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