Lemon cucumber: planting, harvest & taste


I study organic agriculture and am very connected to plants and nature. At home, we run a small organic farm with a few animals, various crops and some forest. The production of healthy food in harmony with nature inspires me anew time and again.

Favourite fruit: apple, pear and plum
Favourite vegetables: potato, pumpkin and spinach

The lemon cucumber has not yet become established in our gardens. But this is only a matter of time, because the round, yellow cucumber brings variety to the vegetable patch.

Yellow lemon cucumber on plant
Although a part of the cucumber genus, lemon cucumbers look like lemons [Photo: M. Schuppich/ Shutterstock.com]

The lemon cucumber (Cucumis sativus ‘Lemon’) not only attracts attention with its exotic appearance, but is also a culinary experience. Everything you need to know about how to grow and use the lemon cucumber, you can learn here.

Lemon cucumber: origin and characteristics

Originally from the USA, the lemon cucumber is sometimes called the lemon apple, and botanically belongs to the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae). It is a variety of cucumber and can be grown in our country both in the tub and in the bed. The leaves and flowers of the plant look basically the same as those of a normal cucumber plant, whereas the fruits look more like a lemon than a cucumber. They are round, yellow and about the size of a lemon. Under its firm skin, which is covered with individual hairs, is the whitish flesh. With its tendrils, annual lemon cucumber likes to grow up to 1.5 m in height.

Cut lemon cucumber showing seeds
Lemon cucumber fruits also resemble ornamental pumpkins [Photo: M. Schuppich/ Shutterstock.com]

Planting lemon cucumbers

The optimal location for lemon cucumbers is warm, sunny and protected from the wind. The soil should be well-drained, loose and rich in nutrients. Lemon cucumber is a thirsty plant that needs a lot of water. However, it does not tolerate waterlogging. On the balcony it does very well as a tub plant on the wind-protected wall of the house, as well as in a sunny spot in a raised bed.

From mid-March you can propagate the lemon cucumber. For this purpose, a planting tray, which you can put on the window sill or in the greenhouse, is ideal. A peat-free seedling soil such as our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost is ideal as a substrate. It gives the seeds optimal conditions for germination and promotes root growth of seedlings due to its loose structure. To sow lemon cucumber, take 2 to 3 seeds and press them into the soil about 2 cm deep. Then carefully water the seeds. Alternatively, you can sow 2 to 3 seeds at a depth of 2 cm in a pot with a diameter of about 9 cm. At a temperature of 15 to 20 °C the seeds germinate after about 10 days and the first plantlets become visible.

When sowing directly into the open ground from mid-May, the same procedure is followed. A planting distance of 80 cm should also be maintained in the flowerbed. In the first weeks you can cover the seeds with a fleece. Once the cucumbers have formed two true leaves, they are pricked. Here, the strongest shoot is always left standing, and the rest are pulled out.

Yellow and orange lemon cucumber
A climbing aid keeps keeps lemon cucumber fruits from lying on the ground [Photo: Trong Nguyen/ Shutterstock.com]

The propagated plantlets can be planted out at the end of May. Here, too, make sure that the planting distance is 80 cm. We also recommended enhancing the garden soil with bone meal and compost. If you would like to cultivate the lemon cucumber as a tub plant, our Plantura Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost, which is enriched with compost and contains a primarily organic fertiliser for an adequate supply of nutrients to the plants, is ideal.

Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost, 40L
Organic Tomato & Vegetable Compost, 40L
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  • Perfect for tomatoes & other vegetables such as chillies, courgettes & more
  • For strong & healthy plant growth as well as an abundant vegetable harvest
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

Does the lemon cucumber need support? Lemon cucumber does not necessarily need support, but can also be cultivated as a creeper. If you want it to climb in height, after the formation of the first tendrils, support should be provided. This can be, for example, a trellis, but the lemon cucumber will climb up the garden fence. This will prevent the fruit from lying on the damp ground and starting to mould.

Tip: If you want the lemon cucumber to spread on the ground, bark mulch is spread on the ground. This keeps the fruit clean as well as dry and does not immediately mould.

