Spring is on the horizon, and I’m beginning to see green amidst all the snow lying heavy over the farm. The tulips, perched near the windowsill, are blossoming as the rays of sunshine cover each stalk & petal. The days are longer, the sun is brighter and the seasons are blending into one another.
It’s around this time of year that a certain fruit makes its start into full-time production mode, thanks to a little help from greenhouses everywhere. The humble, and very popular, cucumber. Each year, Norway produces around 16,000 tons and imports 8,000 tons to meet the high demand of Norwegians everywhere. Norwegians will consume close to 25,000 tons of cucumbers per year.∗ And while cucumbers thrive in the summer months, the demand is such that they has become a year-round commodity. A permanent fixture in the Norwegian home.
The cucumber originally comes from India and, to this day, still grows wild at the foot of the Himalayas. From India, it arrived in China where it became an important part of the food culture. During the 1600s, the cucumber made its way into Norway and has stayed ever since.
The name for cucumber in Norwegian is agurk and can be traced back to the late Greek word angurion meaning ‘watermelon’. Further back, the word could derive from the Persian word angorah, or from the classical Greek agouros (related to aoros) meaning ‘unripe’ – giving the assumption that cucumbers, similar to certain squash and zucchini are eaten young. (Source)
Agurksalat, or cucumber salad, is one of the most simple, yet flavorful and refreshing side-dishes I often crave. It’s a staple among Scandinavia, with slight variations, and is best served alongside cooked fish, particulalry baked salmon.
I currently have a soft spot for radishes, and I suppose their brightness is a well needed splash of color in what has been a couple of very white months in the Numedal Valley. The salad becomes brighter with the radishes, and they almost melt into the dish, as if they have always been there. I also like to think of the combination as an homage to the possible origins of the late Greek word for cucumber: watermelon. It’s an eye-catching salad, very refreshing and a sure sign of the warmer months ahead.
Cucumber & Radish Salad (Agurksalat med Reddik)
- 1 large European/English cucumber
- 5 small radishes
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (200 ml) vinegar
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (200 ml) water
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- pinch of salt
- Sprigs of dill, chopped finely
Slice the cucumber and radishes into thin rounds using a mandoline, a knife, or a Norwegian cheese grater.
Mix together the vinegar, water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a glass jar or serving bowl and add the cucumber, radish slices and dill.
Let it sit for 30 minutes before serving, you’ll want the flavor to deepen into the radishes and cucumbers without making them too soft. It’s normal for the liquid to turn a slight pink color the longer it sits because of the radishes.
The perfect accompaniment to baked fish!
∗ Source: Mat fra Norge