For the first time, I'm growing my own cornichon for pickling, but don't know the best time to pick them. Most recipes suggest they are ready when the fruit is about the size of your little finger - fair enough, but the fruit seems to go through two stages - small with a downy covering, then as they ripen they get a hard prickly skin. Both stages happen at the 'little finger' size - so which do I want...soft & fuzzy or hard & prickly?
Since most folks like to pickle these whole, harvesting these before the skin becomes too prickly seems like the best course. I read a number of seed instructions and some recipes as well and that seems to match up with their advice. The pickled cornichons will turn out crisper with more tartness if they're harvested before full maturity.
They can still the harvested and used as slicers if they get larger. The thick and prickly skin is less bothersome once they are cut up.