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Cucumber substitute?

Posted by Castorp z9 FL (My Page) on
Mon, May 30, 05 at 10:41

I use cucumbers for one thing--Thai cucumber salad. It's a "fresh pickle" salad. The cucumbers are salted, wrung out, tossed with vinegar, sugar, hot pepper, green onion. I know very little about Asian vegetables or Asian cooking, but I love this salad.

The problem is that cucumbers are difficult to grow here in Florida. The worms get them. I garden organically, but I know people down here who use pesticides and still have worms attacking their cucumbers.

I was reading an heirloom gardening book and it said that something called the "burr gherkin" or "West Indian Gherkin" was often grown along with cucumbers in the old days because worms and other pests hardly bothered it. If the cucumbers were ruined, you still had the gherkins for pickles. I haven't tried these. Have any of you?

Are there other hardy vegetables that can be used like cucumbers--especially in Thai cucumber salad?

In my gardening book, bitter melon is also called "Chinese Cucumber." Are varieties of bitter melon really used like cucumbers?

Thank you.



Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Cucumber substitute?

I tried them last year. They are very small and it's no wonder the worms don't bother them. They are very prickly. Even with gloves on I got poked plenty. Just not worth the trouble and pain as far as I'm concerned. Ouch. What about the armenian cucumber? It's very crunchy and can grow very long without being bitter.

Here is a link that might be useful: west indian gherkin


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Thanks, Donna. It looks great, but I'm wondering how it will do here. Do you know if the armenian cucumber is a tough, wildish plant like the burr gherkin, or is it a more delicate cultivated variety?


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

I'm not quite sure I understand your question. The armenian cucumber grows very much like other cultivated cucumbers. I grew them on a trellis and that helped keep them a bit straighter, but not entirely. They just like to curl. They are not as full of water as the dark skinned cucumbers I have grown. That may not be the right way to say what I'm thinking. You could easily grate this cucumber for a salad and not end up with a big watery mess, which is what would happen with some other types of cucumbers. Very crisp.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

What I'm asking is whether they're likely to be full of worms the way my regular cucumbers are now. I'm looking for a cucumber that's more pest resistant.

I've ordered a pack of Armenian cucumber seeds, and also Mexican Sour Gherkins, which I'm hoping aren't quite as prickly as the West Indian Burrs. We'll see how they do. Thanks again for your help.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

have you tryed trellising your cukes.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Yes, I always trellis them.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Castorp,
Could you share your recipe please? I'd love to try it.

As for a substitute, check with your state's Extension Service. Each county should have it's own Cooperative Extension Office which provides free publications and information for the asking. They can also tell you the average last frost date for your area and ideal planting times for specific crops and varieties in your area.

Every state does research for specific varieties which thrive in that state and stand up to the environmental condidtions (weather, soil, pests, disease, etc). As you'll see in the second column for my state in the first image below, variety listings are provided in case I wish to try them.

The following two images are excerpts from the Vegetable Planting and Planning Calendar for Missouri (download the pdf complete with spring and fall planting dates, how much to plant per person, etc. Just call up the office in your county. Look under the "Government" section (usually blue pages) of your phone book under "Extension". They will have valuable vegetable/gardening tables available specifically for your area from data they've collected from growing those crops in your state.

Violet


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Bill,

Armenian cucumbers are a form of melon. If you can grow honeydew melons, you can probably grow Armenian cucumbers. Below is a site which lists three varieties, plus other Asian pickling melons. Some people use watermelon rinds for pickles, and I have a neighbor who says immature honeydew melons are the best "cucumbers".

As for disease resistance, you may be able to find a gourd which fits the bill. I have got a young Cucuzzi gourd in the kitchen which vaguely resembles a cucumber, though less crisp. It is about the diameter of a quarter and very long. The skin may be a little rubbery for the use you intend, and it discolors with rough handling - you might need to get it in vinegar or salt water right away.

When the gourds are a little larger, but not yet the size of a baseball bat, they firm up and can be pared with a potato peeler and seeded - at this point they might be closer to a cucumber in character. The immature seeds are white, sweet and crunchy at this stage, but they come in a rather cotton-like (but edible) pithy center that can be scraped out of the fruit. Last year, I made little dugout canoes with the gourds and stuffed them like bell peppers.

These gourds have felted leaves and are much more insect resistant here than melons or cucumbers, although the blossoms sometimes host a worm similar or identical to the corn earworm or geranium budworm, ending growth of a potential fruit. The white flowers open at night, when moths fly. A little Bt might take care of the budworms, but I always have enough fruits survive for my needs without doing anything.

I am also growing some yellow-flowered gourds this year. I believe that they tend to become bitter as they get large. Seeds resemble watermelon seeds. This is also my first year growing wax gourds - fuzzy gourd and winter melon. Will have to report on these later. Some gourd seeds take a really long time to germinate, so be prepared if you try them.

Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Baker Creek Asian Melons


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RE: Possible cucumber-like gourd

Following is a link for one of the yellow-flowered gourds I am growing - Surekha (scroll down). Says you can eat it raw like a cucumber. I would try them when very small, as I believe this is one of the types that gets bitter as it enlarges. My plants got started after my cucumbers, but so far, seem to be insect-free.

