What are lemon cucumbers and Lemon Cucumber, Pesto Recipe

What is a lemon cucumber? Lemon cucumbers are a fun and refreshing addition to your garden and Summer kitchen recipes.

Lemon Cucumber Recipe with Pesto Recipe | @whiteonrice

What is a lemon cucumber? How to grow a lemon cucumber | @whiteonrice

What is a lemon cucumber? How to grow a lemon cucumber | @whiteonrice
Like little balls of sunshine, these round, striped vegetables are, oddly enough, cucumbers. Thinking that these are un-edible gourds is more believable than being told that they’re actually edible lemon cucumbers. Looking like lemon colored gourds with cucumber features in the center, these lemon cucumbers are too unique and interesting to pass up. Though they have no lemon flavor, the overall size and color is what gives these lemon cucumbers their recognizable name. They have the same distinctive cucumber flavor and texture that we’re familiar with. Only exception is that the skin is slightly thicker and the center is more seedy as the fruit stays on the vine longer. Eat them when they’re more younger with a lighter yellow color so that’ they’re more crisp and tender.

Watch Video of our Lemon Cucumber with Pesto Recipe: 

What is a lemon cucumber? How to grow a lemon cucumber | @whiteonrice

What is a lemon cucumber? How to grow a lemon cucumber | @whiteonrice

We had never seen them at the markets before when we were first researching them in 2008. We were fascinated and since seeing is believing, we decided to see, touch, taste and grow these for ourselves. After a visit to the nursery and two lemon cucumber plants later in our whiskey barrels, their crazy, twining, serpent vines were stretching beyond the barrels and tangling on to anything that crossed it’s path! If you are growing them here’s a warning: Lemon cucumbers vines grow and crawl like serpents! Start with just one plant and give it plenty of room!

With some good draining soil, frequent watering and a good stretch of warm weather, these vines are proliferating with yellow balls of beauteous lemon cucumber plants! They are so easy to grow and before we knew it, we’ve got enough lemon cucumbers to last us the whole summer. All you cucumber loving gardeners will just love adding this to your vegetable patch. Lemon cucumbers are super crunchy and sweeter than their regular long green counterparts. Perfect for salads or just munching on, these cute little cukes are a great conversation piece too! They really do look like yellow gourds and round meyer lemons but when you bite past the yellow peel, you’ll see that they’re all cucumber on the inside: juicy, crisp and sweet.

We made a pesto from our garden basil to top off these refreshing basket of lemon cucumbers, but didn’t have an more of the required pine nuts. Our pantry was empty on the nuts, something we need to re-stock on ASAP. Our simple garden pesto was made from basil leaves crushed in the mortar pestle, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Parmesan and a little garlic. It was still a delicious topping to this Summery lemon cucumber pesto dish!

Lemon Cucumber Recipe with Pesto Recipe | @whiteonrice

Lemon Cucumber Recipe with Pesto Recipe | @whiteonrice

This “What is a lemon cucumber” post and recipe was originally published in 2008 and updated in 2018 with new photos and recipe.

5 from 1 vote
Lemon Cucumber & Pesto Recipe
Prep Time
20 mins

Lemon cucumbers have no lemon flavor and their skin is slightly thicker and the center is more seedy as the fruit stays on the vine longer. Eat them when they’re more younger with a lighter yellow color so that they’re more crisp and tender.

For the pesto, adjust the amount of parmesan cheese according to your preference. The more parmesan you use, the rich the pesto will be, however it will also become lighter in color. Adjust the amount of oil depending on your personal preference for how thick you like your pesto. 

Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 248 kcal
  • 3-4 medium lemon cucumbers
  • 2 cups fresh Italian basil leaves
  • 1/2 - 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (see head note)
  • 1/4 cup toasted nuts (pine nuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, peanuts)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice , optional
  • 2 cloves garlic , or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt, to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper , to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (approximately)
  • pinch red chili flakes (optional).
  1. Slice or chop cucumbers. If the skin is too tough, peel the skin and if the seeds are too hard, remove the seeds.
  2. In food processor: combine basil leaves, parmesan, nuts, garlic, optional lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. While blending, gradually add the olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning to personal preference and blend again if needed.

