It’s all about timing when harvesting cucumbers for eating fresh or preserving as dill or sweet pickles. Picking these low-calorie vegetables ensures the best flavor, greatest nutritional value and suitability for pickling.
Harvest cucumbers based on how you plan to use them. Pick the fruit when it’s 1½ to 2½ inches long if you plan on making sweet pickles. Allow the cucumbers to grow a bit bigger, three to four inches, if dill pickles are on the menu. Allow them to grow longer if you plan on using them fresh in salads, beverages or for snacking. Harvest slicing cucumbers when the skin is firm, bright green and the fruit is six to nine inches long. You can leave burpless cucumber varieties on the vine a bit longer. They have been bred to maintain their mild flavor when harvested at 10 to 12 inches in length.
Impress your family with the crisp, mild flavor of the long Japanese cucumber. Pick these when they are 12 to 18” long. The flavor remains mild and skin easy to digest despite the longer size.
Misshapen and bitter flavored cucumbers are usually the result of drought, improper fertilization, and large fluctuations in temperatures. These are safe to eat but may not have the best flavor. Remove about an inch of the stem end and peel to remove some of the bitter flavor. Compost poor quality fruit that is not suitable for eating. Then adjust your care to ensure better quality cucumbers for the remainder of the season.
These low-calorie vegetables are a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin K. Plus, they have a high-water content, making them a mild diuretic to help in weight loss and reduce blood pressure. Enjoy cucumbers in chopped salads, chilled soups or sandwiches. Or add a few slices to a glass of water for a refreshing drink.
Cucumbers can also sooth and minimize eye puffiness. Just place a few chilled slices of cucumber on closed eyes and relax. No matter your desired use for this multi-purpose vegetable, harvest it at just the right time to enjoy its many benefits.
Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Longfield Gardens for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site is www.melindamyers.com.