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Prickly Spines on Cucumbers

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Question:

I'm growing 2 kinds of cucumbers, one is a pickling type (can't remember the exact name), the other is called "straight eight". They both have prickly spines on them, what is causing this?

WINDELLA from PASADENA, CA

Answer:

WINDELLA,

This is a great question, and one that really got me thinking. The simple answer is this:

Your cucumbers are perfectly normal. Wear gloves when you harvest them and try not to get pricked. Cucumbers are generally divided into two groups-pickling types and slicing types. These groups are based on shape and color. The pickling types tend to be the short and stocky varieties. They usually have dark green midsections and are a lighter green color on the ends. They are covered in prickly little spines-either black or white in color, and are thicker skinned than the slicing types.

The next time you're at the grocery store, take a look at the cucumbers in the produce department and compare them to the jarred pickles in the condiment aisle. You'll notice that the cucumbers in the produce section are long and a deep, uniformly deep green color. They are also straight and round, the perfect shape for slicing. Cucumbers in the produce section look smooth, but they also have spines (white), which were removed for your convenience in preparation for transport to the grocery store. If you look at the jarred pickles, the "spine scars" are easy to see on the skin. The spines on pickling cucumbers tend to be shorter and broader so they leave bigger scars.

The real curiosity is why cucumber plants developed spiny fruits in the first place. In the animal kingdom, spines develop a means of protection. It would be interesting (to me, anyway) to know more about why the cucumber developed spiny fruit. Incidentally, sea cucumbers are related to spiny sea urchins, yet they rarely have spines.

Ellen

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

Recent Answers

Here are the recent answer to this question.

By carlabledsoe (Guest Post)07/20/2006

genetics! depending on what type of cucumber you've grown you can have outright spikes growing on them. gherkins are really spikey. peeling gets rid of the stickers and if you pickle them whole then canning process gets rid of them.

By Debbie Dzurilla [24]07/19/2006

Yes, I remember when we grew cucumbers that they had some spines...but they weren't real bad and since I most always peel a cuke, it doesn't matter. Perhaps the ones sold in the grocery have been rubbed down.

I never really noticed those prinkly things before too much so I guess they never bothered me!

I wouldn't worry about it and enjoy those fresh cucumbers. We didn't plant a garden this year due to the yard getting too shady but my husband will re-locate it next year and then I can enjoy our fresh homegrown produce again. I absolutely love cucumbers and even tho I'm buying them in the store, I make cucumber salad quite a bit....the marinated kind with onion and vinegar....even our daughter loves it. She likes vinegar-y things just like we do.

By Catherine (Guest Post)07/18/2006

Hello!

You asked about the prickly spikes on cukes. That is simply the way that they grow. Kind of like the thorns on rose bushes. Cukes are from the same family of plants as melon and squashes, like pumpkin. If you grow any of these plants you will find the prickles somewhere on the plant--most of the time on the stem. My suggestion for when you harvest your cukes is to wear a pair of gloves. Also if you look carefully at your cukes, you will see that the prickles tend to be on the middle part of the cuke. If you are careful, you can pick the cukes by the ends to avoid the prickles getting into your hand. This takes patience and a bit of practice.

Once you have harvested your cukes, if you are going to use them for pickles or want to eat them with the skins on, you can take a butter knife and LIGHTLY score the prickles off. some folks just pickle them with the prickles on because the pickling solution is acidic and will eventually make the prickles fall off. That is up to you. Hope this helped.

By Jill [4]07/13/2006

Believe it or not; the spines are normal. When the cuke is ripe, just give it a quick wipe with a soft cloth and they should rub right off. (You can use your hands; but I like the cloth.)

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