  3. If using traditional mortar and pestle: add basil leaves a few at a time with the garlic. Crush and grind the all the leaves and garlic until well combined. Add the nuts and cheese and continue combining into the basil mixture until a paste forms. Add the optional lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir and slightly grind until the everything is incorporated into the pesto.
  4. Taste the pesto and add additional salt/pepper to taste. If you want some spice, add a pinch of red chili flakes.
  5. Dress the pesto over cucumbers.
  6. Leftover pesto can be stored sealed and refrigerated overnight.
{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. moureen bass

    We bought what we thought were cuke plants, and as they grew they looked like summer squash.<long thin and yellow, When we cut into them we were amazed that they smelled and tasted like cukes but milder. As I rule I don t eat cukes because I get to taste them for days later, but these never did that. I was delighted and got my fill of them last summer. Now am having a problem finding them. And to top it off, the place we bought the plants from says he never had them.

  2. JerryP

    Try lemon cucumbers pealed, when they have no yellow on their skin. Yellowing means they are over ripe and good for maturing for seeds. Light pearly green lemon cucumbers are great, once you’ve had them you’ll save the yellow ones for seed.

  3. Caleb

    The “lemon cucumber” is actually a cross between a cucumber and a melon. So should more appropriately be named a cucumber melon.

  4. Debbie

    You guys are my heros:)
    Until now, I had fresh basil, and about 25 lemon cukes, and NO IDEA what to do with them:)
    LOve this one!!

  5. Betty

    Does anyone have a good pickle recipe for the Lemon Cucumbers? I have the cukes, but don’t know how to make the pickles.

    1. Sandy lethin

      recipe for spicy lemon cucumber pickles
      Use organic ingredients whenever possible…

      *5-6 lemon cucumbers, sliced into wedges
      *1/4 large red onion, sliced
      *1 Serrano chili pepper, seeded and minced
      *1 tablespoon minced ginger
      *1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
      *1 qt. glass Mason or other jar
      *1 Tb. Himalayan or sea salt
      *filtered water

      1. Place sliced cucumbers in a large bowl and mix with the minced pepper, ginger, and lime juice. Pack this mixture into your 1 qt. glass jar.

      2. In a separate bowl, mix the salt with 1 cup filtered water. Pour this into the jar over your cucumbers. Add more filtered water to bring the liquid about 1 inch below the top of the jar. All of the cucumbers should be covered (rearrange/remove a few if they are not).

      3. Cap tightly and allow to sit for 3 days at room temperature.

      4. Open the jar and see if the liquid is fizzy. If not, re-cap and allow them to sit for 1-2 more days. If there is evidence of lacto-fermentation (that’s the fizziness), go ahead and taste a pickle. If you are satisfied with the flavor, transfer to the refrigerator for storage.

      Adapted from Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.

  6. Maija Haavisto

    You didn’t have any other nuts? You can put any nuts or seeds in pesto, whether walnuts, pistachios or hempseed. :->

    I’ve never seen lemon cucumbers, but they look really pretty. Would be fun to serve to guests!

  7. Zoe

    I have them in my garden and was wondering how big do they get and how do you know when they are ready to eat? The one that looks ready is the size of a lemon, maybe a little smaller. I’m going to try the pesto recipe with my basil that is going to seed.

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Hi Zoe. That sounds like about the same size out lemon cucumbers got. We would eat them after the turned a nice yellow. Enjoy!

  8. Sandi Bernard

    Just Googled round cucumbers and came up with your website. Couldn’t believe they were cucumbers! Now can anyone help me with recipes to use them in. They grew in my garden this year. We figure the seeds were in with the pickling cucumbers we planted.

