How to Store Cucumbers to Help Them Last
A perfect cucumber is cool, crisp, and refreshing, but store it improperly or keep it in the refrigerator for too long and you'll find a gross, mushy mess in your crisper drawer. To help keep you keep cucumbers as firm and fresh as the day you bought them, be sure to follow these expert tips.
How Long Do Cucumbers Last in the Refrigerator?
The short answer: It depends. Factors like the type of cucumber, how fresh it was when you bought it, and how you store it will impact how long a cucumber stays nice and crisp. "From my experience of working with the many varieties of cucumbers that we grow on-site, different varieties store better than others," John Amann, co-chef of Castle Hot Springs in Morristown, Arizona, says. He noted that English cucumbers have a long shelf life and durable exterior, which makes them a popular choice. Kirby cucumbers are another hardy variety, according to Jay Weinstein, chef-instructor of health-supportive culinary arts at the Institute of Culinary Education. "Their skin, while edible, is less permeable," he says. "Thin-skinned cucumbers like the popular Persian variety spoil faster than more resilient kirbys." Seedless cucumbers can also last for a few weeks.
As for how fresh a cucumber is when you purchase it, Weinstein notes that there's no way of knowing how long that cucumber has been sitting in a store's produce case. When properly stored, a cucumber picked fresh from the vine can keep as long as three weeks.
What's the Best Way to Store Cucumbers in the Refrigerator?
Whether you bought your cucumbers from the supermarket or a farmers' market (or even picked them from your own garden), proper storage is important to optimize their shelf life. "Cucumbers want to be humid, but not wet," Weinstein says. If they came in a perforated plastic package, he recommends keeping them in there until you're ready to use them. "The key is to let them breathe," he says. Amann recommends storing cucumbers in a covered (but not airtight) container lined with a paper towel. "Keep in mind this vegetable will sweat once refrigerated and the liquid can pool up," he says. "Any direct contact with water will shorten your cucumber's life span."
How Should You Store Cut Cucumbers?
If you only used half a cucumber, Amann recommends wrapping what's leftover with plastic wrap and putting it back in the refrigerator. "You will have one week to use your leftover half until it begins to soften and have an undesirable texture," he says. Weinstein recommends salting the cucumber half. "Salt works magic," he says. "It'll feel just like a half sour pickle when you chomp it next." For cucumber slices, he recommends marinating them in dressing.
When Should You Throw a Cucumber Out?
Despite our best efforts, wilted greens and spoiled vegetables sometimes happen. For cucumbers, Weinstein notes that you'll be able to feel spoilage before you see it. "Soft panels of skin will give a little too easily when you pick up a cucumber that's sat for a little too long," he says. In some cases you can still salvage the parts that aren't mushy, but Weinstein says that the natural sweetness of a cucumber will go away as it rots, and is replaced by bitterness. "For a marinated cuke, or a cucumber-yogurt raita, you could easily get away with it. But not a salad-topper or crudités," he says.
Amann recommends juicing a cucumber that's past its prime and has begun to soften. But if you see mold, it's too far gone. "If you lose track of a cucumber in the drawer and it begins to grow mold, it's time to compost that cucumber," he says.