There are so many types of cucumbers that there’s bound to be one for you whether you like them freshly sliced and eaten raw or smaller in size and destined to be pickled. Because there are so many varieties, sizes, and shapes, how do you know when to harvest your cucumbers? Can cucumbers ripen off the vine? Keep reading to find out all about the ripening of cucumbers.
When to Harvest Cucumbers
To get the maximum flavor from your cukes, you will want to harvest them when they are at the peak of ripeness, but when is that? Because there are so many types of cucumber, it is best to read the information on the seed packet or plant tag of the variety planted. This will give you a fairly good idea of the date they will be ready. That said, there are a couple rules of thumb when gauging the ripening of cucumbers. Size, color, and firmness are the three criteria that can help you determine if it is time to harvest the cucumbers. First of all, cucumbers at harvest should be green. If cucumbers are yellow, or beginning to yellow, they are over ripe. If you gently squeeze a cucumber, it should be firm. Soft cucumbers are over ripe. Size, of course, will vary greatly according to the cultivar but also depending upon how you like your cucumbers. Cucumbers will continually fruit and ripen for some time. The fruit may be ready at 2 inches (5 cm.) in length or 10-16 inches (30.5 to 40.5 cm.) long. Most cucumbers are perfectly ripe between 5-8 inches (13 to 20.5 cm.) in length. Keep an eye on the fruit, though. The green cucumbers tend to blend in with the stem and foliage of the plant and can, like zucchini, attain great lengths and become dry, woody, and bitter. What about cucumber ripening off the vine? Can cucumbers ripen off the vine? If so, the question is how to ripen cucumbers off the vine.
How to Ripen Cucumbers Off the Vine
Due to one reason or another, you may spy a cucumber that has fallen from the vine. Or you may have a burst of fruiting or multiple plants setting so much fruit, you wonder if cucumber ripening off the vine might be a better plan. No. Unlike tomatoes, stone fruit, and avocados, cucumbers will not ripen off the vine. Cantaloupes, watermelons, and cucumbers are examples of fruit that will not ripen further when removed from the vine. You know this if you have ever purchased a cantaloupe that doesn’t seem ripe, but was a great price so you decided to see if it would ripen further on the kitchen counter. Sorry, no. It is best to adhere to the harvesting guide on the seed packet or plant tag combined with the three keys to a ripe cucumber above. Pick the largest fruit first by cutting them from the vine and continually harvest fruit to encourage ongoing production.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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