“When’s summer?”

We’re sitting on the back porch, eating dinner, and the little one wants to know if his favorite-of-all season has officially arrived.

He shouldn’t have to ask. At our house, summer begins the moment the garden cucumbers start growing.

They began blooming last week, trickling into the kitchen every few days. By the end of July, though, they’ll grow faster than I can pick them, giving me a counter of cool, crisp, emerald orbs every day.

I can’t wait. I’ll brine them for canning; slice them for dipping; even saute and puree them for a fast cucumber soup. With just 16 calories per cup plus copious amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium and fiber, we can feel good about eating cucumbers at every meal.

Most years, we start our cucumber season with this salad:

cucumber salad

It’s a mashup of recipes from Ina Garten and “Gourmet.” Crisp cucumber and red onion slices get dressed with a mixture of mayo, sour cream and apple cider vinegar. Freshly picked dill and coarsely ground pepper round out the summertime flavors. It’s tangy, salty, creamy and crunchy, and it always graces our summertime table.

Which makes me think.

“What are you eating?” I ask the little one, pointing at the mound of cucumbers on his plate.

“Cucumber salad,” he says, then gives a sheepish grin.”Oh. Cucumber salad.

“I guess it must be summer!”

Summer Cucumber Salad

The cucumbers we grow are 4- to 6-inches long. Three of them yielded about 3 cups of sliced cucumbers. Feel free to double — or even triple — the recipe.

  • 3 4- to 6-inch cucumbers, unpeeled
  • Half a red onion
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill
  • Freshly ground pepper

Slice the cucumbers into 1/8-inch disks. (The slicing disk on a food processor is perfect for this.) Set in a colander.

Slice the onion as thinly as you can. Place the onion slices in the same colander.

Place the colander in a bowl, then sprinkle the kosher salt over the vegetables. Toss well, then cover the colander and bowl with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to drain.

When you’re ready to begin assembling the salad, remove the vegetables from the colander and wring in a towel to remove all moisture. (Do not rinse them! You’ve drained them to get rid of water and make sure they’re crisp. If you rinse them off, you undo all that effort.)

Place the vegetables in a clean bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream and apple cider vinegar. Pour over the cucumbers and red onion, and stir well. Mix in the dill and pepper. Stir again and taste. You shouldn’t need any additional salt but if you do, now’s the time to add it.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 30 minutes.