Your Guide to Growing and Harvesting Lemon Cucumbers
Lemon cucumbers—which get their name from the smaller, yellow, lemon-sized fruits that they produce—are a great addition to any garden. Plant some today to enjoy your home-grown harvest in salads, sandwiches, and as a standalone snack for the rest of summer. Their distinct appearance will add welcome intrigue to any meal.
How to Grow and Care for Lemon Cucumbers
Just like green cucumbers, lemon cucumber plants grow in sprawling vines, according to Adrienne R. Roethling, the director of curation and mission delivery at the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. "They are best planted along the ground in raised beds," she says. "Yes, you can trellis them, but one will have to attend to them daily to train the plants." Just make sure you're planting them in an area with full sun. Like many other vining fruits and vegetable plants, lemon cucumbers are susceptible to powdery mildew. Because of the nature of their leaves, which are large and covered in hairs, they will hold any water that accumulates on their leaves during the day. To try and avoid this, make sure you're watering at the base of the plant instead of from overhead.
If your lemon cucumbers are planted in a raised bed or mound, they should be watered every other day (under damper conditions, you can stretch watering to every two days). If you grow them in a container, you will need to water them daily. You can add some compost for a nutritional boost, but Roethling says you will get a pretty substantial harvest from this plant even without fertilizer.
The Best Growing Companions
To get the most from your lemon cucumbers, consider giving them some good neighbors. "A grower's trick to repel aphids and beetles from your cucumber plants would be marigold plants," explains Vicky Popat, CFO and tropical plant expert at PlantOGram. "This gorgeous plant keeps the aphids away and keeps the garden looking gorgeous too!" To get the most from your growing space, she suggests adding peas, lettuce, cauliflower, and broccoli, too.
How to Harvest Lemon Cucumbers
You'll know that your lemon cucumbers are ready to harvest when the fruits are bright yellow and about the size of your fist, according to Roethling. "The fruits are quite hairy, more so than regular cukes," she says. "And the hairs are short and stiff." They don't actually affect the health or taste of the cucumber, but if you rub the fruits hard enough, the hairs will break off. To remove your cucumbers from the vine, use a pair of clean kitchen scissors or sharp garden shears. Never twist them off.
Their name may lead you to believe that they will have a citrus flavor, but that's not the case. "The taste is very mild compared to green cucumbers," Roethling says. "They are quite crisp and refreshing." You can enjoy them the same way you do most other cucumber varieties. "You can definitely do a fresh salad with them (pickling them is one way), but my favorite is a lettuce, cheese, tomato and lemon cucumber [sandwich] with a dash of salt and pepper on rye bread," adds Popat.
After the Harvest
After the growing season, consider leaving one last fruit to rot on the vine so you can harvest the seeds. "At the rotting pointing, grab the fruit and wash it down to get the seeds," Roethling suggests. You can then dry the seeds overnight then place them in a plastic baggie to store in the refrigerator crisper for winter. The following spring you can sow the seeds after the fear of frost has passed. "There's plenty of growing season for sowing, germinating, and production," she says.