Lemon cucumber plant with flowers
With its tendrils, lemon cucumber plants can also climb garden fences [Photo: Diane N. Ennis/ Shutterstock.com]

The right care

Growing citrus cucumbers requires some care to achieve a bountiful harvest and protect them from disease.

Watering and fertilising

In the open ground, garden soil enriched with compost and bone meal is sufficient for nutrient supply. For potted plants, however, regular fertilisation is necessary. For this purpose, for example, our Plantura Liquid Tomato Food is ideal. The liquid fertiliser can be easily applied with the irrigation water and contains a nutrient ratio optimally adapted to vegetables.

Liquid Tomato Food, 800ml
Liquid Tomato Food, 800ml
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  • Perfect for tomatoes & other vegetables
  • Liquid fertiliser for healthy plant growth & an abundant harvest
  • Quick & easy application - child & pet friendly

Lemon cucumbers are thirsty plants, so water them regularly. Lack of water leads to a lower yield of lemon cucumber. Even the taste then leaves much to be desired, in isolated cases it may even lead to bitter fruit. However, the plants are sensitive to wet feet. Be sure to always water the cucumbers only from the bottom, so that the leaves do not get wet. Otherwise, diseases like to settle on wet greenery.

Common diseases

Cool temperatures combined with humid conditions quickly lead to disease in lemon cucumber. Common fungal infections include mildew and Sclerotinia wilt.

For example, cucumber mosaic virus, which is transmitted by aphids (Aphidoidea), can affect lemon cucumber. Here, yellow or light green mosaic-like discolourations, deformations and bumps appear on the young leaves. Wilting and a low yield are signs of the virus. Cucumbers and other plants showing signs of mosaic virus should be removed from the garden immediately and disposed of in household rubbish — not compost. To prevent the virus, the carrier, i.e. the aphid, must be kept away from the plant. You can discover how to combat aphids organically in our special article. To keep diseases away in general, it is important to find a suitable location for the lemon cucumber and avoid persistent moisture.

Harvest: when are lemon cucumbers ripe?

The harvest period of the lemon cucumber is from July to September. You can easily recognise the ripe lemon cucumbers by their lemon yellow skin. Lemon cucumbers are best in the early morning and before midday, because at this time of day they contain less bitter substances. Harvest the lemon cucumber as soon as possible, then the fruits will still be nice and tender. If they stay too long on the plant, the shell becomes hard. In addition, the lemon cucumber bears more if you harvest it regularly.

Ripe lemon cucumber fruit
Ripe lemon cucumbers are about the size of a lemon [Photo: Sandra Lublinn/ Shutterstock.com]

Is it possible to obtain seeds from the lemon cucumber? Obtaining seeds is rather difficult with the lemon cucumber. Undesirable properties, such as the formation of inedible substances, often occur. In this case, it is better to use tested seeds. If you do want to try growing lemon cucumbers from your own seeds, you will need to isolate the plants from other cucurbits and hand-pollinate the female flowers, as they are purely cross-pollinators and otherwise easily cross-pollinate other cucumber varieties. Mark the fruits dusted by hand and let them ripen completely until the cucumber has a hard skin. This is usually the case in late summer. Then the appropriate fruits are harvested and the seeds are obtained. After that, the seeds still need to be dried and then stored.

Preparing and peeling lemon cucumbers

The lemon cucumber is very versatile. It can be eaten like an apple, and the fruit does not need to be peeled. As with the conventional cucumber, the peel is edible. In salads, lemon cucumber lends an exotic appearance and a special taste. For this purpose, it is preferable to slice, rather than grate. In smoothies, juices or in a cold cucumber soup, the lemon cucumber is also a good addition.

Tip: The flowers of the lemon cucumber are also edible and can be stuffed, fried or deep-fried, for example.

Lemon cucumber growing on plant
The entire lemon cucumber fruit, including the skin, is edible [Photo: Don Bendickson/ Shutterstock.com]

Lemon cucumber flavour

The taste of lemon cucumber is fresh and fruity. On the one hand, it tastes very intensely of cucumber, on the other hand, it has a slightly sweet aroma with a sour note. So it tastes just like it looks – exotic.

Lemon cucumber is a versatile plant that will probably soon conquer our gardens. You can learn about another interesting and exotic representative of the cucumber genus, the kiwano (Cucumis metuliferus), in our special article.