Varieties of Cucumbers

Cucumbers are typically divided into two main categories: pickling and slicing. Pickling cucumbers are typically short and thick while slicing cucumbers are longer and thinner. Within these two categories there are hundreds of varieties.

Varieties of Cucumbers

Slicing cucumbers include the burpless variety which is a hybrid bred from Chinese-type cucumbers. The burpless variety of cucumber is long with a thin skin and grows on a large plant. Standard cucumbers become bitter because of terpenoid compounds found in the skin, flesh, roots, and leaves. Some people are more susceptible to the burping and stomach upset caused by these compounds. While growing burpless varieties will reduce the bitter taste often associated with cucumbers, maintaining good growing conditions will also reduce bitterness even in non-burpless varieties.

Standard (non-burpless) slicing varieties include the Marketmore and Straight 8 varieties. These two varieties both form long, dark green, straight fruit that is very resistant to diseases. The Marketmore and Straight 8 are both large plants that either need to be trellised or staked or allowed space to sprawl on the ground. Compact slicing cucumbers such as the Fanfare and Salad Bush varieties grow on dwarf plants that do not require staking. The cucumbers are generally smaller, only about 6 to 8 inches long.

To reduce burping in standard varieties, avoid plant stress caused by under-watering and avoid planting in cool shady areas. If the cucumbers are still bitter, try peeling the skin where most of the bitterness compound is found.

Pickling cucumbers often grow on compact to medium sized plants. Of all of the varieties of cucumbers these mature fastest. Cucumbers meant for pickling are often ripe in less than 50 days. Common varieties of pickling cucumber include Liberty hybrid and Pickle Bush.

Some of the newer varieties of cucumbers are called gynoecious, or all-female, types. These plants produce only female flowers (the flowers that produce fruit) and are pollinated by the male flowers of other plants. Standard cucumbers set between 10 to 20 males flowers for each female flower. The benefit of growing gynoecious cucumbers is that the plants yield more fruit and usually produce fruit earlier.

Another variety if cucumber is the parthenocarpic cucumber. These cucumbers are also all female, but are usually grown in a greenhouse and do not require pollination to set fruit. The resulting cucumbers are seedless when grown without a pollinator. If grown outdoors they can be pollinated and will have seeds.

Some varieties that were once rare in America have recently gained popularity. Among these varieties are the Armenian cucumber, African Horned cucumber and Lemon cucumber. Armenian cucumbers grow up to three feet long and have deep ridges. They can be used for pickling or slicing. The African Horned cucumber, or Kiwano, has prickly yellow to orange skin and a deep green flesh. Lemon cucumbers are small and round, resembling a lemon. The flesh is sweet and mild and is often used in salads.

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University of Illinois Extension: Cucumber
North Carolina State University Horticultural Science: What Are Burpless Cucumbers
Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products: Kiwano

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