How to Harvest and Store Cucumbers

Cucumber on vine

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Cucumbers are best picked green, firm, and moderate in size–as soon as they are edible and usable size. Home-grown cucumbers should be picked slightly smaller than the size you’d find at the market. Smaller cucumbers will be just as tasty as larger cucumbers.

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Cucumbers come to harvest quickly.  Six to seven weeks after planting, small cucumbers will begin to form. Pick the first cucumbers small; this will encourage the plants to produce more.

Never allow cucumbers to mature on the plant. If cucumber fruits mature on the vine, the plant will slow or stop production. It is better to pick cucumbers you can’t use and compost them than to allow the fruits to mature. Cucumbers are past their prime when they become dull, puffy, and begin yellowing.

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Bitter-tasting cucumbers are the result of either uneven watering (keep the soil always just moist and mulch to slow soil moisture evaporation) or wide fluctuations in temperatures (which you can’t control).

Keep in mind, the first flowers on the cucumber plant are male; female flowers (which produce the cucumbers) follow a week or two after the males. Bees are essential for pollination–carrying the pollen from the male flowers to the female. There will be few cucumbers in gardens where bees are not active.

Cucumber harvest
Harvest cucumbers when they are bright green and firm.

When to harvest cucumbers

  • Cucumbers can be harvested as soon as they are edible size.
  • Harvest slicing cucumbers when bright, green, and firm and 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) long. Harvest pickling cucumbers when 2 to 4 inches long–6 to 7 inches long for big pickles.
  • Harvest lemon cucumbers just before they turn fully yellow. A yellow lemon cucumber will be seedy.
  • Cucumbers will be edible any time after the flower drops off the end of the fruit.
  • Don’t leave cucumbers on the vine too long; an overripe cucumber will be dull, less crisp, seedy, and bitter tasting. Yellowing at the blossom end of the fruit is a sign the fruit is overripe. Remove all overripe fruit from the vine.

How to harvest cucumbers

  • Cut the fruit from the vine with a knife or pruner. Pulling fruit from the plant may damage brittle vines.
  • It is important to harvest cucumbers frequently to keep the plant producing new fruit.

Keep cucumbers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

How to store cucumbers

  • Store cucumbers at 50°-54°F  (10-12°C); a cool spot in the kitchen is best, not warmer than 59°F. Cucumbers will turn yellow and decay rapidly if not kept cool.
  • You can refrigerate cucumbers for about a week in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator. Do not refrigerate cucumbers below 40°F (4°C). Dunk the fruit in cold water or wipe them clean with a damp cloth then place the fruit in a perforated plastic bag; this will keep the fruit from drying out. (Refrigerators are dry, not humid.)
  • Sliced cucumbers should be refrigerated in a bowl covered with plastic wrap to keep slices crisp and to prevent dehydration.
  • Cucumbers stored below 40°F will become pitted, yellow, and start to decay.
  • Avoid storing cucumbers with apples or tomatoes; ethylene (a natural plant hormone released in the form of a gas) given off by those fruits will cause cucumbers to be yellow.

Cucumber articles at Harvest to Table:

How to Plant and Grow Cucumbers

Cucumber Seed Starting Tips

Container Growing Cucumbers

How to Harvest and Store Cucumbers

Nine Cucumber Serving and Cooking Tips

How to Make Cold, Tasty Cucumber Soup

Cucumber Growing Problems Troubleshooting

Cucumber Beetle Organic Pest Control

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More harvest tips:

Learn when and how to harvest your favorite vegetables for the best flavor and texture. Get storage tips for each crop. Click on the vegetable you are growing below.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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