Cucumber and Chamomile Salad
Sticky. Hot. Car seats that scorch the back of your legs when you get in. Sudden storms. Constant state of feeling wilted. Favorite flip flops starting to break after months of constant wear. Mosquito bites from working in the garden at dusk to avoid the blazing heat of the day. Awkward tan lines.
Fresh peaches. Corn on the cob. Blissful cold showers and a box fan. Abundance of delicate blooms in the garden. Farmers markets bursting at the seams. Anticipating autumn. Messy ponytails are okay. Cold pitchers of ice tea. Long weekends. Laundry on the line. Dewy mornings. Long twilights. Watermelon and cantaloupe. Cucumbers.
As you can see, the season of summer, particularly humid dank August in southeastern PA, about balances itself out in my experience. I’m not a lover of summer like some folks, mostly because I detest even the slightest hint of clammy air. But there’s no denying the bounty of this time of year. Somehow I manage to enjoy it in the end for knowing that hot summer days are fleeting and yet constant in the grand scheme of things, lasting only a few months but always returning each year. As do those awkward tan lines. How does that keep happening?!?
Cucumbers have been a large part of my summer plate since I can remember. The garden I tended with my mom was constantly full of these vigorous vines (as it still is today). We grew both for fresh eating out of hand and for making dill and sweet pickles. I wasn’t much of a fan of the pickles, but I could eat a big old stack of fresh cucumbers with rather alarming swiftness. Now I grow cucumbers on my deck in big five gallon black pots with bamboo teepees for the vines to climb. Along with watermelon, no garden harvest holds quite such nostalgia and the essence of summer for me.
This Cucumber and Chamomile Salad is simple and yet unexpected with its sweetly floral hints. Exceedingly refreshing, I like just a bit as a starter or a snack when I’m putting together a larger summer supper. Chamomile has a wonderful apple flavor, but if it’s not your cup of tea (ha! get it?), lavender or anise hyssop would also stand in nicely in this dish. If you’re not growing chamomile yourself, you can indeed rip open a bag of regular old chamomile tea and use that in place.
What are some of the foods that remind you most of summer and why?
Cucumber and Chamomile Salad
A Straight from the Farm original
4 or 5 large cucumbers
2 T. fresh chamomile flowers
1 t. chopped fresh honeydew melon sage*
2 T. distilled white wine vinegar
2 T. rose water
1 t. honey
salt and white pepper to taste
*This is an unusual herb that’s hard to find. You can skip it or substitute a leaf or two of fresh mint for it instead.
Wash and peel cucumbers. Cut into small evenly sized pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl. Crumble chamomile flowers between your fingers to break up the large buds (if they are tiny, you can leave them whole) and add to the cucumbers, along with the sage (or mint). Toss to combine.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, rose water, honey, and a dash of salt and pepper. Whisk until honey is dissolved. Pour over cucumbers and toss well. Taste and add more salt, pepper or vinegar as desired. Toss again and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Be sure to toss again just before eating.
(serves 6-8 )