Attack of the Colossal Cucumber

Giant Cucumber

In the “How to Harvest” chapter of my book, Grow Great Grub, I explain why it is important to pick certain veggies such as zucchini, beans, and… ahem… cucumbers when they are young and immature.

Whoops. I try to stay on top of rogue fruit by checking all around leafy plants, but alas, occasionally one gets away. I found this monstrous cucumber yesterday. It was hidden deeply, camouflaged by the foliage. For comparison, this is a pickling variety that is supposed to be harvested at a fraction of this size.

Here’s the deal: We harvest the fruit of some plants such as tomatoes and melons when they are fully mature because that’s when they are at their flavour peak, and others such as cucumbers are at their best when they are young and tender. Not only do we benefit as eaters, but cheating the plant out of completing its lifecycle and producing mature fruit “tricks” it into producing a higher yield. Fortunately, one mature cucumber is not enough to signal a healthy cucumber plant that it can give up now that its job is done, but one such monster cucumber did kill a plant that I was growing in a big pot in my old roof garden a number of years back. That baby beast literally sucked the life out of the poor thing.

Incidentally, looking at a mature cucumber (Cucumis sativus) really makes it clear how closely related they are to melons (Cucumis melo).

I haven’t cut the cucumber open yet, so I’m not yet sure if the seeds inside are mature enough to be saved and grown out next year. However, that possibility aside, I’m wondering if an overgrown cucumber has any edible potential at all? When the garden gives you an oversized cucumber, you experiment in hopes of making… something, anything vaguely palatable!

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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20 thoughts on “Attack of the Colossal Cucumber

  1. I can commiserate! Last week I couldn’t figure out why my pickling cucumber plant stopped producing…there was a GIANT cucumber hiding behind the trellis.

    It didn’t occur to me to preserve the seeds, though, so thank you!

  2. I had a hidden lemon cucumber. It was bigger than the dog’s ball, which they mistook it for!

    I have to check my cucumbers from several angles and sides every day for the hiders. I have to check in the tomatoes too, since one plant crawled off the top of the trellis, down the other side and into the tomato plant.
    What did I do with my overgrown cucumber? Let my teenaged son throw it around to splat it into pieces!

  3. It’s probably not good for eating, but I’m sure you can infuse some booze with its flavour, say gin or vodka. I’ve been drinking cucumber gin gimlets (with a touch of mint simple syrup) for last month or so, they are pretty addictive!

  4. I had the exact situation the other day. If you leave them much longer, they turn completely yellow. I ate ours, well, juiced 1. I’d recommend removing the seeds. At that size, they get big and kinda tough. Mine weren’t quite mature enough for saving yet.

  5. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’m told you can make a soup with it. Discard the seeds, peel the tough skin, then use like a summer squash. Maybe try boiling a small piece to see if you like the taste and texture before ruining a whole pot of soup.

  6. I have a couple that are a bit yellow. I was going to naturally ferment them as spears. The souring process should make them palatable.

  7. I use the large ones to make cucumber syrup and add cilantro for a flavour boost. This mixed with sparkling water makes a great refreshing drink in the summer. It also makes a great cocktail when mixed with vodka!

  8. Big cuke! Pretty colours. A friend of mine makes an excellent cold curried cucumber soup. Cold wet summer in Alberta (few, if any tomatoes), finally a few hot days, but already frost warnings for clear nights! My seeded cukes (old skool National Pickling and Straight Eights) mostly didnt sprout due to the soggy spring, so I threw in a 6 pack of Sweet Slice cukes around a bamboo teepee. Urber productive this year – a minimum of 2 20-30cm English style cukes daily – dark green, sweet, crispy, no bitterness. I think they are likely overbred, but better than nothing, They will get their teepee trellis back next year. I love how they hang down – nice and straight. So far lots of cuke salads, snacks and dips, first batch of bread & butter pickles, and really tasty Cucumber Violet popcicles. I need to sort out what kind of dill pickles I can make with these (totally the wrong shape). Cucumber kimchi maybe?

    I have a couple monster zucchinis that were lurking in the undergrowth.


  9. I think there is a yellow cucumber pickle recipe in the Joy of Cooking. I’ve never made it, so I can’t comment on its flavour, but perhaps it could be scaled down for only one or two overripe cukes. Alternatively I have read of gardeners shredding cucumbers to use in place of zucchini in bread.

  10. Peel it, scoop out seeds, slice thinly. Saute onions and garlic, toss in cucumber slices, tomatoes/tomato paste, bay leaf and fresh chopped parsley; season with salt and pepper. Cook till done, about 20 minutes. Add 1 T. vinegar to finish off. Serve over mashed potatoes. Add water/stock and it’s a soup. Mashed potatoes can be added to thicken it. Freezes beautifully. This was typical summer fair at our Slovenian dinner table.

  11. Had sake in cucumber cups in Japan and it was fantastic.
    Carefully cut off the top and hollow out enough to make a cup.
    Wrap in cotton cloth just to get some of the moisture out and then put in fridge one hour before you will want to serve.
    Pour in the sake. After you are done, you can eat the cuke.
    Obviously this doesn’t work with those who like their sake warmed.

  12. One great way to use it is for asian cucumber soup. My parents always take those big ones…cut in half…seed (save for growing next years crop)….peel….and slice into 2inch pieces. Cook in chicken broth for about thirty minutes. It’s a clear broth with great cucumber flavor and the cucumber becomes soft, clear, and melts in your mouth. Delicious!

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