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The Best Cucumber Plant For Making Pickles Ever – And How To Grow It!

If you are looking to make amazing pickles from your fresh cucumbers this year, you need to try the National Pickling Cucumber plant – it is by far the best cucumber plant we have ever grown for making nearly every type of delicious pickle you can imagine!

One thing is for sure, we love making homemade pickles. In fact, it’s one of the reasons we plant so many cucumber plants every year.

Whether it’s hot & spicy garlic, dill, bread & butter, or any of our other favorite pickle recipes, pickles are a passion for us. And that doesn’t just go for making them, but eating them as well!

For years, we have always grown two major pickling cucumber varieties in our garden, Bush and Boston Pickling. But last year, in addition to our regulars, we decided to give the National Pickling variety a try. And was it ever a smashing success.

There is just something so special about making pickles from fresh cucumbers. Even better, there is nothing quite like opening up a jar in the middle of winter to enjoy the taste of summer all over again.

To say that the plants exceeded our expectations would be the understatement of the year. Not only did it become the best producing cucumber plant we’ve ever grown, it also produced perfect cukes for making just about every pickle we could imagine.

The Best Cucumber Plant For Making Pickles

If you’ve never heard of the National Pickling Cucumber, it has quite a story to tell. This incredible open-pollinated variety was actually developed by the University of Michigan. And its origins date all the way back to 1929.

It was in the late 1920’s that the National Pickle Packers Association began looking for the perfect pickling cucumber. As the popularity of pickles soared, it was becoming harder and harder to find enough cucumbers to fill the packing plants. Especially a variety that would be the perfect size for jarring up.

To help in the search, the association reached out to the University of Michigan. And the University responded by developing the National Pickling cucumber plant. And was it ever the pickling cucumber plant of all cucumber plants!

best cucumber for pickle making
With quick germination, and an average 55 day seed to harvest time, the National is a fast producer from seed. It also keeps on producing all summer long.

Why The National Pickling Cucumber Is The Best Choice For Pickling

So what makes the National Pickling cucumber so great? Well, actually, there is actually quite a long list of accolades.

For starters, the National is easy to germinate and grow directly from seed. With a fast seed to harvest time frame of 55 days, there is little need to start transplants indoors.

But it is the production and pickle quality of the cucumbers that are the real success story of this variety.

The plant produces a heavy load of cucumbers from start to finish. In fact, we were flat out amazed at how our 3 trial plants produced. Our typical bush cucumbers yield about 6 to 7 pounds each year, but the National produced well over 12 pounds before we lost count in late July!

Why National Is Perfect Cucumber Plant For Making Pickles

As productive as the National Pickling cucumber is, it really shines when it comes to making pickles. The plant produces perfect cylinder-style cukes with very little taper on the ends.

Whether making overnight pickles in the refrigerator, or canning spears and more, the National shines.

And with a good resistance to the cucumber mosaic virus, it doesn’t struggle with many of the common health issues other open-pollinated cucumber varieties can have.

It’s thin skin also allows the pickle to easily absorb flavor and brine. And then there is the crispy, crunchy flesh that is nothing less than ideal for pickle making. In fact, I have to say, the crispness makes them absolutely wonderful for fresh eating too.

You can harvest Nationals at nearly any size depending on what you will use them for. Harvest early at 2″ inches to make gherkins. Or let the cucumbers grow to 3 to 5″ for creating great dill, bread and butter or spear pickles.

Want jumbo pickles? Then let them grow on up to 6 inches or more. The sky really is the limit. More than likely, as was the case with our crop, you will be harvesting to give the excess away!


Although you can start cucumber plants indoors, the National Pickling cucumber is best planted directly from seed. This eliminates any issues with transplanting, and helps to grow root strong, sturdy root systems. Seed Links : Davids Seeds – National Pickling Cucumber

planting cucumber seeds
Seeds are the way to go when planting the National Pickling cucumber. Plants will perform best with a little support in the way of a fence or trellis.

Like most cucumber plants, locate in an area that receives a lot of sunshine. A minimum of 6 hours of full sun is best, 8 is even better. If possible, plant in an area that receives early morning sun. This will help to dry off the foliage early in the day, which is a big key to help preventing mildew.

Space plants 4 to 5 feet apart, planting in small 18″ diameter mounds that are 3″ to 4″ inches in height in the middle. We plant 4 to 6 seeds around the top of the mound, and then thin to the three best seedlings after they sprout.

As with planting any cucumber, planting in mounds will allow extra moisture to wick away from the stems. This is a huge help in preventing mildew and rot. (See : The 7 Secrets To Growing A Great Crop Of Cucumbers)

Supporting The Cucumber Vines

The National is a bit of a climber and will perform better with a little support. If given fencing or a trellis to climb, it will grow to about 3 to 4′ in height. The plant can be left to sprawl, however, you will have more production and less chance of damaging fruit if a support is used.

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We grew our Nationals using a 4′ high cow panel supported by a few metal stakes. It certainly makes picking an easy chore, and kept the plants upright with ease. One thing is for sure, the National will be in our garden again this year.

Here is to trying out the best cucumber plant for making pickles this year in your garden. Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.

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