when-to-pick-pickling-cucumbers

When and How to Pick Pickling Cucumbers

What makes a perfect pickle? A pickling cucumber boasting firm flesh and small seeds in a small, tight seed cavity. Picked at the right time, the perfect pickling cuke is small, green and not yet ripe. The problem is that pickling cukes to go from perfect to past their prime in a hurry. For the solution, we offer these pickling-cuke picking tips.

Timing Your Harvest

These three guidelines will help you recognize when cuke-picking time has arrived:

The Squeeze Test

Once one of the female flowers on your cuke vine has been pollinated, its baby cuke needs about eight to 10 days to reach the picking stage. When lightly squeezed, they should feel firm, with no mushy or wet spots. If you’re still uncertain, cut one open for a taste. The flesh should be crisp, with soft seeds in a jelly-like seed cavity.

The Color Test

The best pickles come from firm, unblemished cukes with thin, mostly green skins. As a general rule, cukes displaying lots of white or yellow are past their prime. That said, several popular pickling cultivars are exceptions to the rule. They include:

  • ‘Supremo.’ Its 3-to 4-inch cukes boast deep-green skins with pale-yellow striping. At just 15 inches high and 2 to 3 feet wide, it’s ideal for container growing.
  • ‘Salt and Pepper.’ This unique cultivar yields creamy-white, black-spined fruit in about 49 days from germination. It’s notable for resistance to powder mildew and alternaria leaf spot.
  • ‘Picklebush,’ another mildew-resistant choice that produces deep-green cukes with white spines and whitish-green stripes at about 53 days.

Picking Size:

If the pickles you’re making require it, let your harvest-ready cukes grow a little larger. We suggest these size ranges for different pickle types:

  • For baby sweet or gherkin pickles, harvest your cukes at 1.5 to 3 inches long.
  • For bread-and-butter or dill pickles, harvest them at 4 to 7 inches long.

How to Pick Pickling Cukes

For the best results, harvest you pickling cukes in the early morning while they’re full of moisture. Simply snip them off the vine with sharp, clean garden shears or pruners. Avoid pulling or twisting the vine and leave a ¼- to ½ inch of stem attached to each cuke.

Expert gardener’s tip: Also remove all the over-ripe or damaged cukes during each picking session. This allows the vine to put its energy into producing healthy new ones.