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.
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.
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.
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.