Cucumber varieties come in slicing, pickling, and "burpless" types. There are also "specialty" heirloom and greenhouse varieties of cucumbers.
Prize'© Steve Masley
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Slicing Cucumbers are the long, straight cucumbers commonly seen in supermarkets. They’re bred for fresh eating, with thin, non-bitter skins and slow development of seeds. "Burpless" cucumbers are slicing cucumbers bred to produce less of the bitter chemical that releases gas in the stomach.
Pickling Cucumbers are shorter, stouter, and have more spines, as well as drier flesh that allows them to soak up more of the brine they’re pickled in.
Specialty Cucumbers include heirloom cucumber varieties like ‘Lemon’ cucumbers and 'Sweet Armenian' cucumbers, as well as greenhouse cucumbers that require no pollination to set fruit.
Container Cucumbers are bred for compact vines, and are better for deck plantings and small space gardens.
In looking at cucumber varieties, you’ll see terms like "parthenocarpic" and "gynecoecous". Parthenocarpic cucumbers require no pollination, and are best for growing cucumbers in greenhouses, at lower temperatures, or where pollinator populations are low. Gynecoecous cucumbers produce mostly female (fruiting) flowers, to increase yields.
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Slicing cucumbers are bred for thin, non-bitter skins that don’t need to be peeled, and late seed formation. Harvest at the size recommended for the variety. If allowed to grow too large, seeds develop, the skins thicken, and the cucumbers and may become bitter.
'Burpless' cucumber are bred to reduce the bitter chemical that may cause stomach upset in some people. 'Oriental' varieties are the long, slender cucumbers found in Asian markets.
‘Ashley’ (Heirloom, 65 days) is a great heirloom slicing cucumber with thin, light green skin. Great for slicing, salads, and juicing. Harvest at 8" (23 cm) for best quality.
‘Straight 8’ (50-55 days) is a delicious heirloom slicer with light green skin. Harvest at 7-8" (20-23 cm) for best texture and flavor. They'll have thin skin and few seeds at this point.
‘Marketmore 76’ (58 days, heirloom open pollinated, resistant to cucumber mosaic virus, powdery mildew, downy mildew, and scab) is a reliable producer of straight, 8-9" (20-23cm) dark green fruits, across a wide variety of weather conditions.
‘Muncher’ (Heirloom, 60 days) is a thin-skinned Persian style slicing cucumber. Never needs peeling, late to form seeds. Harvest at 4-6" (10-15 cm) for best quality.
‘Tendergreen’ (55 days) bush beans are the best variety for hot-summer gardens, with superior performance through hot weather. Disease resistant and adaptable to multiple zones. Outstanding flavor, stringless pods.
‘Green Fingers' Persian (F1 Hybrid, 60 days) produces delicious 3-5" Persian slicing cucumbers that never need peeling, have small seeds, and are never bitter. Produces well in multiple microclimates, starts early and produces all summer long. A client favorite.
‘Chelsea Prize’ (F1 hybrid, scab resistant) is a classic English slicing cucumber. Thin-skinned, non-bitter, "burpless", and sweet, with very few seeds, harvest these beauties at 12-15" (30-38cm). Parthenocarpic (self-pollinating) plants, suitable for outdoor or greenhouse production.
‘Chinese Snake’ (Heirloom, 75 days) produces long, sometimes curved fruit that are best harvested at 15-18" (38-46 cm) long. Burpless, never bitter.
Pickling cucumbers are shorter and stouter than slicing cucumbers, with drier flesh that soaks up more of the brine they’re pickled in.
‘Homemade Pickles' Pickling Cucumbers (Heirloom, 55 days) is an excellent pickling cucumber bred for uniform size and shape. Vigorous, disease-resistant plants produce over a long season. Harvest at 1 1/2" (4cm) for baby sweet pickles, or at 5-6" (13-15cm) for spears or dill pickles.
‘National Pickling’ (Heirloom, 55 days) resistant to scab and tolerant of cucumber mosaic virus), is a high-yielding producer of medium green, straight-sided pickling cucumbers.
‘Wautoma’ (60 days, heirloom open-pollinated, resistant to anthracnose, angular leaf blight, cucumber mosaic virus, downy mildew, powdery mildew, and scab) produces 4-5" (10-13cm) cucumbers on vigorous, 4-5’ (1-1.5m) vines. Great disease resistance, non-bitter and burpless, with excellent brining qualities.
Specialty cucumbers are heirloom cucumber varieties or greenhouse varieties. Heirloom cucumbers tend to produce later and have less developed disease resistance than modern hybrids, but are still widely grown for flavor, color, or other desirable characteristics.
Greenhouse cucumber varieties are self-fertile, and don’t require pollinators to produce fruit.
‘Lemon’ (65 days, heirloom, open pollinated) are small, round, yellow cucumbers you often find in farmers markets. Harvest at 1 ½-2" (3.8-5 cm--about the size of a small lemon--for best flavor.
‘Sweet Armenian’ Cucumbers (60 days, heirloom open-pollinated) are long, ribbed cucumbers, often found in middle eastern markets, where they may be called "snake melons". Pale green or white and with pronounced ribs, they can be as large as 2’ (1/2 meter) long, and 3" (7.6 cm) wide, but they’re best harvested smaller, at 12" (30 cm) long and 1.5" (3.8 cm) wide.
Slicer'© Steve Masley
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Although most varieties of cucumbers grow well in containers (as long as they’re at least 5-gallon size!), bush cucumber varieties are bred for compact vines, and are less rangy on decks and in small space gardens.
‘Spacemaster’ (Heirloom, ? days) is a slicing cucumber with compact vines, ideal for growing in containers.
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