4 Best Cucumber Types to Grow in Your Garden

These types of cucumbers will give you plenty of cukes for fresh eating, pickling, and sharing with friends.

'Green Fingers' cucumber
Photo: Dean Schoeppner

Cucumbers, like tomatoes, are available in many more sizes, shapes, and even flavors than you’ll find at your local grocery store. The traditional 8-inch-long slicing cucumber is a valuable salad ingredient, but the world of cucumbers offers many more crisp, tasty options. Some varieties produce fruit that resembles mini melons and other types have stocky, prickly fruit that is perfect for pickling. All these cucumbers generally fall into the four main groups described here. Try planting several different ones to experience all that cukes have to offer.

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Pickling Types

cucumbers on a vine

Keller & Keller

Affectionately known as “picklers,” pickling cucumber types produce short, blocky fruit. If left on the vine too long, the fruit will develop into thick, oval-shaped, overripe cucumbers bound for the compost pile. The biggest challenge of growing pickling types is harvest. Best harvested when they are just 2 to 4 inches long, pickling cucumbers demand daily harvest to ensure the fast-growing fruit do not grow too large and become tough and bitter. Store harvested cucumbers in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Pickling cucumbers are excellent for making pickles and relishes as their name indicates, and they can also be enjoyed raw. Their crunchy flesh adds crisp texture to salads and sandwiches. Great pickling varieties include ‘Fresh Pickles,’ which is grown both for pickling and slicing. ‘Endeavor’ has dark green flesh and good disease resistance. ‘Boston Pickling’ is an heirloom variety dating back to 1880.

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'Green Fingers' cucumber
Dean Schoeppner

Most commonly available in the grocery store and at farmer’s markets, slicers are typically eaten raw. The long, slender fruit has a thicker skin and slightly softer flesh than pickling cucumbers. Slicing cucumbers can be harvested at any length but are most flavorful when harvested at 8 inches or so. If left on the vine too long, they’ll become bitter, and their seeds will harden.

Expect slicer cucumbers to have a crunchy texture and a mild, sweet flavor. Unlike the bland, spongy slicers from the grocery store, homegrown slicers are more crisp and flavorful. Expect them to be standout salad toppers or let them take center stage as an appetizer.

Great slicer cucumbers include ‘Merlin’ Hybrid, prized for its fast growth and high yield of 5- to 7-inch fruit. ‘Straight Eight’ is an heirloom variety from 1935 that has stood the test of time thanks to its reliably great taste. Pick ‘Straight Eight’ when fruit is 2 to 4 inches long for pickling or harvest at 6 to 8 inches for fresh eating. ‘Lunchbox’ is a prolific producer of small or large fruit—harvest them any time before the skins turn yellow. Expect more than 130 fruit per vine.

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International Favorites

'Tasty Jade Hybrid' cucumber
Jon Jensen

Cucumbers have been grown for more than 3,000 years and plant scientists believe these beloved veggies originated in India or western Asia. Unique, international varieties are often heirlooms in their country of origin. These international travelers are gaining a following in North America, especially when gardeners realize the remarkably long or distinctly colored fruit are just as easy to grow as a slicer variety and bring delightful diversity to the table.

A few favorites include ‘Beit Alpha,’ which is grown for its sweet flavor and exceptionally thin skin. ‘Suyo Long’ is a seedless, mild-flavored variety from northern China that grows about 18 inches long. ‘China Jade’ has striking yellow-green flesh and long, thin-skinned fruit.

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green and yellow lemon cucumbers on vine
Kritsada Panichgul

A smaller group of cucumbers, heirlooms are often uniquely shaped. In fact, you might mistake some of these cukes for melons or tiny squash. They are just as easy to grow as the more common varieties of cucumbers and their long heritage speaks to their prized flavor. ‘Lemon’ is an American favorite for more than 100 years. It produces round fruit with light yellow skin and flesh with a mild, sweet flavor. Enjoy them fresh or use them to make crunchy pickles. ‘Mexican Sour Gherkin’ produces tangy fruit that looks like miniature watermelons. This variety has a cucumber-like taste with a twist of lemon.

Small Space Solutions

Cucumbers can be grown in pots or raised beds. Grow the vigorous vines up a strong trellis, looping the vines on the trellis as needed. Cucumbers are vigorous vines; the best trellises are at least 6 feet tall and well anchored in the soil or to a nearby structure.

If trellising isn’t a good option, several bush-type varieties are available. Bush type cucumbers spread just 2 to 3 feet. Expect traditional varieties to ramble 8 to 10 feet in all directions. Slicers and picklers are most commonly available as bush types. A few favorites include ‘Bush Champion’ and ‘Picklebush.’

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