How and When To Pick Cucumbers

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The cucumbers have been planted and are starting to bloom. The vines are steadily climbing up the trellis and are looking good. The little cucumbers that were there a few days ago are growing by the minute it seems. But when do I know they are ready to pick, and how do I pick them? If you have never grown cucumbers before, these could be some questions you are asking.

Look For Size, Color and Firmness When Picking Cucumbers

You will know a cucumber is ready to pick by the size, the color, and the firmness of the cucumber. Make sure to read the plant tag or seed packet that you used when planting the vines. It should give you a measurement of how long your particular cucumbers will get. The seed packet will also tell you how many days that you can harvest after germination.

For example, the Straight Eight cucumbers I am growing should be ready to harvest about 68 days after germination. So if my seeds germinated around April 22nd, they should be ready to harvest around June 26th. This is not exact because growing conditions will effect the growth rates of the vegetable, but it’s a nice guideline.

The cucumber should be a nice medium to dark green color, and should feel firm when gently squeezed. The color of the cucumber will depend on what variety you are growing. Some cultivars may have a white or yellowish hue. Once again, be sure to check the seed packet or plant tag.

I do not let my cucumbers get too large. Some people leave cucumbers on the vine until they are 10 to 16 inches long. There is nothing wrong with this, but a cucumber tastes great at 5 – 8 inches as well. Picking the cucumbers early and often will encourage the vine to keep producing longer into the season. It is best if you do not allow the cucumbers to become over-ripe. They can develop a bitter taste if left on the vine too long. Personally, I would rather get 20 smaller cucumbers throughout the season instead of getting 7 or 8 large cucumbers with a month.

A nice, dark green cucumber that is ready to be picked

A nice, dark green cucumber that is ready to be picked

How To Pick The Cucumber Once It’s Ready

Picking a ripe cucumber is very easy, and only takes a snip or a snap. Some gardeners just grab the cucumber and give it a twist – the cucumber will sometimes pop off the vine. I say sometimes because I tried this a few years ago and accidentally pulled the vine off the trellis. Since that incident, I use a pair of sharp scissors and snip the cucumber off the vine.

Now that you have found a cucumber that is ready to pick, place the scissors about a 1/4-inch above the cucumber and snip the cucumber from the vine. Make sure to support the cucumber with the other hand. You don’t want the cucumber to fall to the ground and become bruised. Be careful when grabbing cucumbers with bare hands, some varieties are very prickly. You can see the white prickles in the picture below.

Snip Cucumber From Vine

The stem is usually very easy to cut and doesn’t require much force. The cucumber is now picked and ready to be rinsed off so you can use it in your favorite salad, used to make homemade pickles, or eaten right then with a little salt and pepper.

Cucumbers After Harvesting

As you can see, picking cucumbers is very easy – the hardest thing sometimes is trying to find them underneath all the leaves of the plant. Cucumbers grow very quickly, when given plenty of water, so keep an eye on emerging baby cucumbers every day, if possible.

Try These Delicious Cucumbers In Your Vegetable Garden

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Comments

  1. Very helpful pics in your post – nice looking cucumbers, too :)

    The ones I’m growing seem to stay partially yellow, and are thicker and shorter (in other words, they don’t really look like the cucumbers you buy in the store). They’re Mincu, and are dual purpose (dills when small and regular cukes when large). It’s possible I’m not leaving them long enough, but they just don’t seem to grow the way you’d expect. This is my first year with cucumbers so I’m still learning…

    • Hi Nancy,

      Thanks for visiting Veggie Gardener and for commenting. Luckily my cucumbers looked good when I took the pictures, but they didn’t stay that way much longer. I had a terrible fight with powdery mildew, and then cucumber beetles. By the end of July my cucumbers were pretty much history. Next season I will definitely take more measures to hopefully control those issues.

      I based this How-to on the cucumbers I was growing at the time which were Marketmore 76 and Straight Eights. I did not include what to look for in other varieties, such as the Armenian types or some of the Japanese types. These are very different looking compared to a “regular” cucumber.

      I would say that if the cucumbers you are growing taste good, and seem to be producing well, then keep doing what you are doing. Cucumbers can become bitter if left on the vine too long, so be sure to keep monitoring them. Sometimes it takes a bit of trail and error to see what works best for you.

      Thank you for commenting!

