How To Tell When To Pick Cucumbers (3 specific ways)

How To Tell When To Pick Cucumbers

Cucumbers make delicious treats for the summers, but do you know how to tell when to pick cucumbers? You can’t enjoy the crispiest texture and the juiciest flavors unless you harvest them at just the right time.

Cucumbers are typically ready to be harvested anywhere between 50 to 70 days from planting. They are picked when the fruit is medium to dark green and firm. Pickling cucumbers are best picked when the fruit is about 2 inches long, while slicing cucumbers are best harvested when they are about 7 to 8 inches in length.

While these lengths give a fair idea on when to pick cucumbers, it also depends on the variety and how you plan on using the cucumbers you harvest. Overripe cucumbers are bitter in taste and generally not considered fit for consumption. Harvest your cucumbers at just the right time, depending on the variety you’re growing and how you plan on using them, to enjoy the best taste.

How To Tell When To Pick Cucumbers

How To Tell When To Pick Cucumbers

Cucumbers are crisp, juicy, fresh vegetables that taste great in salads, pickling or eating right off the vine!

But when do you harvest them to experience all goodness packed in the fruit to its fullest?

Harvesting time varies with the variety you are growing and their usage.

Cucumbers come in two basic varieties: slicing cucumbers and pickling cucumbers.

Slicing cucumbers are primarily eaten fresh in salads or as a side to meals.

Pickling cucumbers, on the other hand, have a rough outer surface and are best eaten after blanching and pickling.

No matter which variety you grow, knowing when to harvest them is the key to the tastiest and freshest harvest.

Pickling cucumbers are typically picked when they reach about 2 inches in length.

If you plan on making dill pickles, pick cucumbers when they are about 4 inches long

Slicing cucumbers are longer and thinner than pickling cucumbers and taste best when picked at about 7 to 8 inches in length.

If you’re growing a slicing variety and you plan on pickling them, pick them a little earlier than their average harvest time.

Instead of letting them grow to 7 inches, pick them while they’re still young and about 5 to 6 inches long.

Similarly, pickling variety can also be used for eating fresh, but you’ll have to let the fruit stay on the vines a little longer for that.

Instead of picking them when they’re 2 to 4 inches long, let them grow a bit longer to about 5 to 6 inches before picking them for eating fresh.

If you’re having problems growing cucumbers, check out our complete article on what can cause little cucumbers to die.

How To Tell When To Harvest Cucumbers

How To Tell When To Harvest Cucumbers

Cucumbers take a long, warm growing season before they’re ready to be picked.

Depending on the specific variety, it can take anywhere between 50 to 70 days to come to harvest after planting the seeds.

Harvesting cucumbers at just the right time makes sure they are crisp, sweet and have no unappetizing bitterness in them.

Your entire cucumber harvest won’t ripen at the same time.

Once the harvest season starts, be vigilant in checking the vines every 2 to 3 days and pick them as each one is ready.

The fruit typically reaches its right size about 8 to 10 days after the female flower opens.

Slicing cucumbers are ready to be harvested when they are about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter, dark green and firm.

If the fruit is left on the vine beyond its right size, it will turn soft and will start showing signs of yellowing.

Over-mature cucumbers are soft, spongy and have large, tough seeds, not fit for eating.

The fruit should be picked before the skin starts turning yellow.

Once the fruit starts turning yellow, it will develop bitterness rendering it unsuitable for eating.

Consider first signs of yellowing as an indication that the fruit has crossed it’s harvest time and aim at picking it before this happens.

Over-mature cucumbers aren’t just unsuitable for eating but they will also inhibit further fruit set on the vine.

If there are over-mature cucumbers on the vine, pick and discard them even if you don’t plan on consuming them.

Removing them from the vines will help the vine concentrate its energies on the younger fruits that are still developing.

If you’re thinking of planting cucumbers early in the spring, see our complete article on whether frost will kill cucumber plants.

Are My Cucumbers Ready To Pick?

Are My Cucumbers Ready To Pick?

When harvesting cucumbers, the best approach is to pick as frequently as possible to prevent any overripe cucumbers on the vines.

Frequent picking of the fruits encourages the vines to continue producing more.

You should aim at picking the fruit before the skin starts turning yellow, the seeds harden and the flesh turns bitter.

But how do you know if your cucumbers are ready to be picked or should you leave them longer on the vine?

Harvesting cucumbers isn’t exact science.

Aim to harvest the fruit when it’s medium to dark green and still firm.

Though the exact size varies with the variety, pickling cucumbers are ready for harvest when they’re about 2 inches long and slicing cucumbers are picked at around 7 to 8 inches in length.

Burpless varieties are best harvested at 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter.

When the harvest season is at its peak, you’ll be picking fresh cucumbers every 2 to 3 days.

They’re best picked early in the morning when the vines are still cool and sugar is concentrated in the fruits.

