Harvesting lemon cucumbers – when and how to pick this fresh-tasting fruit

Quick-ripening lemon cucumbers are easy to harvest; our experts explain how to know when they're ready for picking

Lemon Cucumbers
(Image credit: Alamy)

If you're harvesting lemon cucumbers you're probably already a fan of the mild, tender flavor of this lemon-sized, yellowish cucumber cultivar. 

Packed with vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, lemon cucumbers, as anyone growing cucumbers will know, grow on vines, and just as you can grow cucumbers vertically, on a trellis, for example, you can cultivate lemon cucumbers in the same way. 

Lemon cucumbers need plenty of water and sun to thrive and for a plentiful harvesting season. Getting the technique and timing right for harvesting your lemon cucumbers is key to making the most of this bright and healthy fruit; unsurprisingly, you can do this around the same time as when you traditionally pick cucumbers, though lemon cucumbers will give you some easy-to-spot clues that they're ready. Here, gardening experts tell you when and how to pick lemon cucumbers.

Harvesting lemon cucumbers

'Lemon cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are a variety of cucumber that is characterized by their small, round shape and bright yellow color, resembling a lemon. They belong to the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae, and are commonly grown for their mild and sweet taste,' says Zahid Adan, gardening expert and the founder of The Plant Bible.

Harvesting lemon cucumbers at exactly the right moment is key to maximizing their flavor and freshness.

Zahid Adnan
Zahid Adnan

Zahid Adnan is the Founder and Editor of The Plant Bible , as well as managing a plot of 10-hectare agricultural land. He is also involved in a project to develop sustainable urban farming practices by utilizing farming technologies to increase food production and reduce environmental impacts.

When should you harvest lemon cucumbers?

Lemon cucumbers

(Image credit: Alamy)

You should pick lemon cucumbers as soon as they are ripe for two reasons: one, this is when they will taste the best; and two, 'regularly harvesting lemon cucumbers throughout the season will promote the production of more fruits,' adds Drew Swainston, gardening expert at Homes & Gardens.

But when to harvest? These pointers will assure perfection:

Around two months from sowing
Lemon cucumbers are quick-growing, and can mature in as quickly as 60 days from sowing, but the clue that they're ready to pick is their color. The harvesting period for lemon cucumbers is from July to September.

In the morning
The best time to harvest them is the early morning, before water has evaporated from the fruit, leaving it more bitter. Check on a daily basis for ripe lemon cucumbers, since they are fast to ripen.

When they turn yellow
Drew advises: 'The sign of a lemon cucumber that is ready to pick is all in the color, when the fruit starts to turn yellow.'

When lemon cucumbers have turned from green to yellow, but before they turn to a deep yellow, they're ready to be picked. These fruits are more crisp and tender when they are young and have just turned yellow. You don't want to let your lemon cucumbers overripen or they will taste bitter and have rougher, thicker skin. 

Zahid Adnan also warns, 'Avoid harvesting them too early when they are still small and green, as they won't have developed their full flavor and texture. Give them some time to ripen on the vine until they reach their optimal size and hue.'

When they're the right size
When they are ready to be harvested, lemon cucumbers should be anywhere from 3in long to around the size of a tennis ball.

When their texture is right
Zahid recommends examining firmness the skin texture; 'Gently press your fingers against the lemon cucumber's skin. A ripe lemon cucumber should feel firm but slightly yielding, indicating that it's filled with juicy goodness. If it feels too hard, it may still be underripe, while a cucumber that's too soft may be overripe.

'A ripe lemon cucumber will have smooth, glossy skin without any blemishes or soft spots. As they mature, they might develop slight ridges on the skin, which is perfectly normal. Avoid cucumbers with wrinkled or shriveled skin, as this is a sign of overripeness or dehydration.'

Drew Swainston
Drew Swainston

Drew qualified as a journalist and wrote for many websites and publications, before studying for a horticulture qualification. He worked as a professional gardener for several years, specializing in kitchen gardening. He's now bringing his expertise and passion to Homes & Gardens as a member of our team. 

How to harvest a lemon cucumber

Lemon cucumbers

(Image credit: Alamy)

To harvest lemon cucumbers, get a sanitized, sharp pair of pruning clippers (we recommend Fiskars Bypass Pruner Garden Tool from Walmart), and cut the stem just above the lemon cucumber. Simple as that!

Zahid Adnan recommends, 'Check the stem that attaches the cucumber to the plant. A mature lemon cucumber will have a well-developed stem, while an underripe one might have a thin, weak stem. Avoid twisting or pulling the lemon cucumbers off the vine, as this can damage the plant.'

If you want to get some seeds from your lemon cucumbers in order to reseed it the following spring, you should let at least one lemon cucumber remain on the vine to rot. Once it is close to rotting you can reap the seeds from it. Make sure to wash and dry the seeds before storing them.


How to prepare lemon cucumbers once they have been harvested?

Lemon cucumbers don't take a lot of preparation once they have been harvested. They are covered by small, stiff hairs which don't impact the taste of the fruit, but to remove them you can rub them, and the hairs should simply fall off.

Like cucumbers, lemon cucumbers don't need to be peeled prior to eating, and can be eaten raw.

We'll leave you with this last tip: lemon cucumbers are best stored at room temperature, but only last a couple of days when cut. If you want to store your lemon cucumbers in the fridge do so in the warmest part of the appliance, ie, the door. Lemon cucumbers prefer temperatures around 50°F, which is about 10°F warmer than most fridges. Lemon cucumbers will last longer if they're are pickled.

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past six years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including practical household advice, recipe articles, and product reviews, working closely with experts in their fields to cover everything from heating to home organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.