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9 Of Our Favorite Cucumber Varieties + Do’s And Don’ts For Pruning Cucumbers

Choosing a favorite cucumber variety is like choosing a favorite shade of green (hint, they’re all good). Our cucumber varieties are all good choices, and each for different reasons. 

It’s easy to love a cucumber that grows well for you, but also consider its suitability for your preferred use—eating fresh, pickling, slicing—and growth habit. It’s important to match your space to your cucumber, or these vigorous plants can quickly take over. We’ve chosen some varieties best suited for trellising, as well as compact bush-type cukes for smaller spaces. 

By the way, is it a pickle or a gherkin? For years, I thought a gherkin was a special kind of pickle, but it turns out the difference is mostly semantic. Depending on where you’re from, a pickled cucumber might be called a pickle or a gherkin. It’s the pickling process that turns a cucumber into the dill pickle, sweet pickle, or gherkin we love. However, many people consider a gherkin to be a special type of pickle, smaller, bumpier, and crunchier than a standard dill. 

Below you’ll find a few of our favorites, broken down for both pickling and slicing, along with three fun off-the-path cukes we like to grow for variety. And, you’ll find a section on training and pruning at the end.

Why are some cucumbers called burpless?

You may have heard some cucumbers called “burpless.” But what does that mean? Eating cucumbers causes some people a bit of digestion issues and may cause them to burp. Other people don’t have any issues eating cukes. While many folks think the problem is caused by a chemical called cucurbitacin which causes bitterness, some research disputes the idea. Other folks think it’s the seeds which make them burp. Either way, cukes marketed as burpless have often been bred for less bitterness and fewer seeds when picked at proper size. 

Our Favorite Slicing Cucumbers

Slicing cukes are large cucumbers, usually dark green, longer, and wider. The classic picture of a person in a spa with a slice of cucumber over each eye is a slicing cucumber. They’re popular for salads, sandwiches, relish trays, and cool summer drinks. 

  • Saladmore Bush Hybrid is a smaller plant perfect for limited spaces. A 2014 AAS winner, Saladmore cucumbers are 7–8 inches long at maturity, and about 8 oz. They’re great as slicers when mature, but can be picked early for pickling. It’s a very prolific plant, and highly disease resistant to common cuke diseases like powdery mildew and cucumber mosaic virus.
  • English Sweet Long Slim cucumbers are burpless and bitter-free. With fruits over a foot long, these slender and sweet cukes provide plenty of crisp spears or slices. You’ll want to grow them on a trellis to get them growing straight. 
  • Spacemaster 80 gives away its star quality right in the name. This is a compact plant but with prolific yields of slicers. It tolerates high heat, and is disease resistant to the common cucumber problems with powdery mildew and cucumber mosaic virus.

Great Pickling Cucumbers

A good pickling cucumber should be prolific. To put up pints and quarts of delicious pickles (is your favorite dill or sweet?) you’ll want a variety that keeps on cranking them out by the dozens. Pickling cucumbers grow rapidly once the fruit is set, and you may need to pick daily to catch them all at peak pickling size. Of course, nobody says you can’t eat a few fresh, and their crunch is tasty right in the garden. 

  • Pick-A-Bushel hybrid is a semi-bush type plant that won’t take over the garden. Another 2014 AAS winner, these plants produce loads of 3–5 inch fruits perfect for the pickle jar. Crunchy and a bit sweet makes them excellent for pickles, and the compact habit is easier to handle when you don’t have a large space to devote to cucumbers.
  • Parisian Hybrid is a bush type cucumber plant, and a 2015 AAS winner, loved for producing lots of small fruits on very compact plants. If you’re looking to grow cukes for pickling in a container on your balcony or deck, this is the one. Small, crunchy, crisp fruits hold up very well to pickling, and are just the right size for those small dills. 
  • With a name like Homemade Pickles, you can guess what this variety excels at. These vines produce cukes that are the ideal shape and size for making homemade dills or bread and butter pickles. They’re a bit quicker to mature than other varieties, perfect for a late summer crop and fresh fall pickles.

Try Something Different—a Specialty Cucumber 

  • Armenian cucumbers look and taste like a cucumber, with cool-looking stripes, but are actually a melon. The fruits are long and sweet, burpless and with no bitter flavors. It grows well on a trellis and is a great performer in hot climates.
  • Mexican Sour is an heirloom variety that looks like little watermelons. The plants do well on a trellis and provide loads of small, highly flavored fruits that taste like they’ve already been pickled. 
  • White Wonder is a fun heirloom good for slicing or pickling. The white, 7 inch fruits look spectacular hanging from the green vines on a trellis, and they’re easy to spot so you won’t miss any. 

How to Prune Cucumbers

Many people have never pruned their cucumbers, but proper pruning promotes better airflow which reduces disease, helps to keep unwieldy cucumbers under control so they don’t take over the garden, and can increase yields. All you’ll need is a sharp fingernail, or sanitized snips or a pruner.

It may seem that every leaf is needed to harvest energy for making cucumbers, but pruning off suckers and opening up the foliage will focus energy on the remaining cukes, and increase air circulation to help ward off issues like powdery mildew. It also comes with a great benefit—you’ll be able to see the cucumbers easily, and won’t miss harvesting them before they get overripe. Huge cucumbers that start to turn yellow are often bitter or less desirable for eating, and they hog energy the plant could have used to make more of the edible sized cukes we want.

Do’s and Don’ts for Pruning Cucumbers

1. Don’t trim off the main growing stem. Follow the main stem up from the ground. You’ll see it’s a bit thicker, sometimes has more ridges, and appears to be stout. Trimming off the main stem early in the season can stop the plant from reaching full size and limit your yields.

2. Do remove lower leaves. If you notice soil has been splashed up onto some lower leaves after a rain, those are prime candidates for pruning. Soil-borne pathogens can be bounced up by raindrops and land on the leaves, bringing later disease problems. Mulching helps with this, and so does removing those bottom leaves.

3. Don’t remove more than ⅓ of the plant at a time. Pruning too heavily in one go can shock the plant and slow it down. If your cucumbers are getting out of hand, prune them back in a couple sessions, separated by a week or two to let them adjust.

4. Do remove suckers. At the node, you’ll find a leaf, a blossom, or fruit, a tendril, and a sucker which will grow into a new side stem. Those suckers, especially lower on the plant, can be removed to train the plant vertically (especially useful for trellising) and focusing energy on fruiting. 

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