Tips for Choosing the Best Cucumbers and Exactly How to Store Them

July 23, 2017

Pickling cucumbers laying on towel

Learn everything you need to know about buying the best cucumbers at the grocery store and exactly how to store them so the cucumbers stay fresh and crisp for as long as possible.

COOK + BAKE   |   Updated April 4, 2023

Storing fresh pickling cucumbers on the counter

Cucumbers are available year round, but July is the month you really start seeing an abundance of fresh cucumbers available at local farmer’s markets and in your own backyard.

These fruits (yes, like tomatoes, cucumbers are a fruit) taste best when eaten soon after being picked and you can pretty much trust that they are ripe and juicy when buying them directly from the person who grew them.

But what if you don’t have access to fresh-from the garden produce or you are buying cucumbers outside of the local growing season?

Slices of cucumber on cutting board with a knife

A few days ago, I picked up a few cucumbers from my local grocery store with the intention of making sautéed cucumbers for dinner. As I sliced into the just-purchased fruit, I was disappointed to see that they were so full of seeds that there wasn’t much “meat” left to sauté. And one of them was no good at all.

This got me wondering if there is a way to know what the cucumber is going to be like on the inside without having to cut into it first. And is there a way to store them to increase the length of time you have to eat it? Because it sure seems like you buy them and a few days later the cucumbers are slimy and soft.

The good news is that the answer to both questions is yes, and this post is going to share everything I have learned in the hopes that it will help you to know what to look for when you go shopping for cucumbers, too, and what to do with the ones you bring home.

The way a cucumber is stored can have a big impact on how long it will stay fresh and crisp.

Two pickling size cucumbers on marble countertop This post contains affiliate links which means I receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase using the link, but there is no additional cost to you. For more information, you can view my disclosure policy.


Exactly What are Cucumbers?

A few fun facts...

They are a member of the gourd family that also includes melons, pumpkins, and squash and are considered fruits because they grow from flowers and contain seeds.

They originated in India and have been grown as a food source for over 3000 years!

Because cucumbers are 96% water, problems arise when trying to store them for an extended period of time.

  • Some varieties, like English cucumbers, are generally sold wrapped in plastic to help them retain their moisture.

  • Other grocery store varieties are covered in a food-safe wax that helps keep the moisture inside and protect the cucumber from bruising and mold. You’ll want to peel these just prior to eating to remove the wax coating.

  • Those purchased from a farmer’s market, co-op, or natural food store will likely be unwaxed meaning you’ll need to take extra precautions about storing them. Those that are picked fresh from the vine can sometimes last as long as three weeks if stored properly

There are a few tips later in this post for exactly how to store cucumbers to increase their lifespan once you bring them home.

How to Choose the Best Cucumbers at the Grocery Store


You’ve got to be picky when it comes to choosing fruits and vegetables. Really inspect them over for blemishes, soft spots and damage before adding anything to your cart. Those imperfections are a good indication the fruit or vegetable is no good.

When shopping for cucumbers at the grocery store, here is what you want to look for:

  • Firm throughout without any blemishes or soft spots which can indicate they have started to rot.

  • Uniform dark green color all over without any yellow spots which develop when the cucumber has been on the vine for too long and is likely getting overly ripe.

  • Avoid any cucumbers that have wrinkles as they form when the fruit is old and losing moisture.

  • The cucumber should have rounded ends with an oblong shape right to the tops. A bulge in the middle indicates there is a pocket of large seeds inside.


While it may seem like you’re getting the best bargain by buying the biggest fruit, the largest cucumbers are not what you want.

Look for smaller cucumbers because they typically are crisper and have fewer seeds. And the seeds they do have are generally tiny.

Ideally, you want them to be skinny and between six and eight inches long (unless you are buying an English cucumber which is longer).


Cucumbers are categorized into two groups:

  • Slicing Cucumbers: These are the cucumbers you buy for adding to salads. They are generally longer and what you commonly see at the grocery store. They are dark green, oblong, and uniform in size for the most part. Common slicing cucumbers would be the English and Persian varieties.

