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Cucumbers – Proper Harvest and Storage can Extend the Season

Store-bought cucumbers can’t compare to those picked fresh from the garden. One or two months of the year is all the time we can hope to enjoy this garden favorite in our area.

The way you harvest and store them can go a long way towards extending the season.

Harvest

  • Harvest daily and when “just the right” length for eating is reached. With “slicing cucumbers” that’s about 6 or 7 inches long. They’ll be green and firm.
  • If your plants give you more than you can eat, store, or share —  recycle them.  Put them in the compost pile or just dig a hole in a garden bed and put them in.  (Chop with shovel first if you want, to make decomposing faster.)

If you allow them to become overripe, the plant will slow production and possibly cease to bear fruit. (Over-ripes will be fat with lots of yellow.)

  • As with most vegetables the more you pick, the more you get. Harvesting promptly helps insure a higher yield.

This almost hidden cucumber is ready to be harvested.

  • Avoid harvesting when the plants are wet. (True with any garden vegetable.)
  • Avoid harvesting in severe heat and if the plants are wilted.
  • Harvest in the cooler part of the day.  Early morning is best.  Late evening is good too. As you harvest your fruit, keep your basket in the shade so the fruit won’t be exposed to the sun.
  • Take care not to damage the plant when you harvest. Carefully cut the cucumber from the stem.  Doing this prevents accidental damage to the plant.

If you plan to store the cuke for any length of time, leave an 1/8 to 1/4 inch of stem on. This helps a bit in extending its storage life by “sealing” that otherwise open end.

  • If you garden with mulch, more than likely your cucumbers will be nice and clean.  If there’s dirt, gently brush it away.  Store unwashed.  Cucumbers straight from the garden have a protective film on them.  Washing will destroy it.

Cucumbers, fresh from the garden.

Storage

When I grew cucumbers for market, I stored them in the crisper box of my older refrigerator. I first put in a cotton hand towel (a double layers of papers towels will work) and laid the cukes in. I didn’t move them again until it was time to go to market.

I use this same method to preserve my cucumbers for up to a month after my plants stop producing.

This works with my newer refrigerator too, but I keep an eye on the glass top.  If moisture builds up, I gently take the cukes out, dry everything, and put in a new fresh cotton cloth and replace the cukes.

Option for single or used cucumber:

If you’re storing a single cucumber or a part of a cucumber you can wrap it in plastic wrap. It’ll keep nicely. Mine never last that long, but I’ve heard others say they’ve kept cucumbers 10 days or more this way.

Final Words

With a little care you can have cucumbers about a month longer than your garden gives them to you.

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All content including pictures is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.  All rights are reserved.


25 comments to Cucumbers – Proper Harvest and Storage can Extend the Season

  • Thanks for the tips! Raw pickling also extends the length of time that you can enjoy your cucumber harvest.

  • Theresa

    Good point Diane. One I totally overlooked since I usually don’t pickle. Thanks for adding it!

    Theresa

  • Thia

    Thanks for the cotton cloth idea! I’ll have to try it. I do use a paper towel in with my salad greens, but never thought to try it with cucumbers! Fantastic! 🙂

    🙂
    Thia

  • don

    Hello Theresa, I’m having trouble with my cucumbers now. They are curling. I’ve been doing some research and I read it could be from uneven pollination. there are lots of bees in the garden and I have a soaker hose in the cucumber bed. I have alot of new little cucs forming. Any suggestions? Think I should try hand pollinating? Have you had to deal with this?
    Thanks for any suggestions.
    Don

  • Theresa

    Hi Don,
    After my cucumber plants reach their peak lushness and production and start to decline, then I start having trouble with some of the cukes curling. Not all of them, but a lot of them at this point. When I grew cucumbers for market, I only marketed until a little after the cucumbers hit their peak. After that – there were just too many that wanted to curl. (Bill and I find them still delicious to eat, it’s just that people buying want straight cucumbers.)

    I’ve experienced this for 30 years and I just never considered it a problem. To me – it’s just what they do.

    A couple of things that you might find helpful — or at least interesting:
    1. Bees will visit cucumbers of course, but if something else has more pollen or nectar they will quickly make the switch to the most attractive (to them) flower. Cucumbers are just not loaded with pollen and nectar to suit the bees.

    2. I don’t know what kind of cucumbers you have but a lot of the hybrids (maybe even all of them) are self pollinating. Heirlooms need to be pollinated of course.

    3. I read some place that if bees (or other pollinators) visit cucumbers that self pollinate the result is misshapen fruit. (I just read this “in passing” so to speak, because it’s never been enough of a concern for me to really research the topic well. Nonetheless, if this is a fact, it seems that could well be what is happening to my cukes and yours.)

    Let me know if you find out anything else. Hope this has been helpful.

