A very unusual cucumber and an equally unusual drink that will cool you down on those hot summer days.
I love to try new things in my garden each year. This year, when looking through the Baker Creek seed catalog, I noticed an unusual orange-yellow cucumber called a Hmong (pronounced Mah-ng) Red. Intrigued, I decided to try them this year and I harvested the first one this weekend.
The Hmong Red cucumber is named after a specific ethnic group (The Hmong) who originate from Asia: China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. About 200,000 ethnic Hmong currently live in the United States, many of them arriving in the mid 1970's as refugees from the Vietnam War.
Although the Baker Creek catalog did not state this specifically, I suspect that these immigrants brought seeds for this unusual cucumber with them, and this is how they made their way into the Baker Creek catalog.
The Hmong red is as easy to grow as any other cucumber -- which is pretty easy. They also grow to an amazing size; the one shown in the attached picture weighed 2 pounds 4 ounces. When young, the cucumber is green, but it gradually turns yellow, and then orange.
Many cucumbers are quite sweet. The Hmong Red (when harvested at the yellow/orange stage) has a mild sour/bitter flavor. You can use it as a salad cucumber, but I wanted to see if I could find a more interesting and authentic way to eat it. And here it is....
Hmong Cucumber Mint Cooler
This recipe was developed by Andrea Nguyen, an author, freelance writer and cooking teacher who lives in Northern California. The below cucumber mint cooler recipe and drink photo are printed with her permission, www.vietworldkitchen.com.
Andrea has won high praise and a numerous awards. Her cookbooks including Into
the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors and Asian
Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More can be purchased through Amazon.com or other book stores.
Cucumber Mint Cooler Recipe
The Hmong cucumber is
halfway between a cucumber and a melon. It doesn’t taste like much on
its own until you add sugar. Then it is transformed. Without a Hmong
cucumber, use honeydew melon.
5 to 8 large mint leaves
1. Halve the cucumber lengthwise, in needed. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
2. Use the tines of a fork to scrape out the flesh, depositing them in a bowl. Try to get down to the cucumber skin. Discard when there is little flesh left. The flesh will be in pale green pieces. (If you want a smoothie-like texture, puree the flesh in a blender before moving on.)
3. Measure how much flesh you have. For every cup, stir in 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 or 4 mint leaves. Your stirring will dissolve the sugar and bruise the mint. Don’t be alarmed as the cucumber flesh gives off some bubbles. Taste to make sure there is a pronounced sweet flavor.
4. For each 1 cup of flesh, add 1/2 cup water, stirring to combine. Serve over ice, stirring a few times to chill the mixture. (Alternatively, chill the mixture and then serve it over ice.) Present this cooler with a spoon for guests to eat the flesh.