting weeks of new recipes and lots of tzatziki, the famous Greek cucumber and yogurt salad. I was hoping to cook baked salmon covered with cucumbers and cream. My husband bough a new box of Mason jars waiting for the pickles that would make his winter days happier and tastier. Not until next year.
Of course we can buy cucumbers at the shop. Greenhouses and farms, efficiently protected from squirrels and chipmunks, produce them in all shapes and sizes and we can make all our recipes. But, when they are ours, they taste differently. We made a few salads with the few cucumbers we saved from the squirrels’ romp. We are saving the small ones for one or two jars of pickles. We are contented. Maybe this is the new normal. Or maybe, in previous years, there were just too many cucumbers.