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The National Pickling Cucumber

Every fruit and vegetable has unique characteristics that set it apart from other edible plants. But each variety also carries a story of the fruit or vegetable’s growth and evolution in the agricultural world.

The national pickling cucumber is interesting on both counts, which is why every gardening enthusiast should grow them!

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert in gardening, we’ll help you understand why National Pickling Cucumbers a must-have for any cucumber or pickle lover!

Basket of pickling cucumbers, similar to National Pickling cucumbers.

About National Pickling Cucumbers

Although the entire cucumber genus has been a dietary staple throughout the Middle East and Europe for centuries, they’re probably native to India, where they’ve been growing for over 3,000 years. They never grew in the Americas until Christopher Columbus brought them.

Over time, cucumbers and pickles became so popular that the National Pickle Packers Association was formed in 1893 — today, it’s known as Pickle Packers International. In 1929, this association asked the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station to create the ideal pickling cucumber.

Pickled cucumbers cut into slices.

Thus, the national pickling cucumber was born!


Characteristics of National Pickling Cucumbers

What differentiates national pickling cucumbers from others of its kind? We’ll tell you!

Appearance

To fit whole inside a jar of vinegar, national pickling cucumbers were bred to grow only four to six inches long. The outer flesh is dark green and covered in wart-like bumps, along with lighter green stripes.

Inside, you’ll find paler green flesh with seeds clustered throughout the center.

A pile of harvested cucumbers.

Taste

Since they were created specifically for pickling, national pickling cucumbers are meant to absorb the flavors of any vinegars, juices, herbs, or spices with which they come into contact.

For that reason, they are naturally mild, neither sweet nor bitter. Their flesh is thin so that they can easily soak up other foods and liquids. They’re also remarkably crispy!


Recipes

Anytime you want homemade pickles for your salad or burger, national pickling cucumbers will prove a reliable choice. Just slice them up and preserve them in a mason jar filled with vinegar.

If you’re looking for creative ways to enjoy them, we’ll give you a few ideas!

Tzatziki Dip

A bowl of cucumber tzatziki.

As a widespread dip in Greece and the Middle East, tzatziki dip is a tried-and-true pairing with chips, crackers, bread, meat, small vegetables, and other foods. With Greek yogurt, mint, and olive oil, this dip has additional health benefits beyond national pickling cucumbers!

Gazpacho

National pickling cucumbers pair well with Greek yogurt in other ways, too, such as this delectable and refreshing gazpacho. It also includes coriander, lime, mint, jalapeños, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and sour cream to boost the flavor and provide texture.

Agua Fresca

There’s nothing quite like spice mixed with coolness to help you relax with pleasure. When you combine national pickling cucumbers with ginger, mint, lime, and water you’ve got an agua fresca fitting that description!

We also have great recommendations for cucumber vodka cocktails if you’d like something harder!


Health Benefits

Closeup of cucumber slices.

National pickling cucumbers not only make meals more enjoyable, but they’re good for your body. For example, they contain high amounts of the following nutrients.

Beta Carotene

Since it converts to vitamin A, beta carotene is valued for strengthening your eyes, cells, immune system, and reproductive organs. Pregnant women will appreciate the way it assists fetal development as well. It’s also an antioxidant, which is responsible for ridding your body of free radical cells that can cause diseases like cancer.

Vitamin C

To minimize your risk of developing heart disease, dementia, or high blood pressure, you need the ample vitamin C found in national pickling cucumbers. This vitamin is also an antioxidant, so you’ll also neutralize even more free radical cells.

Manganese

As with many other green vegetables, national pickling cucumbers are full of manganese, a nutrient that optimizes metabolism. It helps your body form healthy bones, tissues, and blood cells, too.

Water

Since they’re 90% water, bush pickle cucumbers are great at keeping you hydrated. That way, you’ll enjoy a healthy amount of moisture in your skin, better blood flow, comfortable body temperature, efficient digestion, lubricated joints, and numerous other benefits.


How to Grow National Pickling Cucumbers

Person holding cumbers on the vine.

Does all this sound good to you? Then you may love growing national pickling cucumbers in your own garden! We’ll tell you how to make it happen.

Planting

If it’s been a week since the last frost, and outdoor temperatures are hovering between 65˚F and 75˚F, then find a hill or other place with well-drained soil and constant access to sunlight. There, plant the seeds about four feet apart. Include a trellis if you’d like the vines to climb, simplifying harvesting.

Cucumber Care

Soon after planting, apply an inch of mulch around the seeds to keep the soil warm. Once they blossom, feed them with a liquid fertilizer fortified with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium every 10 to 14 days. If there’s no rain, ensure your seeds receive at least an inch of water every week.

Pests and Diseases

Cucumber beetle
A cucumber beetle.

National pickling cucumbers are highly resistant to disease and pests. Its greatest threats are beetles and powdery mildew.

There are a few ways to prevent mildew. For example, mulch is a natural deterrent. Also, water your cucumbers during the day to dry quickly and avoid leaving enough moisture to invite fungal growth. If there’s a rainstorm, apply milk spray, which is known to fight mold and mildew.

As for beetles, if you’re not growing your cucumbers on a trellis, consider row covers. You could also grow zinnias, alyssum, and pumpkins to distract the beetles from the cucumbers.

If outdoor temperatures are predicted to fall below 55°F for a prolonged period of time, cover the cucumbers with a tarp, plastic sheets, old bed sheets, or something similar. This will keep them warm enough to continue thriving despite the cooler weather.

Harvesting

About 50 to 60 days after planting, your national pickling cucumbers should have a firm texture, dark green skin with warts, and a length of four to six inches. Use pruning shears to cut the stems about half an inch from the fruit, then take them away in a basket, bucket, or wheelbarrow.


Where to Buy Them

Pile of short pickling cucumbers.

You may want to head to a local grocery store to try a national pickling cucumber before committing to growing them yourself.

But if you’re ready to add them to your garden this year, you can buy seeds online at one of our favorite seed retailers, Hoss Tools.


Try National Pickling Cucumbers!

Bumpy pickling cucumbers on a vine.

It’s time to enrich your garden and diet with national pickling cucumbers!

What else can you learn about this wonderful fruit? There’s so much more to discover! Visit the Cucumbers page on our website for more blog posts and helpful guides full of facts and advice on getting the best cucumbers from your garden.