We don't get worms in cucumbers here, but do get aphids, thrips, spider mites and whiteflies galore. My best-performing cucumber in the heat of summer is Summer Dance, a long Asian type.

Here is a link that might be useful: Surekha hybrid ridged gourd


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Bill,

My aunt lives outside Pensacola, and she does fine with cucumbers. She plants Japanese types as well as Burpee Hybird and Straight 8, and sprays weekly in the beginning of the season with Sevin or Permethrin. She is vigilant about removing worms by hand and washing off aphids, looks out for larvae, and always removes garden plants at the end of the season. She stops spraying the fruit once they get a few inches in size since the pesticides don't break down for a couple of weeks. Her husband's favorite way to eat them is a cucumber salad (peels removed) with rice vinegar, sugar, and water like they do in Japanese restaurants.

I also garden organically. I would try Bt (bacillus thiurgensis) which can only work within specific parameter (i.e. best applied in early evening because sunlight kills it). My problem with cukes are not worms but also what CarolynCl has -aphids, white flies, etc. - and powdery mildew. Personally, I prefer the middle Eastern beit-alpha types like Amira (sp?) tastewise. It's yummy with plain yogurt with a dash of lemon.

BTW Bitter melon is totally different. It's not often used raw, it really is bitter and is IMO an acquired taste. I've had it sauteed with Asian greens, coconut milk, hot pepper, and shrimp and bitter melon which added a bitter dimension to a spicy sweetish main dish. The chemicals that cause the bitter taste is touted as having some medicinal properties.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Thanks to you all for the information. Looks like there are lots of things to try. As I said above, I'm now trying the Armenian cuke (or melon) and the Mexican sour gherkin. We'll see how they do. I didn't know how heat resitant either was, but I went ahead and planted them in the garden and now I have a few nice looking plants. Oh, and I also planted a cucuzzi, which I hope to use as a squash sub.

I probably should try more of the recommended varieties of regular slicing cukes. I do try to follow the extension service's advice, but when I was buying seed I was tempted by some Japanese heirloom cukes and tried those instead. (The ones that I did harvest before the worms took over were excellent). These cukes also suffered from a bunch of other problems, powdery mildew being one. If I'd gone with the recommended hybrids, I'd have probably been better off. Still, I posted over on the Florida forum and most people were having worm problems with their cukes and squashes, even the people who sprayed. So I decided to try a sub.

I've thought about Bt, but I've been relunctant because all around the veggie garden are butterfly plants. I'm willing to adapt my tastes a little if I can get away without spraying.

Violet, the recipes is from the "Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant" cook book. The recipe is called "Thai Fresh Cucumber Salad" or Taeng kwa brio wan.

3 medium cukes, sliced thinly, (don't peel them)
salt

1/2 teaspoon of dried hot pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
4 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of minced red onion or scallions

In a bowl, generously salt the sliced cucumbers. Allow to sit for at least 30 min. Stir occasionally.

Combine other ingredients

Squeeze out as much of the cucumber juice as you can.

Combine the squeezed cucumbers and the sauce.

It can be quite spicy, depending on the hot pepper you use. This, and the squeezing, made me think a sub. might work just as well.

Thanks again to you all. I'll jot down the other subs you mention in case these Armenian cukes and sour gherkins don't work out.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Castorp,

Bt does not affect adult butterflies, and if you are careful where the spray goes, should not hurt caterpillars on nearby plants, either. I believe that some Bt product contain just the toxin, rather than live organisms, which would be even less likely to affect caterpillars other than on your target plants.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

May I recommend using green papaya instead of cucumbers if you have this problem. Another one is sayote - although I normally cook sayote in a stir fry method first.

The bittermelon is an acquired taste and in anycase it won't be right for your salad. I do use it as pickles and I consider it delicious. but I remove the bitterness by adding a ton of salt to the chopped vegetables and later wringing the juices out of this vegetables and rinsing out the salts. I tend place it in a sterlized jar and pour my picking liquid in it.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Ianna, I absolutely adore green papaya salad. But where in the world can I find green papayas. Although we complain about fruit not being ripe at the local grocer, the papayas are not "green". There is a Thai restaurant near me and Mama Noi makes it especially hot, just for me. But I would like to make it myself. Any ideas as to where I can get this?


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

You can potentially find green papayas in some Asian grocery stores if there are any in your area.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

More sources:

http://gourmetsleuth.com/ListWebSites.asp?RunReport=Run+Report&SelStart1=CAFV

http://www.food411.com/fruits_vegetables.php


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Lots of green grocers carry them now. Personally I enjoy a papaya that's not quite green and not quite ripe either. Dipped in vinegar and you have crunchy sweet and sour snack.

Okay, last thing you can do is to ask your nearby Thai place for sources of their supply.

Another crunchy substitute may be the Jicama which is a root plant but it's great with salt and vinegar. No need for cooking too.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Kohlrabi is excellent sliced and sprinkled with salt and lemon juice as well.

