Top 10 Heirloom Cucumbers to Grow in 2023

Top 10 Heirloom Cucumbers

Who can resist fresh cucumbers from the garden in the summertime? I feel like they come very close to tomatoes when it comes to garden favorites.

There are so many different varieties of cucumbers to choose from, and many are hybrid varieties that have been crossbred to be seedless, burpless or disease resistant. While hybrids definitely have their place and there are endless varieties to choose from, I always prefer growing heirloom varieties in my organic garden.

In this article I go over my top 10 best heirloom cucumbers to grow in your garden and where you can find the seeds. Keep reading to learn more!

But first, let’s go over a bit of terminology:

Pickling vs. Slicing Cucumbers

Before we get started, I want to go over the difference between pickling and slicing cucumbers, as you’ll probably see these terms mentioned a lot when you’re looking for the best heirloom cucumber varieties for your garden.

Pickling cucumbers, as the name implies, are cucumbers that work best for canning and pickling. They are smaller, crunchier and have a thinner skin that soaks up the pickling brine better. They also usually have bumpy skin – think the classic baby dill pickles you buy at the grocery store.

Slicing cucumbers grow long and smooth and are meant to be eaten fresh. The skin can be a little thicker (but still tender) and more uniform, and the flesh inside is a bit softer. Slicing cucumbers can still be pickled, but if you are looking for a crispy, crunchy dill pickle, you may want to stick with pickling varieties. You can still use slicing cucumbers to make bread and butter pickles or relishes.

For both types of cucumbers, the best thing to do to keep them crunchy is to refrigerate them as soon as they are harvested. This will help reduce the moisture loss, which is the key factor that contributes to how crunchy or soft a cucumber gets. Another thing to do if you are pickling cucumbers whole is to cut off the blossom end about 1/16th of an inch – there are enzymes in this end that causes the cucumber to go soft.

What Are Burpless Cucumbers?

Another term you’ll probably see mentioned is “burpless”. What are burpless cucumbers, you may ask?

Well, cucumbers contain a compound called cucurbitacin, which makes the cucumber taste bitter. If you’ve ever picked a cucumber from your garden and it was bitter, this compound is the cause. It is found mainly in the skin and stem of the cucumber. Some say it causes reactions in some people that include bloating, burping and gas, but this may just be a common myth. Either way, the presence of cucurbitacin is the cause of bitter cucumbers.

Burpless cucumbers are hybrid varieties that are bred for reduced levels of cucurbitacin. Seed suppliers market these varieties as “burpless,” but all it really means is that the cucurbitacin gene is recessive and the cucumber may be less bitter. In my opinion, this is mainly a made-up marketing term, and I prefer heirloom cucumbers for many reasons, including being able to save the seeds.

If you are looking for good pickling cucumbers, varieties marketed as burpless are not ideal, as they lose their crispness after processing.

1. National Pickling Cucumber

Developed by the National Pickle Packers Association, this is one of the best all-around heirloom cucumbers there is, and it’s one of the most popular pickling varieties. This variety is a staple if you’re looking for a great pickling cucumber. The plants are vigorous and produce heavy yields all summer long, and they are resistant to the cucumber mosaic virus.

Days to Maturity: 60

Best For: Pickling

Available at Hoss Tools.

2. Ashley

This is an excellent variety for any gardener to choose, but it’s especially great in warm, humid climates. The Ashley variety is resistant to disease, including powdery mildew, and it has great heat tolerance. The cucumbers grow to be about 7-8 inches long and are especially good for slicing and eating fresh in salads. If you live in a hot area, you definitely want to get this one!

Days to Maturity: 65

Best For: Slicing, eating fresh

Available at True Leaf Market.

3. Marketmore

This heirloom slicing cucumber is a long-time favorite for decades. It is particularly known for its consistent size and shape; sometimes, cucumbers get misshapen depending on pollination, disease or other factors (have you ever had a cucumber that looked like a big bulb?); Marketmore cucumbers seem to keep their size and shape consistent even in poor conditions. The cucumbers have a beautiful dark green skin and get to about 8-9 inches long, and they are crisp and refreshing to eat.

