The Best Cucumbers for Perfect Pickles

Even slicing cucumbers make acceptable pickles if preserved when they are firm and young. But for truly memorable pickles, you need to grow cucumbers bred especially for the purpose of pickling. Choosing the right cukes means the difference between tangy, crunchy pickles and flavorless, mushy ones. For peak pickling performance, we offer these tips on what varieties to grow and when to harvest them.


What to Look in for Pickling Cucumbers

Cucumbers bred for pickling share a number of traits. Most produce bumpy, thin-skinned fruit shorter and chunkier than slicing cucumbers. Their color transitions from dark green near the stem to much lighter at the flower end. Some cultivars have contrasting stripes or spines. They boast moist, nearly seedless flesh and crunchy texture that keeps for months in a jar.

Proven Pickling Performers

While dozens of pickling cucumber varieties are available to home gardeners, a few stand out for their years of reliable, disease-resistant performance:

  • ‘County Fair. ’ This self-pollinating choice produces sweet, flavorful 3-inch fruit on vigorous, wilt-resistant vines. Harvest in 52 days for pickles or let the fruit reach 5 inches for slicing.
  • ‘Pickle Bush’ needs only 45 days to begin yielding its white-spined, 5-inch fruit. Spreading just 2.5 to 3 feet, it’s a great choice for container growing.
  • ‘Regal,’ with versatile, slender 2-to 4-inch cukes to use as spears, whole pickles or chips. They’re ready in 50 days and keep coming for weeks. The self-pollinating vine has good resistance to powdery mildew.
  • ‘National Pickling,’ famous for its blocky fruit developed with squared ends for The National Pickle Packers Association. Harvest at 2 inches or 3 inches for gherkins or at 4 inches for slicing. Start picking the scab- and mosaic-resistant vines in 52 days.

Expert gardener’s tip: ‘Regal’ and ‘National Pickling’ reach 6 to 10 feet high. To avoid struggling with their heavy branches when harvesting, trellis them at planting time.

When to Harvest Pickling Cukes

Always harvest pickling cukes when they’re the appropriate size for the type of pickles you’re making. If they’re too big, you’ll end up with soft-centered pickles.
Suggested picking sizes are:

  • 1.5 to 3 inches for gherkins and baby sweets
  • 4 to 7 inches for dill and bread-and-butter pickles

Expert gardener’s tip: For maximum crunchiness, harvest your cukes early in the morning when their moisture content peaks. Process them as soon as possible; more time in the refrigerator means less snap in the jar.