How To Store Cucumbers So They Stay Crisp As Long As Possible

Prevent sad, soggy cucumbers.

a wrapped cucumber beside cucumber slices
Photo: Photography: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Like fresh tomatoes and corn, cucumbers are synonymous with summer in the South. They add crunch to crisp salads and sandwiches, are crudités platter allstars, delicious in chilled soups, and might be at their best when plucked, biting with brine, from a Ball jar.

Cucumbers are one of the easiest and most prolific vegetables to cultivate at home and one of the more affordable to buy at the market.

Kelly Smith Trimble, Knoxville-based master gardener and author of Vegetable Gardening Wisdom and the forthcoming The Creative Vegetable Gardener, shares her sage advice for keeping cucumbers fresh, no matter where you procure them or how you plan to use them.

What Are Cucumbers?

Cucumbers are members of the gourd family (along with melons, pumpkins, and squash) and grow from yellow flowers on vines. While we treat cucumbers like vegetables, they are technically fruits because they grow from flowers and contain seeds.

Cucumbers originated in India and have been cultivated as a food source for more than 3,000 years. In the South, they are predominantly grown in Florida and Georgia, with harvests from Mexico supplementing our supermarkets.

Cucumbers are mostly water—96 percent, even beating out watermelon by a few percentage points. The phrase "cool as a cucumber" was coined because the interior of a cucumber can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the exterior.

Types of Cucumbers

There are two main types of cucumbers: slicing and pickling, says Trimble.

Pickling varieties have smaller fruit and thicker skin. Slicing cucumbers are what we commonly see in grocery stores: dark green, uniformly sized, and oblong. Some have been bred to be burpless, or seedless. Burpless varieties usually have more tender skin.

English cucumbers, also known as greenhouse, European, or seedless cucumbers, are a type of slicing cucumbers known for their softer seeds and thinner skin, which is why they're wrapped in plastic when sold at supermarkets. If a grocery store cucumber isn't wrapped in plastic, it is likely covered in a food-safe wax to retain the fruit's moisture and protect it from bruising and mold.

Other types of cucumbers you might see are Asian cucumbers, which have thin skin and are typically long, thin, and sometimes curved; and Armenian cucumbers, which are actually musk melons that taste and look like a cucumber on the inside.

How to Select a Cucumber

Look for green cucumbers that are firm and free of soft spots, which indicate rot. Wrinkled skin is a sign of water loss, and yellow spots signal that it's overripe.

How to Store Cucumbers

"When storing cucumbers, you want to prevent moisture loss while also preventing rot, which can be tricky," Trimble says.

To do this, she advises giving cukes an airtight "second skin" by wrapping them in plastic or beeswax wrap to slow deterioration. This method follows the lead of thinner skinned English cucumbers, which are shrink-wrapped in plastic.

Cucumbers are sensitive to the ethylene released by other, nearby fruits and vegetables as they ripen, so wrapping them also protects against this.

cucumbers wrapped in plastic

After wrapping cucumbers, Trimble likes to store them in a produce keeper placed in her refrigerator's crisper drawer. The produce keeper has a carbon filter and an elevated basket that allows for better airflow around produce.

cucumbers wrapped in plastic in a food storage bag

If you can't fit cucumbers into the crisper or produce drawer, just make sure they're not placed toward the back of the fridge where colder air could cause water-rich cucumbers to freeze.

If you're growing your own cucumbers at home, it's best to pick them early in the morning when it's cooler outside. Then wash them, dry them completely, and follow the instructions above.

How to Store Cut Cucumbers

If you've simply sliced a portion off of a whole cucumber, you can rewrap what remains in the original plastic or beeswax wrap and return it to the fridge.

wrapped cucumber

Place any smaller cucumber slices in a glass or reusable plastic container with a paper towel inside to help soak up moisture. Sliced cucumbers will not last as long as whole, so use them as soon as you can.

cucumber rounds

How Long Do Cucumbers Last?

According to the USDA, cucumbers should be used four to six days after purchase if kept in the refrigerator. When wrapped tightly in plastic or beeswax wrap, they can last even longer.

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  1. Chomicki G, Schaefer H, Renner SS. Origin and domestication of Cucurbitaceae crops: insights from phylogenies, genomics and archaeologyNew Phytol. 2020;226(5):1240-1255. doi:10.1111/nph.16015

  2. Western Institute for Food Safety & Security. Cucumbers.

  3. Colorado State University. Cucumbers.

  4. Trinklein, David. Cucumber: a brief history. University of Missouri Plant Science & Technology.

  5. USDA. Food keeper data.

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