You’ve planted your cucumber seeds, pulled weeds, mulched, watered, and watched the blooms turn into cucumbers. Yay, you! Now, the question is, when do you pick them? Are they best at 2″ or 12″ or somewhere in between?
What color should they be? Should they have bumps or stripes? Don’t stress! Take a deep breath, make a glass of Cucumber Tea Spritzer (recipe below), and read on to find out when to pick cucumbers for the best flavor.
The Type of Cucumber Matters
Before we dive right in, let’s get you that Cucumber Tea Spritzer recipe as promised.
Ready? Here we go.
There are basically three types of cucumbers: slicing, pickling, and seedless. Let’s talk about each one, how to tell when they’re ready to pick, and their best uses.
A slicing cucumber is best for simply slicing and eating, or adding to a vegetable tray or salad. Their skin is dark green and smooth, and a little bit tough. You can peel them, but it’s not necessary.
The best time to pick cucumbers used for slicing is when they are 6″-10″ long. Make sure they’re firm, but not too hard, and you definitely don’t want to wait until they’re soft and mushy.
Pickling cucumbers are best used for, you guessed it, making pickles. They are generally dark green and usually have a bumpy texture. The skin is thinner and the flesh is crunchier than a slicing cucumber. You can just slice and eat pickling cucumbers, but they’re better left for the canning jar.
The best time to pick cucumbers used for pickling is when they’re 2″-4″ long. Gherkin pickles are a little smaller and harvested at 1.5″-2″ long.
A seedless cucumber, also known as an English cucumber, falls under the slicing category. They are a bit sweeter than slicing cucumbers but are generally used the same way. People often will slice them long ways and hull out the center, making a boat to hold dips.
As the name implies, seedless cucumbers have no, or very small translucent, seeds.
Seedless cucumbers are generally dark green like a slicing cucumber, but they are long and slender. They are more pointy than round on the end and usually have dark stripes.
The best time to pick cucumbers that are seedless is when they are 10″-12″ long.
When to Harvest
Now that you know the different types, it’s finally time to figure out when to pick cucumbers.
Generally speaking, most varieties are ready to pick 50-70 days after planting, or 8-10 days after the female flowers appear.
Check Your Garden Daily
Once you see your cucumbers start to come on the vine, check them daily to see if they’re ready to pick. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll know when to pick a cucumber if the flower has fallen off the end of the fruit.
Cucumbers are quick, proficient growers. Once the harvest starts you’ll more than likely be picking every day.
Be sure to check under every leaf, and maybe even under neighboring plants. Cucumber vines tend to grow wherever they want when they get started, and you don’t want to miss any of your harvests.
How to Harvest
The best time to pick cucumbers is early in the morning when the temperature is lower, the plants are cooler, and they still have morning dew on them.
Use a sharp knife or set of shears to cut the cucumber off the vine, rather than twisting. Twisting your cucumber can damage the vine and introduce pests and diseases to the plant.
Be sure to save your seed packets. They will tell you when to pick cucumbers at the optimal time for each variety, and what your cucumber should look like when it’s ready to harvest.
Unlike tomatoes and other vegetables in your garden, cucumbers will not ripen after being picked. It’s okay to pick them up too early. They’ll likely just have a different taste and texture than you’re looking for.
How Long is Too Long
We’ve talked about the different types, when to pick cucumbers for the best taste, and how to pick cucumbers. Now the question is, can you wait too long before picking? The answer is yes, and no.
If you’ve ever planted cucumbers, you know it can seem like they double in size overnight! Waiting too long to pick your cucumbers can result in a bitter-tasting outcome.
But, if you want to save the seeds for planting next year, you can wait and let your cucumbers grow longer before picking them. Doing this will result in larger seeds for harvesting.
The best time to pick cucumbers when planning to save the seeds is at the end of the growing season. If you leave your cucumbers on the vine too long, your plant will think the growing season is over and stop producing new fruit.
Keep an eye on the color of your cucumbers. Unless you planted a variety like lemon cucumber, your cucumber is past its prime if it starts turning yellow. This can happen because of a lack of water, too much water, too much sun, or even simply because you missed it under a leaf when harvesting.
Feeling Better About When to Pick Cucumbers?
Now that you’ve enjoyed your Cucumber Spritzer, are less stressed, and feel more confident about when to pick cucumbers, it’s time to head to the garden and enjoy your harvest.
If you’re still in the garden planning stages, be sure to check out Hoss Tools for premium cucumber seeds, and everything else you need to make your garden and harvest successfully.
Enjoy your garden! If life happens and you can’t get out to pick your cucumbers at the peak time, there’s probably a neighbor nearby who would love to have your extras to eat, or to feed to their chickens.
Ready to continue discovering these funky fresh vegetables? Then learn more about cucumbers by checking out my planting guides, recipe tips, brand suggestions, and more!