  9. Greg Baker

    I found lemon cucumbers at my local vegetable stand in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada on 15 September 2009. I don’t know if they were local (Nova Scotian) or from farther away. I haven’t tried them yet, but will male a salad and feature the lemon cucumber sliced thinly on top. Paid 99 cents each, so they are a little pricey ($CDN).

  10. Marvin

    The price of pine nuts drove me to try sunflower seeds in my pesto–I never went back!

  11. mickey

    lemon cucumbers are growing like wild in my little garden in North Idaho….incredible growth and very, very good to eat. I have them planted against a 6 foot wire fence they are reaching above the fence by a few inches…very prolific!

  12. Jody

    I just sliced and tasted my very 1st lemon cucumber and it tasted wonderful! I planted 3 plants on the side of my deck so they would have the chance to grow and crawl up the railing. it worked great!

  13. Mavis Lombardi

    My husband planted these cute lemon cucumbers in our backyard. They do sprawl all over the garden and are extremely prolific. I have a bunch on my counter right now and am madly peeling and slicing them for a greek style salad with red onions balsamic vinegar, olive oil and feta…yum! Oops! It’s 2:00…better go check the garden, again!

  14. Coffee and Vanilla

    Wow, I did not know there are lemon cucumbers!!

  15. ooohhitskaren

    I just ate my first lemon cucumber..if you don’t let the skin too dark and pick them early..the skin is just as yummy..not nasty tasting like other cucumbers I’ve had. And no bitterness what so ever. I can’t wait for mine to just go crazy with fruit so I can make pickles and relish and can them…yum yum!!! I bought my 2 plants at my local hardware store…I didn’t know what they were and said what the heck..I’ll try and grow something new and different. Boy am I happy about it…I’ve been going into my garden every evening with a flashlight looking to see if I am getting any fruit from my lemon cucumber vine…watching them grow..finally I got brave and picked one tonight since I didn’t really know when to pick them..cut it open and took a big bite…yum yum!!! Now I can’t wait for the rest to ripen and grow!!! I get so impatient…lol

  16. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    These look incredible! Love them and now I’ll be looking and looking no doubt. Are they very perishable? Lemon cucumbers . . . I’m floored!

  17. Rebecca (Foodie With Family)

    Ooooooh! I just got a really unexpected treat that I had to share with you. A prolific gardener friend dropped by for the first time in months today. She brought me the extras that she had started from seed and been unable to fit in her garden: 10 varied heirloom tomato plants, a bell pepper plant, some thyme and… drumroll… two lemon cucumber plants!

    Thanks to you two I didn’t have to say, “Lemon cucumber!? What’s that?”

  18. Denise & Lenny

    We don’t have a wok – I just use a big pan. Can I submit a yummy potato salad that I made for our faux camping trip?

  19. melissa

    I have never had pesto, but have been itching to try it for a while. This is the *fourth* post I’ve seen talking about it today. Definitely on my to do list for the weekend.

  20. Jen Yu

    Those cukes are adorable! Or maybe they’re beautiful? I can’t tell how big or small they are. So if they are little, they are adorable, if they are large, they are beautiful 🙂 And did I mention they look delicious?!?! And did I also mention that you guys rock the garden? When I come to visit you wonderful people, I am going to bring a tent and live in your backyard forever. I’ll pay rent… xxoo

  21. nikkipolani

    Very cool looking cucumbers! And with our hot weather, who couldn’t do with another cool recipe?!

    I’ve just finished writing up my WW:potatoes post. Just so I’m clear: I post my entry within the next two weeks and send you the link? That’s it?

  22. giz

    They do look like gourds and have never seen them before. For sure they’re not growing in Canada – I’m sensing they need a certain type of soil to grow properly. They’re adorable – you can use them in a salad and decorate your table with them all at the same time – gorgeous.