  • Pickling Cucumbers: These are the ones used for making pickles and canning. Picking cucumbers are shorter and skinnier. They stay fresh longer than the slicing and have a thicker skin. The most common pickling cucumbers are gherkins, national, and regal.

The Spruce has a great article describing the difference between varieties that you’ll find.

Woman slicing small pieces of cucumber with a knife.

How to Store Whole Cucumbers to Keep Them Fresh

There appears to be much debate over the correct way to store cucumbers, so I really believe it is a matter of preference.

Some articles say it is best to store them on the counter, while others say to put them in the refrigerator. Cucumbers prefer to be stored at 50 degrees which is a temperature in the middle of the two locations, so the choice is ultimately yours. Keep in mind that cucumbers like to be humid, but not wet.

After reading through a lot I’ve articles, refrigeration sounds like the best option to me if you are not going to be able to eat the cucumber within a day or two of purchase. If you decide refrigeration is your best be as well, here are a few tips that will get you the longest life out of your grocery store purchase:

  • Moisture loss contributes the most to spoiling, so limiting this offers the best protection. Wrapping the cucumber tightly with plastic wrap or beeswax wrap prevents the moisture from leaving the fruit. Master gardener and author Kelly Smith Trimble refers to this as an airtight “second skin.”

  • Simply putting a cucumber in a plastic zip-loc bag or keeping it inside the grocery store’s produce bag allows moisture to buildup inside, leading to mold and spoilage. The produce bag should not be used at all, and if you are going to put the fruit in a closeable plastic bag, wrap it first in a piece of paper towel to absorb the moisture.

  • Make sure that the cucumbers are completely dry before putting them into the fridge. Leave them unwashed, if possible. Excess water on the surface encourages spoiling.

  • Fruits like avocados, melons, tomatoes, apples, and bananas release ethylene gas. Cucumbers are highly sensitive to this and will turn yellow and deteriorate quickly if stored too close.

  • Waxed or wrapped cucumbers will keep chilled in the refrigerator for a week or two. Unwaxed will last for up to a week wrapped and stored in the crisper.

  • Varieties like English and Kirby cucumbers have a longer shelf life because of their thicker skin. A thin-skinned cucumber like the Persian spoil faster.

This is an interesting read about an experiment done to determine the best way to store cucumbers in the refrigerator.

How to Store Cucumbers After Slicing

Once you have cut into the cucumber, wrap the remaining portion in plastic wrap or beeswax wrap and return it to the crisper drawer. Unused portions should be eaten within a few days.

Place cucumber slices in a glass or reusable plastic container filled with paper towels to soak up the moisture. They will not last long when cut, so eat them as soon as you can.

Frequently Asked Questions


Yes, but….The texture will not be the same. They will not stay crisp or have a crunchy texture, but they will retain their delicious flavor.

While you can’t necessarily freeze a cucumber whole, you can slice it, cut it into spears, or freeze small chunks with water in ice cube trays. These can later be pulled out and used in smoothies, added to fruit water or turned into a cucumber soup.

You can also add cut cucumbers to a blender and turn them into a puree before freezing. Using this method, You can even turn the puree into tasty cucumber popsicles for a hot summer treat!


Many are worried about our use of throw away plastics and hate to hear that plastic wrap is the best method for maintaining a fresh cucumber. As mentioned above, another alternative to plastic wrap is reusable beeswax wrap which can be made at home or purchased online..

I’ve also seen people referencing Debbie Meyer GreenBoxes, but I cannot confirm how well they actually work.

Lots of long green cucumbers

Cucumbers are a delicious addition to a tossed salad or vegetable platter. They can be eaten raw, sauteed, mixed into a summertime salad or added with strawberries for a deliciously flavored water.

However you enjoy them, I hope that this post has helped give you confidence in picking out the best cucumbers next time you go grocery shopping and provided some insight into how to store your cucumbers so they last for weeks.

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