Days to Maturity: 60

Best For: Slicing, eating fresh

Available at Hoss Tools.

4. Straight Eight

As the name implies, this heirloom cucumber variety is known for its uniform, straight fruits. This is a classic slicing cucumber that has been a favorite among generations of gardeners. You really can’t go wrong with this one if you want a nice, reliable slicing cuke.

Days to Maturity: 65

Best For: Slicing, eating fresh

Available at Hoss Tools.

5. Bush Pickle

This variety is great for small spaces or even container gardening. The Bush Pickle cucumber maintains a compact, upright growing habit and is ready for harvest in just 50 days! The fruits grow to about four or five inches, which makes them perfect for pickling.

Days to Maturity: 50

Best For: Pickling, eating fresh

Available at True Leaf Market.

6. Mexican Sour Gherkin (Cucamelon)

Everyone should try growing these at least once! They are these super cute little cucumbers that resemble tiny watermelons, and they taste like a fresh cucumber mixed with lemon. I prefer to grow these in a container with a tomato cage, but you can grow them in the garden too – keep in mind that you will definitely need the support of a trellis, since these vines just don’t seem to stop growing! They can be either pickled or eaten fresh; I prefer to just enjoy them fresh in the summer.

Days to Maturity: 67

Best For: Eating fresh

Available at Hoss Tools.

7. Armenian Striped Cucumber

Okay, so first things first: this is technically not a cucumber – it’s actually a member of the melon family. But I love how beautiful and unique it is, and I am a lover of all things different! You might see this heirloom variety called “Painted Serpent,” and it grows long and slightly curved. The skin is beautifully striped in light and dark green, and it’s crisp and fresh, just like a cucumber. The skin alone makes this variety a beautiful addition to a fancy veggie tray or in a salad. If you’re looking for something unique to grow, I definitely recommend this one!

Days to Maturity: 60

Best For: Slicing, eating fresh

Available at Hoss Tools.

8. Boston Pickling

This is a super old heirloom cucumber variety that dates back to 1880. This variety gives large yields of crispy, crunchy little cucumbers that are perfect for pickling and snacking on fresh. These heirloom cucumbers have a beautiful light to dark gradient from bottom to top. This is definitely another excellent choice for pickling or eating fresh!

Days to Maturity: 55-60

Best For: Pickling, eating fresh

Available at True Leaf Market.

9. Muncher

If you’re looking for a great all-around cucumber, Muncher is an excellent choice. This heirloom cucumber variety is reliable, productive, and resistant to disease. It’s also considered a dual-purpose variety, as it is great for both pickling and slicing/eating fresh. The skin is a beautiful dark green color and the skin is very smooth and almost spineless. The fruit is refreshing and delicious, and it is known to almost never go bitter. Definitely a highly recommended all-purpose cuke!

Days to Maturity: 65-70

Best For: Pickling, slicing, eating fresh

Available at True Leaf Market.

10. Tokiwa (Tokyo Green)

I don’t know about you, but I love getting my hands on rare or uncommon plant varieties. Of course, everyone has their staples, but maybe this heirloom variety will become a staple of yours! This is an old timey Japanese variety that produces 9-10 inch straight fruits on long vines. Expect big harvests from this one! Because it tends to grow long, this is a great variety for growing up a trellis, fence or other vertical support to save some space in your garden.

Days to Maturity: 55-60

Best For: Slicing, eating fresh

Available at True Leaf Market.

Conclusion

What are your favorite varieties of heirloom or open pollinated cucumbers? Do you prefer slicing or pickling cucumbers or both? Let me know in the comments!

Also, check out our top 10 heirloom pole beans and top 10 heirloom bush beans for some great companion plant ideas!

And if you’re looking to get started with homesteading and organic gardening, make sure to check out our Complete Guide to Organic Gardening and why you should plant heirloom seeds this year.

Thanks for reading!

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