As a home gardener, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as picking a fresh cucumber straight from the vine. But knowing when and how to harvest cucumbers can be a bit of a challenge, especially for first-time gardeners.
In this article, I’ll share tips and tricks for harvesting cucumbers at the perfect time to enjoy this delicious summer vegetable’s full flavor and texture. Whether growing cucumbers in a raised bed or a container, these guidelines will help you get the most out of your crop. So, let’s get started!
How Long Do Cucumbers Take to Grow?
After germination, most cucumbers are ready for harvest 50 to 70 days later. Whether you plant bush or vine cucumbers, this is true. To find out how long your particular variety should take, check the seed packet or the plant tag that came with your seedlings.
Some types develop more quickly than others, which can help you determine when to start searching for ripe cucumbers. You won’t be able to tell when your cucumber plants germinated if you purchased seeds from a garden center, but that’s good. There are numerous alternative methods for determining when to harvest your cucumbers.
Why is it Important to Understand When to Harvest Cucumbers?
When planted between the last spring frost and the first fall frost, vining or bush-type plants called cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) yield cucumbers. They do well in a sunny garden bed with fertile, well-draining soil and prefer a warm, extended growing season.
Knowing when to pick cucumbers can make the difference between a mushy, overripe fruit and a crisp, tasty fruit. Your homegrown fruits will have the strongest flavor and quality if you pick cucumbers at the correct time. Additionally, frequent harvesting might promote a larger yield of fruits and flowers.
When To Harvest Cucumbers
Don’t wait until they are the size of a baseball bat before picking cucumbers because if you keep them on the vine for too long, they will turn bitter and acquire tough skins and seeds.
A cucumber is typically ready to harvest when it reaches the size and color specifications listed on the front of the seed packet. Start looking for fruit that can be harvested approximately a week before the anticipated harvest date by consulting the “days to maturity” information on the seed packet or stated in the seed catalog.
Cucumbers come in various shapes and sizes and can mature at various periods. Nevertheless, most cucumber plants require between 40 and 60 days in the garden (or container) before the first female flowers appear. It normally takes 7 to 10 days for a female flower to open and be pollinated by bees, after which the fruit is ready for harvest.
When fully developed, cucumbers’ fruits can be a rich shade of green, yellow, white, or brown. When lightly squeezed, they should feel firm. The variety you are producing, and your intended usage for the cucumbers will impact when to harvest them. The following are some general principles:
Harvest pickling cucumbers when they are about two inches long if you intend to make sweet pickles or gherkins. A decent rule of thumb is to harvest cucumbers when they are three to four inches long if you intend to make dill pickles.
Most fresh-eating, slicing cucumbers should be picked when they are six to nine inches long and have a dark green color. They will taste bitter and lose their appealing texture if they grow much larger than this.
You’ll get more cucumbers if you pick more often. If you have a trip booked during the picking season, ask a friend or neighbor to pick the cucumbers while you’re away. Cucumbers should be kept on the vine for a short time since this will cause the plant to cease producing because it will believe the season is finished.
How To Harvest Cucumbers
Let’s examine the best method for getting cucumbers off the vine in more detail now that you know how to identify when they are ready to be harvested.
When selecting cucumbers, you should carry two tools: a basket and a pair of razor-sharp, sterilized micro pruners or precision snips.
It may be tempting to simply reach inside and pull the fruit from the vine. However, removing them by tugging or twisting the vine may result in plant uprooting.
When harvesting cucumbers, use gloves. Some of them are thorny, especially the pickling types. If the cucumbers have numerous spines, you can get rid of them by running a soft vegetable brush or a cloth along the length of the fruit.
Use pruners or a sharp knife to remove the cucumber from the vine. Make careful to keep a one-inch-long portion of the cucumber’s stem connected. If you won’t be utilizing the cucumber immediately, this keeps the stem end from rotting while it’s in storage.
The simplest and least stressful way to harvest cucumbers is using a knife or pruning shears. The plant may be hurt if you pluck or twist the vine. Cucumbers that don’t burp are more prone to bruise. As you harvest the ripe fruit, place them gently in a container.
After being picked, cucumbers won’t ripen, so remove all the blossoms 30–40 days before the first anticipated frost date in your area. The plants will then focus all of their energy on ripening the cucumbers still on the vine as a result of this.
How Often Should I Harvest Cucumber?
Since cucumbers are prolific, you can collect them every day or two once they begin to bear fruit until the weather turns chilly in the fall.
The good news is that frequent harvesting is also the greatest way to get them to produce more.
When harvesting, look for deformed, stunted, or damaged fruits. By getting rid of them, energy may be redirected into maturing the good ones.
What To Do With Cucumbers After Picking
Cucumbers can be pickled, stored, or consumed right away. They taste great in salads, are used to flavor water, or are turned into light zoodles for supper fit for the summer.
The first day or two are when cutting types perform at their very best. Unless they’re particularly unclean, you can eat them straight from the vine without washing or skinning them.
In that instance, give them a short rinse while, if necessary, gently rubbing off the dirt. They’ll last a week in the refrigerator.
Start pickling as soon as you can after bringing the food indoors. Even in the refrigerator, leaving pickles out too long might cause them to become mushy rather than crisp.
Cucumbers that have just been picked should be kept in a cool, dry place. When grown in the right conditions, certain types can produce cucumber fruits that stay fresh for 14 days. If cucumbers are kept in an environment with a lot of heat and sunlight, they will rot.
Although fresh cucumbers are preferred, they can be kept in the crisper for up to three days. Simply put the fruits in perforated bags or loose plastic. Keep them from stacking up and away from the side of the crisper drawer to prevent collisions. Wax coats are applied to cucumber fruit by commercial producers to stop moisture loss during storage.
Cucumbers used for pickling will last a little while longer and don’t necessarily need to be refrigerated. Before preserving them, keep them in a cold, dark place for up to five days.
Harvesting cucumbers at the right time is key to enjoying their delicious, crisp flavor. By paying attention to the size and color of your cucumbers and the presence of flowers, you can determine when they are ready to be picked. And when it comes to harvesting your cucumbers, a gentle touch and a pair of scissors or a sharp knife will do the job. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor all season long. Happy harvesting!