The Big Hairy Cucumber

We are about as local as it gets, here on our little vegetable farm. We have our three new Hampshire acres of produce, which we sell to Community Supported Agriculture members from nearby towns in New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as to folks frequenting the Keene Farmers Market. We have our several New Hampshire heirloom vegetable varieties, growing alongside all our other crops, and we have our team of New Hampshire born and raised draft horses.

We two farmers are practically local, too, even though one of us grew up outside of Philadelphia and the other on a dairy farm in upstate New York. After all, in our first season as Granite Staters, way back in '02, we received a high compliment: we were christened “not flatlanders.” As in, “I guess you're not flatlanders after all,” a remark made by our neighbor of seventy plus, who was has lived in New Hampshire all his life.

One of the wonderful things about being local, of course, is that it gives a farmer that steady, secure place to weed carrots or kale or cabbage, and thus to make a local living. Lest we get too local, however (or even – gasp! – provincial), we can always count on all the fine people who enjoy our produce to get us global.

For example, there was our CSA member from Australia, who, as we toured the garden one year, said, “Ooo, is that silver beet?”

I hesitated, trying to summon up my knowledgeable local farmer persona.

Finally I answered. “Mmm,” I said, knowledgeably. “Now which one of these vegetables might you be talking about?”

The member laughed, and pointed to the Swiss Chard.

“Oh, yes!” I said, “Silvah beet! We have lots of silvah beet!” saying it just like she did, in her cool Australian way. Then we moved on to the Capsicums, hot, the Capsicums, sweet, and the Capsicums, green (peppers, that would be). Next was the marrow, which is either similar to or identical with zucchini, I was never quite sure.

Another year we had the pleasure of having a father and his adult daughter, originally from Korea, picking peas in our garden. The father was eagerly filling his bag with snow peas; the daughter kept saying, “Here, try these,” as she picked sugar snap peas from the next row over.

The father shook his head. “Look at these snow peas!”

“These are really good, Dad,” the daughter tried again. “Try these.”

The father sighed a little, and took a sugar snap pea. He munched it. “Ah,” he said, to his daughter. “Why don't we know these?”

He smiled. She smiled. He moved on over to the sugar snap pea row.

Then, too, my fellow farmer is always on the alert for interesting seeds from other countries, either through seed catalogs, or through people's travels. One member brings us cabbage and squash seed when he visits his home country of Belgium. A Portuguese friend brings us kale seed, and a Portuguese tomato, and a big long squash-like thing, to grow. We've tried holy basil from a friend in India, and an Estonian tomato from another member's family in that country.

Just this year, my fellow found a fuzzy pale green Italian cucumber in a catalog. It grows in a football shape, and every other day we'd check to see if it was ready to pick.

“Is it ready? Do we pick it?” I would ask.

My knowledgeable local farmer fellow shrugged. “I don't know. It's getting pretty big. Yeah! Let's pick it!”

We picked it, and then we looked at it. It sure was hairy, and funny-shaped. Then my fellow had the brilliant idea to ask one of our new members about the cucumber. “He's Italian! His name is Domenico! He'll know if it's ready!” said my fellow.

“He might know,” I said doubtfully. “It doesn't look much like a cucumber.”

And then the sweet end of the story: my fellow shows the cucumber to Dominic (Domenico!) “Oh, oh!” he exclaims. “I haven't seen one of these in thirty years! My father used to grow them, in Italy!”

That night we receive an email, a picture of Domenico's supper: an heirloom tomato and Italian cucumber salad. “Grazie! It doesn't get any better than this!” says the message.

We local-global farmers agree, wholeheartedly.

Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Sept 30-Oct 6, 2015