Cucumbers aren’t the most exciting vegetable. They’re not especially colorful or varied. Flavor-wise, they’re this close to being a blank slate. But that neutrality is also part of their charm. In the heat of summer, they can offer cool relief in salads and chilled soups, sliced into a pitcher of iced water, or as the basis of a crisp pickle. So on a very hot and humid day recently while strolling around the Mira Mesa Farmers Market, I was so in the mood for the collection of cukes raised and sold by Rivas Family Farms. Oh, the things I could do with them!
Rivas Family Farms doesn’t get the attention that a Suzie’s or Stehly Farms does, but they’ve been around since 1987, using 10 acres in San Marcos and Vista to grow dozens of varieties of produce. It was founded by Jose Rivas but last year he turned over the farm to his son-in-law, Jurgen Heil.
The stall that day was bursting with sugar-packed strawberries, brilliant red and green heirloom tomatoes, a large hill of sweet green beans, vibrant yellow and green summer squash, big heads of white cauliflower, and slender young broccoli. But I was schvitzy and zeroed in on the three varieties of cukes for relief.
In San Diego County you can find Rivas Family Farms at numerous farmers markets including Mira Mesa, Vista, Leucadia, Encinitas, Escondido, Del Mar, Imperial Beach, and La Mesa.
From left: slicing cucumbers, kirby cucumbers, Asian cucumbers
You’re no doubt familiar with these cukes. They’re the ones usually thick with waxy build up in the supermarket. No wax here; just big green cucumbers that you’ll want to peel, slice, and munch on. I love these cucumbers in a chilled cucumber yogurt bisque. Just peel, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the seed bed. Then pulverize in a food processor or blender with yogurt, chopped onion, fresh garlic, salt and pepper, and fresh dill weed. Three for $2
These stubby cukes are your basic pickling cucumber. And by that I mean dill pickles—the kind my grandmother and maybe yours made when you were a kid. They give a great crunch after bathing for a week or so with fresh dill, garlic cloves, dried chiles, peppercorns, kosher salt, and pickling spice. This is the taste of summer. Five for $1
These long, nubby cucumbers have a small seed bed, like Japanese cucumbers. On a truly hot day, I make a snack of them by using a mandolin to slice them thin into a bowl. Then I cover the slices with sweet rice wine vinegar and let them marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour. When I’m ready to eat them, I mix in red chile flakes and toasted sesame seeds. It’s truly the antidote to a miserably hot afternoon. $2 a pound