    Best,
    Theresa

  • don

    Well thanks for the reply. I guess it’s one of those things we have no control over.Can’t keep the bees out of certain flowers.I have not had one edible cucumber yet. I planted straight eights. Kind of ironic huh? Well, there are a bunch of small ones out there, hopefully they will straighten themselves out.

  • Theresa

    Hi Don,

    As you probably know Straight Eight is an heirloom variety (thus, open pollinated). And so would need to be pollinated by the bees or other pollinators. I grew them for about 15 years. Never had any trouble with them. Always a good crop except for what I explained before.

    Am I to understand that you have not harvested any straight cucumbers? Also – when you said not one edible one — what do you mean? Does it taste bad or is it too small to even eat?

    Maybe I’m not understanding correctly. Let me know. I’ll look for your reply.

    Best,
    Theresa

  • don

    The three that I picked were like little balls with tails.Those three were all that I have been able to pick so far. I just came in from the garden and there are alot of little ones waiting in the wings. I have plenty of bees in the garden,so its not lack of pollinators. Roots are mulched with grass clippings, soaker hose running length of the trellis. Maybe I’m just not destined to grow cucumbers this year. Strange that I didn’t have problems last year. Watch, in a few weeks I’ll be overun with cucumbers. Be careful what you wish for huh?

  • Theresa

    Don, this is really a mystery. Keep me posted on what happens.

    One suggestion. Grow another variety next year in addition to the Straight 8s. That way you can see if its the variety or something else.

    If you’re overrun with cukes in a few weeks I’ll “beam” over and get some. Mine are just about finished and I don’t know if the “new” ones have time to produce or not.

    What a shame cucumbers don’t last longer. They’re so grand.

    Keep me updated, Don.

    Theresa

    P.S. I’ve had some at the end of the season that were just like the ones you described. They were fine eating — just looked funny.

  • Sandra

    Theresa, I just munched the best baby cuke from my garden this morning. It was fantastic -that’s why I garden!

  • Theresa

    I’m leaving now. I’ll be right over. I hope you didn’t eat it all. 🙂

  • Sandra

    Hi Theresa – I am trying to see from the picture how you support your cukes? Can you give me some more information when you have the chance. Thanks

  • Theresa

    I like to use some old wooden easels we happen to have. Large netting is drapped around the easel. For a better picture see July 4th Garden and Border 5th picture down.

    You can use tomato cages, tomato stakes — or even sticks (small branches from a tree). Anything to help them grow up rather than all over.

  • Betty Dotson

    Don’t forget to slice lengthwise into quarters to freeze in Food Saver or ziplock bags with air removed with a straw for your fruit & greens shakes.

    Delish!

    Betty

  • Theresa

    Thanks Betty.

  • Joanne

    My cucumbers get soft after I pick them. Is this normal?

  • Theresa

    Joanne, to keep cucumbers crisp, refrigerate after harvest.
    Theresa

  • Betty Bryan

    I am confused, one article says refrigerate for longer storage and one says never put cukes in the frig!

  • Theresa

    Betty, you can find most anything online. Makes it hard if you’re new to whatever you’re looking up.
    All I can tell you is that in my posts, I’m telling you what has been my experience for 36 years.
    You can take my word for it or someone else’s. Or – the best thing might be to try it both ways and decide for yourself.
    Theresa

  • JJ

    I also am getting 8-10 cucumbers a day and have been storing them in a pantry with other vegetables like tomatoes.
    They are soft after a day or two.
    I read do not refrigerate and keep room temperature.
    Well, that isn’t working for me so I wrapped each in paper towel, and then in a plastic bag like ones grocery stores have and they went into the fridge–I’ll know tomorrow.

    I have cases of B&B pickles from last year, so don’t even go there. Last year over 400 cucumbers from 6 plants and gave many away/threw lots away.

  • Theresa

    JJ – I can’t imagine someone saying to store cukes at room temperature. That was BAD information indeed.
    I mentioned how to store cukes in the post.
    You way should work well also.
    Theresa

  • Kelly

    I actually find when you purchase English cucumbers from the store they do better on the counter rather than storing in the fridge but when I harvest them out of my own garden the fridge is the only way to go. Go figure.

  • Theresa

    Kelly, the ones in the store have probably been irradiated.
    Theresa

  • Louis

    Hi folks. I grew some fantastic cucumbers this year here in Georgia. Unfortunately I don’t remember the variety. I picked up a pack of seeds from Home Depot. Made a ton of home made dill pickles. We picked them mostly in June this year(2016). Now then…we put 3 large(6-8 inch long) cukes on a paper plate and they have just been sitting on my dining room table since late June, and it is now Oct.8th. They look like I just picked them. Still full of color and firm. No soft spots or any sign of decomposition. Do any of you have a reason why that is. I have been looking online for an answer but to no avail. Everything I have found online said they should have been no good about 7 to 10 days after we picked them. Thanks for any help in answering this.

  • Matthew Vaughan

    My cucumbers are over six” round and white.

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