Avoid any twisting or pulling when picking cucumbers as it can damage the vines and hinder further fruit set.

Instead, cut the fruit stem ¼ inches above the fruit using sharp pruners, taking care not to damage the rest of the plant.

You’ll probably also be curious how many cucumbers 1 plant can produce.

When To Harvest Cucumbers For Pickling

When To Harvest Cucumbers For Pickling

Cucumbers take 50 to 70 days of warm weather to reach harvest after planting the seeds.

Different varieties reach maturity at different times.

Pickling cucumber varieties typically reach maturity in about 50 to 60 days, marking the beginning of the harvest season.

If you plan on preparing sweet pickles or gherkins, harvest pickling cucumbers as soon as they reach 2 inches in length.

For making dill pickles, harvest cucumbers once they are about 3 to 4 inches long.

Pickling cucumbers are ideal for use when they are about 1.5 inches in diameter or smaller.

Fruits that are over 2 inches in diameter are either discarded or eaten fresh, because they’re unsuitable for pickling.

Pickling cucumbers that are picked beyond they’re right size turn mushy and while they can still be added to pickles, mushy pickles are regarded as undesirable by many.

If you have overripe cucumbers, a better idea is to make ring pickles with them after removing the seed cavity.

Pickling lime brine is a common ingredient in ring pickles since it helps firm the muchy flesh.

How Do I Know When Cucumbers Are Ready To Pick?

How Do I Know When Cucumbers Are Ready To Pick?

There’s no single correct time to pick cucumbers.

You’ll generally want to pick them before they’re overripe because those that are left on the vine for too long will start turning bitter and lose their fresh taste.

Check the seed packet for the variety you are growing.

The instructions will mention the days to harvest and the mature size of the fruits.

These two details will give you a fair idea of when to pick the cucumbers.

Pick cucumbers once they develop to the right size and the skin is green all over, without any hints of yellowing.

Pickling cucumbers are picked much earlier than slicing cucumbers.

Most varieties are best harvested when they are about 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter.

Once the diameter grows beyond 2.5 inches, the seeds will become too firm to chew.

Although it’s best to wait for the cucumbers to develop to the right size before picking the fruits, if frost threatens the crop, pick all cucumbers that are over ¾ inches long.

Baby cucumbers are crisp, fresh and work perfectly in dill or sweet pickles.

When To Pick Cucumber Varieties:

When To Pick Cucumber Varieties:

So you know the general guidelines on when to pick cucumbers.

Here is some specific instructions on when to harvest the following varieties:

● Apple cucumbers

Apple cucumbers are ready to be picked after 8 to 12 weeks of sowing the seeds.

Harvest the fruit frequently as soon as they turn the size of a small apple.

● Boston pickling

Boston pickling is a high-yielding heirloom variety that reades maturity in about 55 days.

The fruit is best harvested when it’s about 3 inches long.

● Burpless

Burpless

Burpless cucumbers are ready for harvest in about 60 days after planting the seeds.

You can pick the fruit as soon as it reaches 8 inches in length.

● Bush

Bush pickle cucumber vine reaches maturity in about 48 days after sowing the seeds and the cukes are best picked when they are 5” long.

● English

English Cucumbers

English cucumbers are ready for harvest in approximately 50 days after germination.

The fruit should be twice the length of a common slicing cucumber at the time of picking.

These long straight cucumbers are typically around 14 inches in length.

● Japanese

Japanese cucumbers are picked when they’re over 6 inches in length.

● Lebanese

Lebanese Cucumbers

Harvest Lebanese cucumbers when they are around 6 inches long and dark green.

If left too long on the vine, they’ll grow tough and dry.

● Lemon

Lemon cucumbers mature in about 60 to 75 days from planting the seeds.

Pick the fruits once they are between 2 to 3 inches in length.

● Mini

Mini cucumbers are only about an inch wide and a few inches long at the time of picking.

● Pickling

Pickling cucumbers are harvested when they’re about 2 to 3 inches long.

If the fruit grows to 4 to 5 inches long, it’s not suitable for pickling, though you may use it for eating fresh.

● White

The harvest season begins in about 58 days after sowing the seeds.

Pick the fruits as soon as they grow to about 7 inches in length.

Conclusion

How To Tell When To Pick Cucumbers (3 Specific Ways)

Knowing when to pick cucumbers can make all the difference between a fresh, juicy, sweet harvest and a mushy and bitter one.

Once the harvest season is at its peak, continue picking cucumbers every other day to keep more coming on the vines and enjoy the best flavors of home-grown cukes.

About the author

Greg Volente

Greg Volente holds a Naturalist Certificate from the Morton Arboretum, worked for The Nature Conservancy leading environmental education programs and doing natural areas restoration, and worked in the soil science research & testing lab at Michigan State University. Besides gardening, he's an avid wildflower enthusiast, and loves botanizing, hiking, and backpacking.

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