      Tee

  2. Just wanted to say thanks…this was exactly the information I was looking for & it was the 1st place I looked! Now I must go & pick a few of my cukes!

    Take care!

  3. Maria Haugen says:

    Hello! Having zero experience growing anything, I just planted four Regular cucumber plants. To my delight they just exploded with yellow blossoms and badly needed every single word of the information above, therefore THANK YOU so much for your detailed descriptions of exactly what to do! Truly appreciated !!

  4. Thank you so much for posting this information! It was very helpful in determining when to harvest my very first batch of cucumbers. I picked one that I thought was ready as it was starting to yellow on the ends, but it didn’t taste quite right. Now I have plenty of large cucumbers growing off of 4 individual plants. Time for test cucumber #2!!

    • Melissa,

      I also have a cucumber that is starting to turn yellow at the end, now you talked about your case with a yellowish cucumber should I pick it up now or let it sit in the vine longer?

  5. thank u very uch for the inforation this was exacaly wat i was looking for now if u exuse e i need to googel how do u spell exacaly… XD

    thank u :D

  6. The perfect page to answer my questions about when to pick cucumbers. A+, will read again. This is my first year that cucumbers have actually grown in my garden, so I’m too pumped to pick them.

  7. Hey there! Thanks so much for posting, I really needed it! It’s my first time growing cucumbers EVER so I really wasn’t sure about anything! I started with one plant and it is huge! You gave just the right info that I need. Now I’m teaching my family how to grow them too! You’ve made my garden a center of family fun, and thank you sooooo much! You are great! :)

  8. Hello Tee,

    I have marketmore cucumbers growing very well but this partiuclar one is huge, its easily 4″ around and has some yellow striping, firm but I am not sure if I should pick it yet, please help me, this is the first time I have ever seen this before?

    Thanks

    • Hi Kim – your cucumber sounds like it is probably over ripe. You should pick the Marketmore cucumbers when they are around 4 to 7 inches in length and about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter for the best taste. Once they become large and tart turning yellow, or white, they have gone beyond their peak.

      It’s always a good idea to pick cucumbers as early and often as possible. This helps prevent them from over ripening and ensures the best flavor. It will also help promote more flowering which leads to more production.

      I hope this helps and good luck with your cucumbers! :)

  9. Michelle says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever grown my own garden. I did not know to use a trellis for my cucumbers and they are vineing everywhere. They are producing cucmbers, however, they are yellow and orange in color. I know I purchased green cucmbers. Do they change in color after a period of time or are they not getting enough sun because they’re not on a trellis? They are a good size, but I am affraid to pick them because I’m not sure they are ready yet. They pictures you posted showed they should be green on the vine. I’m not really sure what to do with them right now. Any advice you have would be very helpful. Thank you, First time gardener.

    • Hi Michelle – a trellis is not completely necessary, but it helps keep the plants healthier and prevents the cucumbers from rotting when laying on the moist ground. As far as the color, generally a yellow or orange cucumber is the first sign that it is overripe. How large are the cucumbers?

      They should be harvest when they are about 4 – 7 inches long and about 1 – 1-1/2 inches in diameter, depending on variety. If your cucumbers are larger than that try picking them when they are smaller.

      If they are discolored even at a small size then the plant may have a disease of some type.

  10. Hi,
    My husband planted some cucumbers, where not sure exactly what type they are. The tag said regular green cucumbers like the ones from the grocery store, but these cucumbers are yellow and very big. He just picked one today and it is about 13 inches long and 3 inches wide and very yellow. When we cut it, it is very bitter if you don’t cut around it. Are they ready yet or is he picking them to early. I know nothing about farming, please help! Thank You.

    • Hi Maribel – It sounds like you are not picking them soon enough and they are over ripe. That’s why they are turning yellow and taste bitter. I would recommend picking the cucumbers once they get about 4 – 7 inches in length and about 1-1/2 – 2 inches in diameter and see how they look and taste. I think you will find that they are much better tasting.

  11. Susan L. Cobb says:

    I am growing poinsett 76 variety. The picture on the seed packet shows nice long fairly normal looking cucumbers, however, mine are growing more like balls, and some have like a tail as if it got all fattened up too fast, got stunted and then didn’t fill out the end. Should I leave them on the vine to fill out the tail, or in the case of the balls (like the size of a baseball/hardball) to elongate – they are green, and I have grown cucumbers before, so I am pretty sure they are ready to harvest even though they don’t look shaped normal. We had a VERY wet spring, wettest in history, and then went into a month long also history making high high heat period. I do water plenty – but can’t do anything about the day time heat temps. ANy ideas on why they seemed to grow into such funky shapes?

