Right now we are in the middle of cucumber abundance. I have been dehydrating the big mega-sized cucumbers into healthy, very lightly salted chips. Small to medium cucumbers have been pickled in quart jars, to be opened at Thanksgiving time as dill pickles.

Every day I slice up a cucumber and pack it in my lunch bag. Personally, I like fresh cucumbers best when they are lightly salted with sea salt just before I eat them. But dips are also a great accompaniment to sliced cucumbers.

This spring, for the farmers market, I potted up chive plants and handed them out free to market visitors. I had compiled a list of veggie dips using chopped chives as one of the ingredients to give out with the plants.

A chive plant is hard to kill-planted in the ground, it is so hardy, it will keep coming back year after year in a clump that always increases in size. They do fine as a potted plant too. I gave chive plants away because we had so many and because they are easy to grow. Even when I potted up a few dozen plants by dividing several clumps and giving them away, I still had plenty left.

Later in the farmers market season we celebrated National Night Out on the first Tuesday in August. A bluegrass jam, hot dogs grilled on site and lots of dips with chopped chives as an ingredient were offered with a selection of cut-up vegetables. I mixed up the dips the night before.

I have a very special scissors with multiple blades, a hostess gift from my sister that makes short work of snipping chives. One recipe called for one-fourth cup of chopped chives. It wasn't until I had cut up that magnitude of chives that I realized they can emit an aroma similar to chopped onions!

After the taste testing, there were two dips that seemed to come out as favorites. One surprising choice was one having sage leaves chopped and combined in a blender or food processor with cottage cheese. Another was a dill dip made with fern-leaf dill leaves and a blue cheese. The plain version without the blue cheese was my favorite.

In our family, a long-time holiday meal favorite has been a dill dip I make with a dry mix I found at the Minnesota State Fair. A big bowl of it is served with a giant platter of cut-up fresh veggies. I must have missed their fair booth this year when I visited, but I actually found the same dip mixes at the Cranberry Festival in Stone Lake, Wis., last year.

I am not sure I could wean my family off that dill dip. It will probably continue being a favorite during the winter months when there is no longer any fresh dill to be picked.

Thinking of holiday meals, my mother-in-law comes to mind. Although her son, my first husband, died 26 years ago, she remained a figure in my life. She and Grandpa George took my kids under their wing in a variety of ways and helped make up for their missing dad.

Esther passed away this past week. She had suffered from a variety of health issues and at one time it seemed like the rest of her life would be spent in a nursing home. However, she had a special daughter-in-law who brought her back to the farm and cared for her, along with another caretaker, when Zoe was at work.

But a recent hospital stay, initially seeming to be pneumonia, was actually the result of a very recent and undetected heart attack. Esther had outlived her husband, George, the healthy one, who passed away last year from cancer.

Esther, years earlier, liked to cook for company and there were certain things that always accompanied her meals for guests. I never learned how to make something she called "glop." It was a dreamy mix of whipped cream, jam and perhaps some frozen berries. I am pretty sure it was simple to make, but I never asked her exactly what the ingredients were. It was spooned over pieces of angel food cake as a dessert.

Esther loved to can, and especially liked to make varied types of jams and jellies. After I quit entering my canning at the county fair many years ago, she took up the torch for competition. It was always fun to turn over the tags on canning jars and find her name on the tickets, with prize after prize. Unlike 4-H, not everyone is a winner in open class. There's only one first, second and third in each category.

Sometimes I thought she simply paged through the open class book and figured out what she should make based on the listed categories.

Although the summer months are gone and we are phasing into fall, I am hoping for a few more warm weeks so that gardening can stay outside for a while. We've had a lovely selection of cherry type tomatoes, including the deep colored chocolate cherry ones, yellow pears, plus tiny orbs of red and orange. All of these, along with cucumbers, and an assorted array of seasonal colored pepper strips are great with these veggie dips.



Blue Cheese & Dill Dip

Taken from "A Celebration of Herbs," from The Huntington Herb Garden



1/3 cup minced fresh parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

2 green onions, chopped (One could substitute 2 tablespoons snipped chives)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup low fat sour cream

1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

1 teaspoon minced fresh dill

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Use food processor to finely chop parsley, green onions and garlic with the salt. Combine with rest of ingredients.

For plain dill dip-omit the blue cheese.



Sage & Garlic Herb Filling/Dip

Taken from "A Celebration of Herbs," from The Huntington Herb Garden

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh sage

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup reduced fat cottage cheese

1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives

Combine and further chop garlic, sage and salt in food processor or blender. Add cottage cheese and blend until smooth. Stir in chives.