Late summer brings a bounty of fresh produce to kitchens across the Midwest. I recently scrolled past a meme on social media that said, “you aren’t from the Midwest unless you discover random grocery sacks full of zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes in your car from a neighbor.” This is a statement that gets full buy-in from me this year, as I planted what’s known as my first “real garden.” I will fully admit and hold myself accountable for growing a garden that was far too large for our needs.

When the garden first started producing pretty early and bountifully, that’s when I realized we had a potential issue. I don’t like to waste food so my son came up with the idea to start a produce “business.” I use the term business loosely because it means we pretty much make special deliveries in the off days we have from sporting events, pig shows and other activities.

My son’s nickname since he was a toddler has been “Puppy.” His eyes are big and a little droopy just like a puppy’s, hence the name. He thought it’d be a great idea to call his side-gig “Pup’s Produce.” Friends and family have been wonderful in supporting Barrett through this summer of weeding, picking, planting and overall hard work that it has taken to make this garden successful. I can tell you one thing, there is no way I could have had a garden of this size without his help!

A garden fresh cucumber is by far my favorite thing to harvest from the garden. I love to pick the fruits when they are a tad smaller for the right amount of crunch. Cucumbers need regular moisture, and quite a bit of it, I’ve learned! Next year I’m going to wrap a soaker hose in and around my cucumber vines and also plan to trellis some of the plants to see if they will produce as generously when grown vertically! Fertilization of cucumber plants is quite important to keep them lush and green and producing at maximum capacity. I fertilized at planting and after the onset of blooms and then again every few weeks now in the summer.

Summer appetizers that can turn into meals have been a highlight since we’ve grown this garden. The recipe I’ll share today makes a great meal on a hot day and is an easy appetizer to bring to a party or serve at a bridal or baby shower! It also calls for the “micro” cherry tomatoes, the small ones that are only really good for snacking, but now they have a job!

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Cucumber Slices with Herbed Cream Cheese

Ingredients:

2 medium cucumbers, sliced ½ inch thick

1 - 8 oz. container whipped cream cheese

1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill

1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives

2 teaspoons fresh chopped basil

1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves

1 clove garlic, minced finely

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

10 micro cherry tomatoes, halved

Instructions:

Slice cucumbers and arrange on platter. In a medium mixing bowl, combine whipped cream cheese, dill, chives, basil, thyme, garlic, garlic powder, sea salt and black pepper. Fold gently to combine. Don’t over mix. Scoop with an extra small cookie scoop or pipe on top of cucumber slices evenly, approximately 2 teaspoons of mixture per cucumber slice. Garnish finished product with a cherry tomato half and sprinkle the arrangement with extra chopped herbs.

Cristen Clark lives on an Iowa farm where her family raises corn, soybeans, pigs and cattle. She loves cooking and writing, and sharing contest winning recipes with people she knows. She can be reached at cristen@foodandswine.com or at foodandswine.com.