    • Hi Susan – it sounds like your cucumbers are growing deformed due to pollination issues. When you find some that are growing strangely it is best to go ahead and pick it. It isn’t going to get any better. You can read more about what causes this to happen here – What Causes a Deformed Cucumber?

  12. I’m growing cucumbers, and not using a trellis. there are a few that are growing while laying on the ground. Are these just as good as the ones that are growing in the air?

    • Hi Lauren – The cucumbers will not taste any different on the ground. The thing you have to watch for is that they will be more susceptible to rotting on the bottom side when laying on the ground. You will need to keep a close eye on them and harvest before they start rotting, especially during rainy periods.

  13. When do the prickles go? should i wait till they have gone before picking or do they just go once picked?
    I have no knowledge of growing anything!!!

  14. My cucumbers had a tag with a regular dark green vegetable. But mine have been light green from start to finish. Is it possible my soil is lacking something that would change the color?

    • Hi Harriet – are any of the leaves on the plant turning yellow at the bottom, too? If so, it could be too much water that’s causing the light green cucumbers. It could also be a case where the plant tag was accidentally switched or something at the garden center.

  15. What great advice, I built a lean too this year and have grown a regualr size cue and a mini cue plant. The mini I picked yesterday and tried, it was bigger than I thought and slightly bitter. The full size I picked today and it was pretty much perfect. Having read this tomorrow I will pick off two more minis while slightly smaller so not so bitter and maybe try picking a slightly smaller full size in a few days. If I can have more smaller ones then I will have a happy daughter who just wants to eat them off the plant. Many thanks for your help.

  16. My mother-in-law came to my house to watch my daughter while I went on vacation. She ask me if I wanted her to pick all of my ripe vegetables while I was away, sure I said. She picked ALL of my cucumbers before they were ready. They are very tart and I have no idea what to do with them. They were supposed to be pickling cucumbers so can I still do this? Should I just toss them all in the compost and put them under lock and key next year?

  17. my cucumbers are ripe but do i cut off the prickles before i eat them because they are very prickly

  18. Joel Crow says:

    I need help! My cikes look ripe but they are kinda squishy. I looked thru the cooments for an idea but I didnt see one. Please help… Thanks:)

  19. My husband and i planted our first cucumbers this year. They are about 10 inches long but they are olight green to white. i havent ever seen them a medium green to a dark green. The pricklies can be wiped off pretty easy. To me they dont look ripe. Any suggestions?

  20. molly joseph says:

    Please Help,

    I have really gotten into gardening this year and concerned about my cukes. I have 15 different kinds planted. Al are trellised up some are on a fence other either taught to run but anyway. My plants were in the ground may 5th today is June 6th, my smaller more unhealthy looking plants are covered in flowers ( male and female) with baby cukes to follow. My larger bonnie pickling cucumbers with a 80 day harvest, that look like an amazingly healthy plant with runners and nice big green leaves going up the trelis has no flowers. Am I doing something wrong or has it not been long enough.

  21. Thanks for the great info Tee….this is the first time growing cucumbers…and so excited! They seem ready for picking, so just wanted to google to make sure & your page came up right away…so thanks again =}

  22. Brittany says:

    I have planted Boston Pickling cucumbers and all the ones i have picked taste bitter. I have tries picking them earlier but this does not seem to help. Is there anything I can do?

  23. If the cucumbers are too ripe to eat can you use those for seed for next year? If so what is the procedure for that?

  24. hi i have a cucmber plant. im not sure what is it i dont remeber… i picked one of the cucumbers today and it is a light green and whitish color. it is larger on the sides and smaller in the middle. is this normal? did i wait to long to pick it? this is my first time planting cucmubers. i need some help. it is also around 11 inches long.

  25. My Cucumber plants are not vines, they are planted in the ground and have huge leaves. They have these weird looking flowers on the ends of them. I am not sure if the stem of the flower is the cucumber. They look like miniature cucumbers… I am so confused, I have never had a veggie/ fruit garden before. :B

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