There's nothing like a fresh, crisp, home grown cucumber. Fall is approaching. Your garden is getting closer to harvest time. When is the right time to pick cucumbers? How do you know when they're at their peak? Is there a certain color, texture or condition that signifies a ripe cucumber? What should you look for to determine a good time to pick your garden cucumbers? What's the best harvesting technique?
Size and shape
Full size cucumbers ready for picking are generally about six to seven inches long. They will grow longer if you let them, but the flavor is best at this length. Pickling cucumbers should grow to about three or four inches before being harvested. For special varieties, check the seed packet for average sizes. Cucumbers begin growth in a bulbous form and elongate as they grow.
The color of ripe cucumbers varies. Most will be a deep green. Pickling cucumbers are slightly lighter in color when ready to pick. Unripe cucumbers may present several different colors. When cucumbers are ready to pick, their color will be consistent.
Watch for cucumbers that begin to turn green, then go yellow. This is a sign of over-watering, poor drainage or a fungus issue. These plants should be removed immediately to prevent possible fungus from spreading.
Ripe cucumbers should be firm in texture. A soggy or spongy texture indicates a spoiled cucumber, or one that's diseased. Check the plant for signs of over-watering or fungus. Once again, if you see this, the plant should be immediately removed from the garden to prevent disease from spreading. It's better to lose one plant than an entire garden of produce.
How to pick cucumbers
Now that you know when to pick cucumbers, let's learn how to proceed. Some people try to pull cucumbers from the vine when picking. This can damage the plant and detach it from the trellis. Instead, you should cut the cucumbers from the vine with scissors when picking. Just hold the scissors about a quarter inch up the vine from the cucumber and snip the vine.
Sharing the wealth
Cucumbers are one of those vegetables that are hard to predict in terms of productivity. If you over-plant, you can always make pickles. Of course, one family can only eat so many cucumbers. I like to donate my extra garden produce to my friends, neighbors and local food banks. When it's time to pick your cucumbers, be sure to share the bounty of your harvest with others.
Portions of this article were previously published by this author on a now closed Yahoo! property.