Cucumbers are one of the easiest, most prolific crops to grow in the home garden. But, knowing when and how to harvest cucumbers can make sure you have delicious, ripe and crisp fruit all season long.
There are two types of cucumbers. The kind meant for slicing and eating fresh that are smooth and large. As well as the kind meant for pickling that are generally bumpy and smaller. Regardless of which type you choose, they’re sure to be a favorite.
When to Pick Cucumbers
Cucumbers have a fairly long growing season and are typically ready for harvest in about 50 to 70 days. The fruits will ripen on the vine at different times, but it is essential to pick when they’re ready.
The fruits will not all ripen at the same time (which is both a blessing and a curse). But, cucumbers that are left to ripen for too long will gain a bitter flavor instead of that delicious, crisp fresh flavor we all love.
How to know when cucumbers are ready
Cucumbers will be ready to harvest in about 8 to 10 days after you see the first female flowers. You want to pick them when they’re still green (unless they are a white, yellow, or dappled variety). Once they begin yellowing, they are past their prime.
The different varieties (slicing versus pickling) will be picked at slightly different times after you see those female flowers, depending on what you plan to do with them.
But, once your plants begin producing, you’ll want to check them daily for new produce. They grow quickly and you don’t want to miss the opportunity.
Picking Slicing Cucumbers
Slicing cucumbers are typically around 6 to 8 inches long and the “burpless” varieties will be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
You’ll want to pick them when they’re still a beautiful, dark green color and are firm to the touch. Each variety will be slightly different in size, though. So, you can check your seed packet or plant card for specifics for what you want to look for.
Picking Pickling Cucumbers
Pickling cucumbers can be anywhere from about 2 inches to up to 6 inches long when harvested. If you’re making gherkins or sweet pickles the smaller 2 to 3 inch cucumbers are your best bet. For pickles like dill or bread and butter pickles (spears or slices) you’ll want to wait until they’re longer, around 6 inches.
Do cucumbers ripen off the vine?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is no. So, once you pick the fruit, it’s done. So, pick wisely.
How to Harvest Cucumbers
During peak season, you’ll be pulling cucumbers every couple of days. It’s best to harvest them in the morning while the vines are still on the cool side (though, if you live around me, cool is not in the forecast… ever).
You’ll probably want to slip on a pair of gloves because some cucumbers (especially pickling varieties) can be quite prickly and the plants are kind of sticky. Sometimes, with my vining varieties hanging on the trellis, I really have to do some digging to find them all. We have them on a teepee and they like to hide in there.
Grab a basket to put them in and set them in gently so they do not get bruised (the burpless varieties are susceptible to bruising). You’ll also want a sharp knife or a pair of pruners to easily remove the cucumbers from the plant.
Once you’re ready, check for any stunted or rotting fruit and pull that first so that the plant isn’t wasting energy. Then, for the ripe fruit, you’ll want to take your pruners or knife and cut the cucumber from the plant, leaving about an inch of stem on the end.
You don’t want to pull or twist as it can damage the vine and your fruit won’t keep as long in storage if you twist it off.
Cucumbers aren’t great keepers. Commercial growers use a food grade wax so they’ll keep longer and not lose moisture as quickly. For the rest of us… slicing cucumbers are best eaten fresh. You can store them in your refrigerator for about 3 days once they’re harvested. Try not to stack them as they’ll bruise.
Pickling varieties are a bit more forgiving, but not much. While they don’t need refrigerated (assuming you have a fairly cool, dark place to put them) they will still only keep 3 to 5 days before they have to be pickled.
I honestly recommend storing both varieties in the fridge, especially in the heat of the summer. I had placed a few pickling cucumbers on my counter and it got too hot for them, even indoors with air conditioning.
Regardless, they need used up fairly quickly so bare that in mind when you’re harvesting. Even when you’re planning your garden so you don’t put too many plants in.
Are you looking for a group of like-minded people that love the heritage way of life??
Me too. Join our facebook group of over 10,000 like-minded individuals, where we learn about growing a garden, cooking a meal, and living life like our grandparents did. You’ll be glad you did. Join The Self Sufficient Life group here.
Other posts you’ll love: