The cucumber (Cucumus sativus) is a warm-season vining crop in the Cucurbit family. Cucumbers suitable for immediate consumption are referred to as “slicers,” while those for processing are “picklers.” Although there once was a large pickling cucumber industry in Kentucky, nearly all cucumbers grown commercially in the state are now for fresh market consumption.
Cucumbers are grown in Kentucky primarily for fresh market (slicing types) rather than for processing (pickling types). Some pickling types are sold at auctions and farmers markets. Fresh market options include wholesale markets, auctions, cooperatives, community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription shares, farmers markets, and roadside stands. Sales to local retail markets, such as supermarkets and restaurants, are also an option.
U.S. per capita consumption of fresh cucumbers rose about 15% (one pound per capita) from 1995 to 2005. This indicates a normal increase for quantity demanded. Consumption of cucumbers was steady from 2005 to 2009, with fresh cucumber use forecast at 6.6 pounds per capita in 2009. Prices can fluctuate, with lower prices occurring when production peaks in June. Adding value to fresh cut processing (slicing) could increase wholesale profits. A noticeable trend in the early 2010s was that restaurants showed more interest in purchasing larger lots of cucumbers for pickling at the restaurant. Kentucky’s location provides access to good wholesale markets for both spring and fall slicing cucumbers. Some Kentucky growers try to capitalize on the narrow marketing window that occurs in mid-September after slicing cucumbers from northern sources have moved from the market.