Cucumbers grow on vines that can reach a length of 15 feet or more. This warm-season vegetable prefers full sun for at least six to eight hours a day and thrives in well-drained soil. With proper care, cucumbers are prolific producers, proving tender young fruits for eating fresh, sliced in salads or pickled. Although cucumbers can be picked and eaten at any stage, harvesting time typically depends on the type of cucumber and your intended use.
Harvest cucumbers when they are 2 inches long or shorter for pickles. These tender cucumbers make crispy pickles just the right size for a garnish or to serve on the side.
Pick "pickling" cucumbers when they 4 to 6 inches long for eating fresh or to add to salads for best flavor. Pickling cucumbers reach a length of 6 inches and typically are whitish-green on the undersides with a green a white mottled appearance on the tops. As cucumbers mature, the skin thickens, seeds enlarge and the characteristic flavor of fresh garden cucumbers lessens.
Harvest slicers when they are 6 to 8 inches long with a diameter of approximately 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Look for uniform green coloring and a slight "warty" appearance.
Tips & Warnings
- Some prefer mature cucumbers for making pickle slices or pickle spears - -often in the form of old-fashioned mustard pickles. Ripe cucumbers lose their warty appearance and turn pale green with a yellowish tint.
- Do not allow cucumbers to ripen to the point of being fat and yellow. These cucumbers have a sour or bitter flavor and signal the plant to stop producing new fruit. If you discover over-ripe cucumbers on the vine, pick them and discard them in the compost bin.
- University of Illinois Extension: Cucumbers
- "Burpee Complete Gardener"; Maureen Heffernan, et al; 1995
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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