;)


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

I've put papaya and jicama on my list. Both are supposed to do well here, though the papaya is marginal because we have freezes from time to time. Thank you for the suggestions.

Carolyn, thank you for the info on Bt and I will keep it in mind. I suppose it would be safe to use it if I wait till a day without a breeze.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

2 other substitutes that I thought of, daikon and green mango as well. Good luck.

re worms attaching hte cukes - does it attach the cukes or the vine? If cukes, can you enclose it in a stretchable bag like old stockings? It's an idea taken from the way bananas are grown for export. Same with the durian.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

  • Posted by chaman U S east coast (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 20, 05 at 13:49

Asian melon seeds sold by Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. produce small fruits about 4 inches long and 2 to 3 inches in diameter are good sustitutes for Cucumbers.
I have grown them this year.Skin is much more tender than cucumbers and has good taste also.Develops sweet taste when they ripen.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

chaman,

What's the specific variety name?


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

  • Posted by chaman U S east coast (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 21, 05 at 8:56

Hi Violet,
This was Golden Sweet (Asian Melon) from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.
It is very productive.Leaves look like cucumber plant (vine).


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

castor, that cucumber recipe was pretty good! i was a little too generous with the salt, but it turned out good still.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Glad you liked it, Jun. I love that stuff. I guess I make mine pretty salty too, but I always eat this salad as a kind of condiment--and with dishes that include white rice.
The salty-sweet-sour-hot-cool taste of the cucumbers works well with the neutral taste of the rice. Also, when you wring out the cucumbers really well a lot of salt comes out with the liquid. In the original recipe they wrap the salted cucumbers in cheesecloth to make this easier.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

i put a little vinegar and sesame oil in mine and it was great. the recipe you posted didn't state adding vinegar though. it was good without too.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

I apologize. I'm so terrible with these things. The recipe above should include three tablespoons of vinegar. I'm glad to hear your salad was good anyway. I'll have to try it with sesame oil.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Other sources for the recipe (for reference).

Here is a link that might be useful: Thai Fresh Cucumber Salad


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Hi Lance baker I planted some cucumber and thay tast baitter,why.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Hi Lance baker I planted some cucumber and thay tast baitter,why.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

  • Posted by chaman U S east coast (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 17, 05 at 17:16

Our Golden Sweet Asian melons are ripend and look great in the Yellow golden color.We pick one or two from the vine,remove the skin, slice and eat them.
It has very appetizing taste. Feel like eating few more slices every now and then.
Taste is like cucumbery cantaloupe.When tender, we used them as cucumber.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Found myself in this forum when poking around in pickling cucumbers. Didn't realize I ended up in Asian vegetable forum. My apologies to anyone who might get annoyed for seeing a post here regarding a wonderful cucumber variety I am growing this year. Got the seeds from Totally Tomatoes (primarily sells heirloom variety tomato seeds). It is a French cornichon type that's burpless and seedless. Highly productive vine sets perfect fruits early without cross pollination. It even seemed like the fruits set before the flowers opened! Fruits are sweet, firm, and crunchy. Best harvested when they are about 4-5" long. Diameters are about 1 to 2 inches. (2-3" if I don't pick soon enough.) My only grievance is that the smooth skin is covered with extremely sharp needle-like spines. Holding one is like holding a spiny cactus! Great in salads, great in pickling! The variety is called "Cool Breeze".

We got seeds into ground late this year, but with only four plants, we've harvested enough to eat some, discarded some too large for eating (but great for the have-a-heart trap and controlling slugs), to pickle a batch (~20 cukes), and I just harvested 30 more to combine with the 8 picked earlier to use for the next batch of pickles! Trying to decide which kind to make next. Probably more LLSPC's and maybe save some for a couple of quick pickle recipes. There's still more fruit on the vine! In comparison, the Kirby cukes that were planted at the same time are just starting to produce fruit ready for harvesting, but we only had two and there is maybe 1 or 2 nearly ready, and a only handful of newly set fruit. They are beauties though. If I get enough, I'll probably make some dills or half sours. I'll save the Straight 8's for salads, but have only seen a single fruit set on the vine and it's far from ready for harvesting.

I highly recommend this cucumber variety. Maybe you could try it and not have the worm problems you were seeing with the ones you were growing.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

Castorp the salad sounds good, I will try it. I have a few cukes, some were killed by my remaining harlequin bugs after I eradicated my greens (since they were eating them). I have cucumbers in another patch (lemon and Mediterranean) and those are really good and growing well.

I have two suggestions. The first one is to grow nasturtiums with your curcubits (cucumbers, melons, squash). They will help promote their growth and they seem to act as a sacrificial pest detractor (bugs eat them not your cukes).

Second suggestion is borage (as a substitute). The leaves taste like cucumbers. Not the same texture at all though, but they are pretty and help tomatoes.


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RE: Cucumber substitute?

I will recommend Poona Kheera variety.It remains crunchy for a long time.It will change color from pale Yellowish White to light brown as it grows in size but the taste remains crunchy as it was before.I have grown Poona Kheera for first time this year and will grow as long as seeds are available.I am posting the pic. of Poona Kheera to share with you.

Poona Kheera.

Photobucket


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