How to Keep Cucumbers Fresh and Firm

August 13, 2018

Keep Cucumbers Fresh

Soft, shriveled cucumbers don’t make for good eating;
learn how to store them to keep cucumbers fresh and delicious

 

Crisp, crunchy cucumbers, plucked straight from the vine, are one of the quintessential foods of summer.

Topped with a little salt; dipped into a bowl full of hummus or aioli; sliced into sandwiches or salads and suddenly you’ve got the perfect meal for those hot summer evenings.

They’re also the main, most important, absolutely essential, component of homemade pickles.

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The trouble though, is that cucumbers can go from crisp and delicious to soft, mushy and sad in almost no time at all.

In fact, learning how to keep cucumbers fresh and crunchy – whether they’re bought from the store or picked straight from your garden – is probably one of the most important things you can do for yourself this summer.  It will improve your meals, your pickles and your life immeasurably!

It’s not hard to do, but it does take a few more steps than simply tossing into the  refrigerator and hoping for the best.  Here’s how to keep cucumbers fresh until you’re ready to can them or eat them!


Keep Cucumbers Fresh

Don’t Wash Them!

This may seem counter-intuitive to every other thing you’ve ever read about storing fruits and vegetables, but I’ve found out (through a lot of trial and error with squishy cucumbers) it is actually good practice if you want to keep those cucumbers fresh.

Washing can actually encourage bacterial growth in any piece of produce that you store before eating.

You can very gently brush off any loose or large or particularly odious pieces of dirt, but you don’t have to be super thorough.  It won’t hurt them to be a little dirty (or “natural” as I like to call them) for another day or two.

And always remember that you can (and should!) give them a good wash right before you use them.

Make Sure the Cucumbers Are Dry

This is the number two Most Important Thing to remember and to do!

Gently, but thoroughly, pat those cucumbers dry.  Do it a few times if you have to, but make sure that they are absolutely, without-a-doubt, unquestionably, positively, DRY.

Don’t Rub Off the Spikes

OK, I’m always guilty of this one.  It’s just so satisfying to pick a cucumber and then rub off those little spikes on it’s skin!

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The things is though that doing this breaks the skin and leaves little open wounds on the cucumber, which invite in air, moisture and microscopic bacteria that begin to eat away at the fruit, leading to mushiness.

So, even though it’s so hard to resist, don’t rub the spikes off your cucumbers!

Wrap Them in Clean, Dry Cloths

Hopefully you patted your cucumbers dry first thing after picking them or bringing them home from the store.  Next you’ll want to wrap them in a clean, dry cloth.

Ideally, each cucumber will be individually wrapped, but if you only have two or three you can also wrap them in the same towel.  Just make sure there is cloth between each of them and that none of the cucumbers are directly touching each other.

I have some flour sack towels that I keep especially for wrapping fresh produce in.  These help wick away any moisture that collects while the cucumbers are in the refrigerator.  You can also use paper towels if you have them, or any sort of dish towel.

Store Cucumbers in an  Open Plastic Bag in the Fridge

After wrapping the fruit in the towel, I place the whole bundle in an open plastic bag in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator.

I have a Ziploc bag that I reuse for this purpose, but when it finally wears out I’m going to get some of these, which will last much longer and can be machine washed.  Really, any sort of plastic or paper bag will do though, so use what you have!

The walls of the bag actually helps to protect the cucumbers from any ethylene gas given off by other fruits or vegetables in the fridge.  The ethylene gas is a normal byproduct of the aging/decomposition process of fruits and veggies, but cucumbers are extremely sensitive to it.  It makes them spoil super fast.

But why do I store them, wrapped, in an open bag?  Because fruit needs to breathe (just like we do) and closing and sealing the bag will cut off the air flow and cause condensation to develop inside.

Don’t Store Them for Long!

Even if you follow all the steps outlined above, cucumbers really don’t keep for long.

Ideally, you’ll want to use them within two or three days, although you can keep cucumbers fresh for up to a week using this method.  Any longer than that and you’ll have some mushy fruit on your hands no matter what you do.

Besides, if you have any of these delicious fruits of summer in your house, you won’t want to save them for a week anyway.  You’ll want to eat them.  And you should.

Enjoy your crisp and crunchy cucumbers!

 

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Keep Cucumbers Fresh

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