Lemon cucumbers or Cucumis sativus may not be as common today, but it has been around since the late 1800s.
As the name suggests, these plants produce yellow fruits with crisp skin and juicy flesh. However, instead of sour like lemons, they actually taste mildly sweet.
For this reason alone, many home growers try adding them to their gardens.
When to harvest lemon cucumbers? Lemon cucumbers usually mature earlier than the other vegetables inside your garden. They will be ready to harvest in about eight to 10 weeks from when you sow the seed. Wait until they grow approximately two to three inches long before harvesting them.
How Do You Know When Your Lemon Cucumber Is Ready to Harvest?
Lemon cucumbers are quick-growing, so it will do you good to know what signs to look for to determine it’s time for a harvest.
Given the proper growing conditions, they will be ready in about two months and two weeks after sowing the seeds.
For example, if you planted them around the second week of May, you should start checking for ripe fruits around the second week of July to the first week of August.
That said, while they mature between 60 and 75 days after sowing, you should check them daily when they are 60 days old.
Around this time, the fruits will be yellow in color, about two to three inches in diameter, and have a firm rind.
If you are still unsure, here is a more detailed description of the signs to look for:
The Color of the Skin
The first thing you will notice is the color of the skin, which starts as green when premature and eventually turns to bright yellow.
Around this time is when most gardeners harvest the fruits so that they can enjoy their sweet flavor, crunchy texture, and nutrients.
Another way to tell if lemon cucumbers are ready for picking is by looking at the size.
As mentioned, the fruits will be about two to three inches in diameter in about two months’ time. To give you a rough idea, that is comparable to a large-sized egg or a tennis ball.
The Taste and Texture
To be absolutely sure your lemon cucumbers are ripe enough for picking, you can pick one and give it a taste.
Of course, remember to wash the fruit first before doing this. It should be mildly sweet and crunchy, with seeds that are just the right size.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Lemon Cucumbers?
Lemon cucumbers will continue to ripen and eventually rot if you leave them on the plant past their harvest time.
The plants will also stop flowering because they will focus all their energy on growing the fruits.
You will notice the fruits changing their color from bright to deep yellow. Although you can still eat overripe lemon cucumbers, expect them to taste bitter and have harder skin.
When this happens, most growers don’t recommend eating them raw.
Instead, you can make use of overripe lemon cucumbers by cooking and adding them to your salads. Others choose to pickle them.
It is also a good idea to leave at least one fruit to rot on the plant so that you can harvest its seeds.
Make sure you pick one from a healthy plant to ensure you get good lemon cucumber seeds.
After waiting for it to rot on the vine, harvest and dry the seeds before storing them in the fridge’s crisper drawer.
Come spring, you can go ahead and sow the seeds to grow new lemon cucumber plants.
How to Harvest Lemon Cucumbers?
Fortunately, you won’t have to wait long to start harvesting lemon cucumbers. In as quickly as 60 days, you can have your first harvest and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Harvesting lemon cucumbers isn’t at all complicated, nor does it require special tools. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Prepare for harvest.
After making sure your lemon cucumbers are ripe enough for picking, it’s time to prepare for your first harvest.
Again, check for the size, color, and fruit’s firmness. Lemon cucumbers that have gone soft are already overripe.
That said, you will want to be extra careful not to bruise the fruits so as not to make them go bad quickly.
Step 2: Ready your tools.
Just like when picking other fruits, it’s best to use a sharp pair of pruning scissors or a sharp knife to harvest lemon cucumbers.
Using such tools guarantees you don’t stress the plant too much so that it can produce more fruits throughout the growing season.
You will also want to prepare a basket to put your freshly harvested lemon cucumbers in and prevent them from being bruised.
Step 3: Start harvesting.
Once you’ve singled out which ones are ready for picking, you can go ahead and start harvesting them.
Simply hold the fruit with one hand and cut its stem from the vine with your dominant hand.
As you do this, catch the fruit with your hand so that it doesn’t fall to the ground and get bruised.
Place the fruit in your harvest basket and proceed to pick the others.
Step 4: Wait for the unripe fruits to mature.
Lemon cucumbers won’t mature all at the same time, which is why you should continue caring for your plants after the first harvest.
In most areas, the harvest time is usually from July to September, so expect a harvest every few days.
Remember, these plants like their soil moist but not soggy. Therefore, time your watering so that it gets just the right amount of water.
You should also water at the base of the plant to keep the foliage dry and safe from powdery mildew.
Check the fruits every day to harvest ones that have matured. Make sure you harvest every fruit before the temperature drops to freezing.
Should You Wash Lemon Cucumber After Harvesting?
After picking lemon cucumbers, what then? Like with most freshly harvested produce, you should wash lemon cucumbers before eating them.
Not only will doing so remove dirt but also get rid of pesticides (if you used them).
Make sure you use clean, cool water when washing lemon cucumbers to avoid losing their firmness.
For that same reason, you will want to wash them quickly and not allow them to soak in the water for too long.
Then, pat them dry with a clean cloth or a paper towel.
Can You Eat Lemon Cucumber Immediately After Harvesting?
While we don’t advise eating lemon cucumbers straight from the vine, these fruits do not require ripening after harvest.
Simply wash them under running water, and they are good to go.
You can add them to your fresh salad or use them in your smoothie or cocktail. Others slice and serve them fresh with basil pesto.
Even with so many uses, there’s a good chance you will still end up with too many lemon cucumbers for your household to consume.
In that case, it would help to learn how to store them for future use.
Storing Lemon Cucumbers
To store lemon cucumbers in the fridge, start by washing them first. Then, wrap them up with paper towels to absorb any moisture they will release during storage.
Place the wrapped lemon cucumbers in Ziploc bags or any airtight container to prevent them from going dry.
Next, put the container in the vegetable section of your fridge. Never store them alongside apples, or they will rot faster.
You shouldn’t put them in the coldest part of your fridge, too, because the juicy flesh will freeze and become soggy after thawing.
That said, this is why it is not a good idea to freeze lemon cucumbers. So, if you want them to last longer, you should consider Pickling them instead.
Pickling Lemon Cucumbers
For even longer storage, you can pickle freshly picked lemon cucumbers. Fortunately, you will find plenty of recipes online; it’s up to you to decide which one matches your tastes.
Some do it with vinegar, lemon juice, and sugar, while others go the more flavorful route and add onions, red bell peppers, and garlic.
Depending on how well you pickle them, they can last a couple of months in the fridge.
As you can see, lemon cucumbers are not only quick and easy to grow but effortless to harvest, too!
These reasons are why it’s not surprising that even beginner home gardeners want to try growing them.
Plus, after only 60 days, you can enjoy its uniquely sweet flavor and crisp texture. More than that, this fruit is also rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and a handful of antioxidants.
What we like most about lemon cucumbers is that you won’t run out of things to do with them. And if you do, you can always pickle them for an even more exciting addition to your dishes.
What’s more, because they like full sun and well-draining soil, you won’t have a problem growing them alongside root vegetables, legumes, and even corn.