At the height of summer, on long days of working and playing outside, nothing is better than a refreshing garden-fresh salad. The lemon cucumbers that have been ripening back-to-back on our vines are deserving of better than a humble supporting role. We’ve enjoyed plenty sliced with a pinch of salt.
As a basis of a more substantial dish, perfect for al fresco lunch, I mix the beautiful slices with corn, fresh herbs, feta, and succulent wild greens. Dressed only lightly with extra virgin olive oil, the flavors balance and compliment one another wonderfully– salt from the feta, sweetness from the corn, and light citrus from the purslane.
I’ve used mint and basil together since enjoying the best-ever caprese salad in a restaurant, and now my tomatoes are paired more often with mint than the latter. We also use the abundant herb in myriad savory dishes that I would have once thought strange, since mint always meant “sweet” to me– an association I suspect an unfortunately large population of Americans share. I only urge you to branch out! Zucchini and mint are a match made in heaven. And there’s always mint wine.
Here I use grapefruit mint, my favorite variety. It has the power and aroma to turn a cold glass of water into a refreshing summer mocktail with a simple muddled leaf.
As for the purslane and oxeye daisies: both are exceptionally common, easily identified wild plants, though of course I encourage research before foraging for food. Both are used medicinally and are delicious greens.
While the beautiful seas of daisies have dried on Northwest hillsides, lush basal leaves continue to sprout everywhere. (Check your garden!) Their flavor is pleasantly herbal and mild. Baby arugula would make a stronger-flavored domesticated stand-in, and wild amaranth leaves would be nice as well.
Purslane especially likes inhospitable cracks in the sidewalk and gravel driveways, so just look down. It’s an unassuming succulent with a cucumber-citrus flavor. More on this lovely wild snack from Grow a Good Life, Attainable Sustainable, and Little Big Harvest. Sliced lemon verbena or lemon mint might stand in adequately, though without the cool crispness than purslane offers.
Cucumber Salad with Corn, Feta and Herbs
Quantities are notably omitted. Use a handful of each ingredient as you prefer.
Cucumbers, preferably lemon variety, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Steamed corn, cut from the cob
Feta cheese, crumbled
Purslane, tips and leaves
Oxeye daisy, basal leaves
Basil leaves, thinly sliced
Mint leaves, such varieties as grapefruit, apple, or spearmint, thinly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil (very little)
Salt (very little)
Black pepper (very little)
For garnish: basil or mint sprigs, oxeye daisy flowers, borage flowers, or nasturtium.
Toss all ingredients together, then arrange in shallow salad bowls and add garnishes, all of which above are edible and delicious.