Mini-cucumbers are typically cucumbers that are harvested early, when the fruit is small. They are usually quite tender, and can be consumed with or without the skin. Additionally, some varieties of cucumber have smaller vines and produce smaller fruit as a rule. The mini-cucumber is eaten both raw and pickled.
The standard varieties of cucumber can grow quite large, up to a foot or more long (30.5 cm), but they are best picked and eaten when they are about 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) long, depending on the variety. Mini-cucumbers are typically picked and eaten or preserved when they are about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 cm) long. They are usually quite tender and can be consumed skin and all.
Gardeners who desire a mini-cucumber for pickling should plant pickling cucumbers, then harvest them when they have reached the desired size. The main difference between pickling and regular cucumbers is in the skin. Pickling cucumbers have thinner skin than that of standard cukes, and it tends to be less bitter. Standard cucumbers have thicker skin that gives them a longer shelf life, so they last longer when stored. The smaller they are, the more tender the skin.
In addition to harvesting regular cucumbers when they are very small, there are also some varieties of cucumbers that produce small fruit. There are different types of mini-cucumber, just like the larger versions. It is possible to find those developed just for pickling as well as those intended for eating fresh. Not all stores carry the mini-cucumber, but it is possible to grow them in the home garden.
A big advantage of the mini-cucumber for the home gardener is that the vines do not grow nearly as large as those of the standard varieties do. The mini vines only require about half the space, typically getting no more than 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters) around. They can also be trained to grow on a trellis, resulting in further space savings, if desired.
Fans of the mini-cucumber often like to include the miniature white cucumber in the garden. This small variety has a unique appearance and is generally mild in flavor. It also has a thin skin that is not usually bitter. When sliced into salads or placed on vegetable trays this unusual cucumber almost always attracts attention.