When the summer season rolls around and cucumbers are ready for harvest from gardens or for purchase at local farmers markets and grocery stores, this cool, refreshing vegetable becomes a popular addition to many dishes. From green smoothies to salads, cucumbers don't pack a lot of calories, but they're rich in vitamins A and K, making them a healthy addition to meals and snacks. With the proper storage, cucumbers usually will stay good for up to 10 days. Use a tip or two to store your cucumbers to enjoy this nutritious vegetable throughout the summer.
How to Choose Good Cucumbers
To ensure the longest possible cucumber shelf life, begin by choosing them wisely when you buy them or pick them from your garden. Cucumbers should have a deep green skin that's largely smooth with the occasional bump. The vegetable should be firm to the touch, with a slight give when pressed with the thumb. If the cucumber you choose meets this description, it will also probably be crisp when you slice into it.
If a cucumber is soggy or bends a lot when you pick it up, it's gone bad and should be tossed. If you see white mold on the skin, again, throw it away. If you're picking or buying cucumbers in bulk, try to select enough to suit your immediate needs. The rest should be just short of ripe and can be ripened off the vine, extending the amount of time you have to use them before they go bad.
Whole cucumbers can be stored at room temperature for about five days, but cucumber shelf life doubles when you store them in the fridge. Whole, unwashed cucumbers stored in the vegetable crisper drawer of the fridge will yield the best results for storage.
Sliced cucumbers should be packed into a self-sealing container and stored in the fridge. Even though this is the best way to store them, they'll only keep their taste and texture for one to two days. After that, they'll begin to lose their crispness.
Don't attempt to freeze cucumbers. Cucumbers spoil quickly and even can be damaged if they spend too much time in the fridge. If frozen, cucumbers will turn to mush and be inedible.
How to Use Leftover Cucumbers
Because of the short shelf life of cucumbers, it's important to have several options to use your leftovers quickly so they don't go to waste. Cucumbers that have been sliced can be used as a healthy alternative to tortilla chips with salsa and other spreads. You can use cucumbers to make a chilled green soup or even add them to cocktails. Green smoothies mask any of the sogginess of older cucumbers.
Chilled, sliced cucumbers are also a refreshing addition to salads or salad dressings. Make a cucumber salad with vinegar, olive oil, feta and other seasonings. Try a spin on a Greek salad, which comprises diced cucumbers with onion, tomato, bell pepper and feta. This chunky vegetable medley is a perfect side dish during the hot summer months. Fresh corn, bell pepper, jalapeño, cucumber, cilantro and cherry tomatoes combine to make a cold salad that will quickly use up any cucumbers on the brink of turning bad.
Try searching online food websites, such as Allrecipes, Food52 and Minimalist Baker, for recipes that call for cucumbers. Your search will yield plenty of ideas and recipes, and they also can serve as inspiration to create your own cucumber-forward recipes.
Molly is a freelance journalist and social media consultant. In addition to Leaf.tv, Molly has written for Teen Vogue and Paste magazine. She is the former assistant editor of the Design and Style section of Paste magazine. View her work at www.mmollyharris.com.