Pick a Peck of Pickling Cucumbers

First let’s talk about botanical classifications of food.

Cucumbers are grown from seed, produce flowers, and the part we eat comes from the pollinated flower.

This classification makes cucumbers a fruit. Just like beans, tomatoes, peppers, squashes, pumpkins and even sunflower seeds *yes I had to look this up and my mind is blown!*

For reference: A vegetable is the edible part of a plant like the leaves, roots, shoots, flowers, or stems – think broccoli, lettuce, basil, parsley, onions – these all grow seeds, but the seed pods are not the edible portion so they are considered vegetables botanically speaking.

If you’re cooking/eating from the garden you’re free to call it a fruit or a vegetable based on what you’re making! If you’re making a yummy garden meal or snack can you share your recipe? Email Laura hello@fencepostflowerfarm.com

On to the Cucumber Story:

The last few years we’ve grown a few cucumber plants and we had a great number of cucumbers in the first flush and then the plants started to die out before we got to a second harvest. We saw cucumber beetles and other creatures (Japanese beetles, grasshoppers, etc) in the garden so we suspected the plants had a pest-spread disease and they were dying so we ripped out the plants (they looked pathetic!)

Fast forward to this past winter.

I was reading about how important it is to keep all fruits picked – even the bad ones (in this case they were talking about green beans)

BECAUSE… Fruiting plants have a goal of producing enough seed for the next generation to live on.

Read that again – Fruiting plants have a goal of producing enough seed for the next generation to live on.

So… when you grow a cucumber plant in your garden the cucumber has one goal… grow flowers, grow baby cucumbers, and get those cucumbers to survive long enough to make their own seeds for next season. The plant’s goal is to nurture and mature the next generation.

YOUR goal is probably similar… to nurture and mature the next generation and to give them a nice juicy cucumber to tide them over until dinner time… or even better they just eat garden snacks FOR dinnertime.

When you pick a cucumber off the plant the plant KNOWS that cucumber was immature and cannot produce plants next year so the plant gets to work growing more flowers, ripening the immature cucumbers, and thriving as best it can.

I was looking through our cucumber photos and saw that we had yellow cucumbers on the vine. We didn’t want to eat them because they were well past their prime. They were mushy, fatter than usual, and a really strange yellow/orange color.

>>> My winter AH-HA  moment came in here >> The yellow cucumbers were bulging with mature seeds!

Dave and I realized that there is a good possibility we killed our own chances of our second round of cucumbers when we failed to pick off even the yucky ones.

So this year we are making sure to harvest as many cucumbers as possible at the right stage.

AND focus on taking bad cucumbers off the vine!

If the plants were humans I would say it’s really sad we keep stealing their offspring, but they aren’t humans they are plants… so keep on picking!

Cucumbers grown at Fence Post Flower Farm in Romeo Michigan

So what IS the right stage of harvest for cucumbers

If you search online, it will give you the worst answer in the world… “it depends”. *ugh*

Typically, you want to look for your cucumber to get to the size it’s meant to be.

To know what size your cucumbers should be you can look at the seed packet.

If you ordered cucumbers from our plant sale, I’ll give you what our cucumbers were this season.

Fence Post Flower Farm 2023 Garden Plant Sale Cucumbers:

Marketmore 76 Slicer Cucumbers: They can be 7-9” long and up to 1.5”-2” in diameter

H19 Little Leaf Pickling Cucumbers: 3-5” and blocky

Cucamelons also known as Mexican Sour Gherkins: harvest when they are the size of an olive and still firm -they should be dull in appearance and resemble a tiny watermelon. If they are still shiny they need a little more time.

If you missed our plant sale you can send me a note so you don’t miss out for our next plant sale (hint: It may be sooner than you think-indoor tomatoes anyone?) Email me to let me know you’re interested in knowing more hello@fencepostflowerfarm.com

My cucumbers are prickly!

I heard at some point that we should wait until the prickly parts come off the cucumber naturally, but when I experienced it myself, I only noticed the spikes coming off after the cucumber turned yellow and mushy. Yuck!

I’ve also read you SHOULD have spikey cucumbers. I think looking for the dark green and correct length is best.

We harvest the cucumbers with the spikes/thorns on them and rub the spikes off with our dish scrubby.

The spikes are there to keep things from eating them…usually bugs, but they deter humans too *smirks*. The spikes are non toxic, just uncomfortable so rub them off with your glove or scrubby and you’ll be alright.

How to harvest the cucumbers?

Remember – they are prickly! But I push my thumb to the top of the cucumber and wait until the pressure snaps it off the vine. The vine itself barely moves and viola! Cucumber is free to eat… after you get those spikes off!

Why are my cucumber bitter?

It could be you picked them late OR it’s just hot. When the plant is stressed and tired from the heat or a drought the plant cannot keep making sweet cucumbers for you, it’s trying to survive and pump out as much energy into producing cucumber seeds for next year.

Well… that tastes…different…

Our first cucumber of the season tasted… different.

I washed it, scrubbed off the thorns, and cut it up to share.

It was still warm from the sun.

Sun-kissed home-grown cucumbers are very different than the store-bought ones we keep in the fridge!

The cucumbers we grew have more seeds than the skinny English varieties and we noticed a more “al dente” chew. The green is tougher and the flesh is firm and refreshing – cucumbers are like 90% water so if I forget my water bottle inside, I’ll just grab these for a garden snack!

Storing Cucumbers:

To be honest we usually just eat them within a day or two from the garden. I have read that you can store cucumbers in water in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, which is a lot longer than the 3-5 days garden cucumbers typically last – refrigerated or un-refrigerated.

If you are looking to make a batch of pickles, but don’t have enough cucumbers yet, I would wash the cucumbers (aka use soap to get the bacteria from dirt or bugs off).  I’d add them to a pot of cool water and put them into the refrigerator until I had enough cucumbers to pickle. I’d change the water every few days with COOL water.

We haven’t grown enough of the smaller cucumbers TO pickle them before, but when ours come in this year I plan to use this method of clean cucumbers covered in water in a stock pot. Then I’ll see if my salads and the snack monsters will leave enough cucumbers for Dave’s pickles. *sheepish grin* sorry Dave!  P.S. For those of you who are new Dave is the husband half of Fence Post Flower Farm who does all the heavy lifting and I, Laura, am the grower, writer, and idea maker behind the plants we grow.

So there you have it… cucumbers and garden tidbits.

Any questions?

How are your cucumbers growing?

Ready to add them to your garden plans for next season?

Send me a garden note at hello@fencepostflowerfarm.com

I can’t wait to hear from you!



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