    1. Lisa

      I’ve been able to grow them in the Niagara Region, let me know if you’d like to try and I can send you some seeds for next year. Cheers

  23. shayne

    oh wow those cukes are so cute. My 2 year old loves cucumbers and have about 5 planted around the yard but nothing like this, I will have to try them next year.

  24. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy

    Wow! I have never seen or heard of a lemon cucumber before! They look so pretty! Now that I’m on a garden roll, (thanks to you), I’ll have to see if I can find some to plant.

    As always, your photos are stunning!

  25. Big Boys Oven

    wow this melon look awesome and I can imagine hoe it taste with pesto! lovely!

  26. Kevin

    Lemon cucumbers sounds really interesting. I will have to keep an eye out for them!

  27. grace

    worc, i thank you for introducing me to these interesting little buggers! they sould like something i’d really enjoy growing and eating and bragging about to my friends!

  28. Rebecca (Foodie With Family)

    Wow! I’ve never heard of lemon cucumbers before. Can you get the seeds through Fedco? I’m curious and now I have to check whether they’d do well in the not-so-temperate zone that is the Southern Tier of NY. Hmmmm… I’m off to check my Amish greenhouse up the road!

    Thanks for the heads up on a fun new-to-me veg.

  29. matt wright

    OK, I am starting to think there isn’t a single vegetable or fruit that you don’t grow.. Why you even bother going to farmers markets I don’t know 🙂

  30. cookinpanda

    Absolutely gorgeous looking. I’m very jealous.

  31. sharon

    These are amazing looking and they sound quite tasty! I’m surprised I’ve never seen them anywhere, except for here! 🙂

  32. Lisa (Show Me Vegan)

    Thanks for introducing me to a new veggie! Those are beautiful! And it’s certainly the time of year for pesto – I made vegan pesto this week with my basil that was getting unruly.

  33. Lisa

    I’ve never seen a lemon cucumber before! How totally cool. I think I need to get googling now and see if I can get a plant for next years growing season!

    Oh….must research potato dishes also!

  34. dhanggit

    oh this is the first time i’ve seen this beauties…wish i could find some in the market too 🙂 i would love to try that salad with pesto you made..looks gorgeous and healthy!!

  35. Karen

    My mom used to grow lemon cucumbers in our yard. I haven’t seen once since I was a kid! Thanks for updating this childhood favorite.

  36. Happy Cook

    Hi hi i am going to post a simple dish, whick i make almost thrice a week, Mash potato 🙂

  37. Peter

    Great new find…what are the origins..Asian or an obscure European veggie?

    I’ll be on the lookout…you guys are the “shit”, cutting-edge veggies! lol

  38. Helen

    Those lemon cukes are adorable! I’d love to try growing them myself. I wonder if I can grow them on my balcony in the UK?

  39. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    I remember the first time I tasted a lemon cucumber — it was a revelation! A friend had them from her garden, and I kept asking her, shamelessly, if I could have more. I would make a dressing with the lemon thyme from my garden, to heighten that citrus flavor, and the dish instantly became one of my favorite summer salads.

  40. Wendy

    Wow, these are crazy! Would try growing them myself but suspect it’d be too cold here. Perhaps sometime when I get a greenhouse. Till then I’ll keep my eye out for them in the shops. 🙂

  41. Manggy

    Thanks for the heads up guys! I hope I can manage to make something! 🙂 (I keep forgetting that it’s not strictly a stir-fry blog event… D’oh!!)
    When I saw the title, I thought it was cucumbers sauteed in citrus… Imagine my surprise when I learned that was the name of the vegetable (er, fruit) itself! I even thought the first picture was of a few peeled lemons! Nice, refreshing recipe, looks great 🙂

  42. Kitt

    Ooooh! Yes! I’m posting homemade potato chips tomorrow.

    I’ve grown lemon cukes before and enjoyed them, but they’re tricky to peel. Being round and all. I’ll try this with regular ones, if they ever decide to grow. (Most of what I planted three weeks ago is still just thinking about it.)

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