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Why Does My Cucumber Have Spikes – Is It Normal?

Cucumbers, believe it or not, actually have a lot of different varieties. Some are best for pickling, some have thicker skin, some are smaller than others, some have tiny hairs, and some have spikes. Cucumbers with spikes are very common and nothing to be afraid of.

Cucumbers are native to India and, over time, began growing spikes to protect themselves from predators. Although there are different varieties, cucumbers are lumped into two distinct categories: pickling and slicing. It is found that the slicing varieties are more spiker than the pickling varieties of cucumber. 

To understand and learn more about why cucumbers have spikes and if they have other meanings or are safe to eat, keep reading!

Picking vs. Splicing Cucumbers

First, it’s good to know the difference between pickling and slicing cucumbers. Slicing cucumbers are usually thicker skinned. Slicing cucumber plants produce more and have larger, longer cucumbers. Usually, these cucumbers also are bred to be less spikey and have more hairs.

Pickling cucumbers are much smaller, about 3-5 inches, and they much crispier than slicing cucumbers. Pickling cucumbers also have thick skins, but they aren’t as bitter as slicing cucumbers, and the skins have much sharper spikes. Here are some examples of pickling and slicing varieties.

Pickling Cucumbers Slicing Cucumbers
CalypsoSweet Success
EurekaSalad Bush
Bush PickleStraight Eight
RegalSugar Crunch 
Boston PicklingBush Champion

Hybrid vs. Heirloom Cucumbers

All cucumbers fit into this category as well. Most hybrid cucumbers have been bred to have fewer spikes, which is why at the grocery store, you will rarely see cucumbers with spikes. Since the demand for spike-free cucumbers was much higher, scientists have bred them to grow with fewer spikes, thinner skins, and, in general, taste sweeter. Here are some examples of both hybrid and heirloom cucumbers.

Heirloom CucumbersHybrid Cucumbers
Boothby’s BlondeSweet Success
Crystal AppleStraight Eight
Boston PicklingPoinsett 76
White WonderGreen Long
American Dark GreenSalad Bush

Difference Between Hybrid and Heirloom

Heirloom cucumbers are cucumbers from seeds that have been passed down for generations with no modifications or changes. They are the original cucumber. To create a hybrid cucumber, you need two heirloom varieties that act as the parents. The hybrid that is created is sort of like the baby of the two heirloom cucumbers.

Heirloom varieties are self or open-pollinating. Meaning they pollinate on their own, and you can save the seeds of heirloom cucumbers to create the same variety the next time around. Hybrid cucumbers are not open-pollinated. You can’t save the seeds from hybrid cucumbers and get what you want out of them. To recreate that hybrid variety, you would need to cross its parent varieties (the heirloom cucumbers).

Many hybrid cucumbers have been bred to be less spiky, greener, longer, juicier, and an all-around bigger cucumber. You know, what everyone wants from their cucumbers. There is nothing wrong with hybrid or heirloom cucumbers, and whichever one you want to grow is just fine!

How To Harvest Cucumbers With Spikes

Cucumber spikes can be very painful and hard to maneuver around when harvesting. Wear protective gardening gloves; the thicker, the better. Snip the small vine that connects the cucumber from the plant. Use pruning shears or a sharp knife because it is easier on the plant, and you don’t risk damaging the roots.

How To Eat Cucumbers With Spikes

There are a few different methods to get rid of cucumbers’ spikes. It all depends on how sharp the spikes are and what you want to do with them. Let’s take a look.

  1. Brine
    • If you are interested in brining your cucumbers to make pickles, you can just put the whole cucumber (spikes and all) into the vinegar, and within a week, the spikes will have dissolved.
  2. Soaking
    • A method I often use is the soaking method. I take all my spikey cucumbers and let them sit underwater overnight. The water helps break up the spikes. You can easily rub off the spikes or use a sponge to get them off the next day.
  3. Rubbing
    • This is the same method as soaking; however, it doesn’t involve letting them sit overnight. You can do the same thing right away. Hold the cucumbers underwater and use a sponge to rub the spikes off. You can also put salt on your cloth or sponge to help break down the spikes.

What Are The Spikiest Varieties of Cucumber?

Whether you want to avoid them or seek them out, here are the spikiest varieties of cucumbers you can grow! Remember, most of the spikiest cucumbers are heirloom varieties since hybrids have been modified to be less spiky.

  1. Parisian Gherkin- Gherkins are commonly known as the best cucumber type for pickling. You can pick them at their midget size for finger pickles or wait until they are fully grown for larger pickles.
  2. Spiky Indian Cucumber- Or the Maroon cucumber, originating in Africa (despite its name). These cucumbers grow in a round, oval shape and are slightly smaller. They produce many cucumbers from one plant, and each cucumber is full of very sharp thick spikes.
  3. African Horned Cucumber- One of the most beautiful and unique cucumbers (in my opinion), they are a similar shape to the maroon cucumber, but they are a vibrant orange color when they are ready to harvest with a deep green inside. The spikes aren’t as thick as those from a maroon cucumber, but they are still sharp. The taste of this cucumber can be described as a tropical flavor, almost tasting like banana and citrus.
  4. Kirby Cucumber- One of another great variety for pickling. These are common cucumbers, growing a little short and thick with very bumpy skin.
  5. Cornichons- An even smaller version of the gherkin variety. These are about 1-2 inches when they are ready to harvest. They are excellent for pickling and are naturally a little bit tart. They are covered in little bumps/spikes.

Final Thoughts

Cucumbers were always intended to have spikes. Initially, they all did to protect themselves against predators. Today, we have used modifications to make hybrid varieties of cucumbers that have fewer spikes and many other gardening and culinary benefits. There is nothing wrong with a spiked cucumber; it just takes a little bit of extra preparation! Happy gardening!