Who doesn’t love the fresh crunch of a cucumber? Whether pickled and cold or sliced fresh into a greek salad, cucumbers are the crispy dream vegetable of the summer. This vegetable comes in different shapes, sizes, and growing habits. There’s bound to be one that fits your garden needs.
What Is A Cucumber?
Cucumbers have been cultivated for at least 3,000 years, originating in India. They have become a staple in many gardens all over the world. Cucumbers are 95% water, making them a great hydrating fruit - the perfect snack to bring on a hike.
Most cucumbers grow on vines that attach to a trellis or crawl across the ground using their curly tendrils. Their hairy stems and wide leaves help to protect and shade the fruit as it is produced through the summer months.
Types of Cucumbers
There are so many different types of cucumbers out there - there is bound to be one that suits your growing and culinary needs.
Slicing cucumbers grow big and long, typically with smooth skin. They’re usually used for fresh eating, or “slicing” as you may have guessed. This fruit looks gorgeous sliced thinly into a pitcher of lemonade or ice water as well as on top of a tasty summer salad. Slicing cucumbers can have a vining or bush growth habit.
Pickling cucumbers are most often used for - you guessed it - pickling! While any cucumber can be pickled, pickling cucumbers are bred to grow small and uniform (so you can fit them in a pickle jar). They tend to be heavy producers and can also be bush or vining types.
Cucumbers do produce a compound known as cucurbitacin which can make cucumbers bitter and cause indigestion in some folks. Because cucurbitacin is most concentrated in the skins of the cucumber, people developed thin-skinned, burpless cucumbers.
Bush cucumbers can come in so many shapes and varieties and the best part is you don’t have to trellis them due to their bushy growing habits! This makes them great for low impact gardening or growing in small spaces. Any kind of cucumber you want - probably comes in bush form.
Vining cucumbers are just that - vining. They need to be trellised, which is great for container gardens where it would be beneficial for you to grow upwards! But they can be trellised beautifully in any in-ground garden as well. Vining cucumbers also produce more fruit than bush varieties which is great for canning or another culinary project that requires large amounts.
Heirloom cucumbers are varieties that date back to before World War 2. The seeds have been saved for so many years because they are beloved! Heirloom varieties are typically open-pollinated.
Specialty cucumbers are some of our favorites because they’re the best varieties to encourage repartee! These cucumbers can be sliced, pickled, eaten fresh, or any other preparation you can imagine - they just look a little different.
Varieties of Cucumbers to Grow At Home
Slicing Cucumber, Muncher
This crispy, crunchy cucumber doesn’t get bitter! Six to nine inch long, green, nearly spineless fruits grow on sturdy vines that would benefit from trellising. Typically used for slicing, snacking, and pickling. This variety is Mosaic resistant.
Pickling Cucumber, Bushy
This cucumber is the perfect pickling plant for smaller spaces! These compact bushing plants take up half the space of standard vining types while producing medium, green four to five inch crispy fruits. This variety grows great in containers.
Specialty Cucumber, Mexican Sour Gherkin
The cutest little cucumbers you ever did see! Also known as Mouse Melon or Cucamelon, these rampant, yet delicate vines produce dozens of one inch green and white fruit that will delight children and adults alike. Great for pickling whole and snacking on straight from the vine.
Slicing Cucumber, Armenian
These gorgeous, thin skinned fruits look and taste like a cucumber but are actually (botanically) a melon. These fruits are best harvested when they reach 12 to 15 inches in length.
Pickling Cucumber, Arkansas Little Leaf
These tasty four inch fruits are easy to find under the little leaves, making harvesting a breeze. This compact plant grows well under a variety of conditions and will reward you with high yields of perfect pickling-sized cucumbers.
Specialty Cucumber, Lemon
These dapper lemon-yellow fruits grow on productive, semi-bush plants. They produce gorgeous, round, lemony-essenced cucumbers that are so delicious when snacked on directly off the vine.
Slicing Cucumber, Suyo Long
This is the longest cucumber we have to offer and is also considered “burpless!” This tasty Asian variety grows nicely on a trellis and produces 10 to 18 inch long fruits that are sweet and crisp and nearly seedless. This variety is powdery mildew resistant and heat tolerant.
Pickling Cucumber, Puerto Rico 39
We received our original seedstock of this variety from the USDA germplasm repository and loved how it performed in our trials. This variety is an abundant producer of light green, fairly straight cucumbers, perfect for the pickle jar - if they make it that far! Thin, smooth skins make for easy snacking straight out of the garden.
Slicing Cucumber, Marketmore 76
This is one of the best garden and market quality cucumbers available. They have a sweet flavor and tender texture that is sure to please. These dark green, eight inch long fruits grow on four to six foot vines. It’s a great slicer and salad variety. Marketmore is resistant to downy mildew, mosaic virus, and leaf spot.
Slicing Cucumber, Spacemaster 80
This variety was developed by Cornell University and is a big winner with gardeners who are short on space. These seven to eight inch long, dark green, smooth-skinned cucumbers grow on bushy vines that only reach about three feet in height. A large pot with a tomato cage or porch railing will do for these little plants.
Growing cucumbers is easy and rewarding for gardeners of all skill levels. Pick one of these varieties to try out in your garden this year!
Tips for Storing Cucumbers
After harvesting, cucumbers will last in your refrigerator for up to a week. After that, you should probably take some action.
Cucumbers don’t freeze or dehydrate well, so your options are basically to eat them fresh or pickle them. If you have canning equipment, you can make shelf-stable pickles that will last a year or more. Remember to always use a tested recipe when canning!
If you’d rather not go through all that trouble, it’s super easy to make refrigerator (quick) pickles that will last a few weeks in the fridge, or you can get a little more ambitious and naturally lacto-ferment your cucumbers for richly flavored pickles that will last in the fridge for several months.
No matter what kind of cucumber you’re growing, it’s bound to be a rewarding adventure. Add this delicious fruit to your garden this year!
Article Written by: Hannah Gibbons
About the Author: Hannah Gibbons, an employee at Sow True Seed since 2020, has nearly a decade of experience in the agricultural industry. Their passion for environmental education and regenerative agriculture has been the cornerstone of their work, aimed at making gardening accessible to all.