When you’re used to the smooth-skinned cucumbers from the grocery store, you may be wondering why your cucumbers are prickly when you grow them yourself. Don’t worry – it’s very common, and normal, for cucumbers to develop prickly skin. It indicates they’re ready for picking. But why do cucumbers have prickly skin in the first place?
The prickly nature of cucumbers is most likely a defense mechanism to deter predators from consuming the fruit. The level of prickliness also varies a lot depending on the variety of cucumber you’re growing. Pickling cucumbers are generally more spiky than slicing cucumbers.
Thankfully, it’s easy to remove the spikes and we’ll show you exactly how to do it. Let’s go!
Why Are My Cucumbers Prickly?
Cucumber prickles serve a protective function. Most cucumber varieties have small prickles on their skin that deter pests and animals from eating them. Some varieties, such as burpless cucumbers, have little to no prickles, while others, particularly pickling cucumbers, have more pronounced prickles.
The soil and temperature also play a significant role in the development of cucumbers. Cucumbers should be grown in well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. The ideal temperature range for cucumbers is between 70-85°F (21-29°C). Temperatures outside of this range can cause your cucumbers to be underdeveloped, have tough skins, or even be inedible.
Here in the tropics, cucumbers don’t get to fruiting stage at all during the hot months. It’s just too humid and I’m forever battling rot and mold. Frustrating! In the cooler months when the humidity drops, there’s no vegetable that grows better than a cucumber – pickling time!
How to Remove the Prickles From Your Cucumbers
Removing the prickles from your cucumbers is easy – all you need is a cloth and running water, and you’ll find most prickles come off easily. For more stubborn prickles, you may need to give them a gentle brush. If the prickles irritate your skin, you can use cleaning gloves to hold them.
To remove the prickles from the cucumber’s skin, wash it thoroughly under running water. Using a vegetable brush or a gentle scrubber, scrub the surface of the cucumber to remove the prickles. Alternatively, wrapping the cucumber in a kitchen towel and then wiping it vigorously can also remove the spikes.
As I mentioned above, you can wear gloves while you do this. Some people experience irritation from the prickles, which is not pleasant. I don’t usually have a problem with the fruit, but the cucumber’s foliage certainly irritates me!
Did you know that cucumber wholesalers go through the same process? Their cucumbers aren’t magically prickle-less. They most likely choose varieties specifically bred for fewer spikes, but they still clean them up before shipping them out to the customer. Your prickly cucumbers are completely normal!
Can You Eat Prickly Cucumbers?
You can eat prickly cucumbers. However, their spiny skin can be uncomfortable to eat, and may even irritate your throat and mouth. To prepare them for consumption, it’s recommended to peel or scrub off the spikes.
Less Prickly Varieties
One thing’s for sure – don’t choose pickling varieties if you want less prickly cucumbers!
Here are some better choices:
1. Armenian Cucumber
Also known as yard-long cucumbers, these can grow up to 36 inches but are usually harvested when they reach 10-12 inches in length. They have a light green skin color and delicate skin texture with few spines.
2. Lemon Cucumber
These cucumbers are small, round, and yellow – resembling lemons. They have a smooth skin texture with few spines and a mild, sweet flavor.
3. Snacking Cucumbers
Smaller varieties often have smoother skin, ready to eat straight off the vine.
4. Burpless Varieties
These cucumbers have thin skin, can grow up to 12 inches long, and have a sweet, mild flavor.
So there you have it – prickly cucumbers are normal! Do you mind the spikes? Let us know in the comments below.