Armenian cucumbers stand out for size and grillability – MySA
It’s an intimidating fruit with size that can be measured in feet instead of inches, and pounds instead of ounces, but it’s worth your time to get to know this giant.
“They’re the longest fruit in the world, and they can grow as far as some go up to 3 feet or more,” said Fernando Vasquez, of 9-1 Produce Farm in Devine. “A lot of people don’t know what they are or what to do with them.”
Vasquez had a half-dozen greenish goliaths at his stall last week at the farmers market at the Alamo Quarry Market, and I took two for $10. That sounds like a lot for two pieces of product, but this was worth more than 6 pounds.
The flavor profile of the fruit, which blooms in the heat and climate of South Texas, depends on its size. When harvested between 12 and 18 inches, Vasquez said it’s hard to separate the flavor from that of a traditional English cucumber. When it gets bigger than that, it tends to be sweeter and more like cantaloupe.
There are all sorts of ways to use these cucumbers, but Vasquez said he prefers to roast them. The idea of some vegan cucumber “steaks” in thick slices made sense as an introductory lesson to food.
When you cut them, Armenian cucumbers have a rather hollow medium that is full of soft seeds like a melon. When cut into 2-inch slices, it is very easy to remove them cleanly with a spoon.
An 18-inch cucumber made eight “steaks.” I painted a layer of olive oil on each side of the slices and seasoned them with a dry combination of kosher salt, coarsely ground black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes for a bite of heat.
The kettle grill was set up with a direct and indirect cooking area with hardwood charcoal (which I think is key to adding flavor to the fruit). I thought it was better to start with indirect for 15 minutes and finish them with a hot sear.
The cucumbers were grilled like a thick-cut pork chop. There was no sogginess in the fruit while cooking, and it was remarkably easy to flip with tweezers.
Clean grill marks cooked on cucumbers, and during sear, the slices acquired a good blackened charcoal. Fruits and vegetables are rarely the star of my grilling efforts, but I must admit that cooking these things was an enjoyable experience.
The finished product backed up those good vibes, and again, the slices held firm. The grilled cucumbers made a wonderful meatless main course to gorge on without guilt that really took the seasoning. The family polished all eight pieces, and with 51 calories per serving, that’s less than two pieces of wheat bread.
I already have ideas for another grilled version of cucumbers, using chopped garlic and maybe even some barbecue sauce. There are all kinds of possibilities.
Vasquez said the few cucumbers he had on his stall were the last of the most recent harvest, but he expects another fresh batch from the 9-1 farm in another month or two.
He arrives before me.