Don’t store your cucumbers in the fridge

Image courtesy of UC Davis. Photographer: Don Edwards

Just in time for cucumber season, some news that surprises me. Did you know that you should store cucumbers at room temperature?

Credit for my enlightenment goes to UC Davis. (May I just say bless UC Davis for all the good it does?) In this case I’m referencing their department of Post Harvest Technology. According to them, cukes should be stored at room temperature. If you do feel the need to put them in the fridge, they can tolerate up to 3 days of cold storage if they are used soon as they are removed from the refrigerator.

Seems that cucumbers are susceptible to cold injury if held more than 3 days at temperatures lower than 50F/10C. Signs of cold injury are wateriness, pitting on the outside and accelerated decay

Another factoid: Cucumbers are sensitive to ethylene gas, which is put off by some ripening fruits and vegetables. So for longest storage, don’t keep your cukes near melons, tomatoes or bananas.

Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are also damaged by cold, so keep these on your counter as well.¬† I’ve highlighted cucumbers in this post, because I think most people refrigerate them as a matter of course–I did, at least. Whereas its more common, I think, to leave tomatoes to ripen on the counter. If you want to read up on any particular fruit or veggie, see the fact sheets linked below.

UC Davis Fact Sheet on Cucumbers

Index of all their many fact sheets

“Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for Better Taste” — a handy .pdf chart to print out and hang on your fridge.

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32 Comments

  1. Hmmmm, that puts a kink in everything because I can’t leave any food out on the counter because my cat will eat it. Yes, he will even eat cukes, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes. :) He’s a weird cat.

  2. what if you get your veg in the grocery and it’s already been refrigerated? still throw it in the fridge and hope for the best or kick it to the counter once home? fresh-picked cukes will remain on the counter. thanks for the tip!

    • I think the best bet would be to eat them within 3 days before the worst of the damage sets in–and at that point, I don’t think it matters if you refrigerate or not. It also depends on how cold the cukes were kept at the store–the less cold, the less damage.

      I just realized my favorite Armenian supermarket never keeps their cucumbers in the cold section (with the lettuce &etc), but rather out on the floor in a bin. Now I know why!

    • Ack! Sorry! Correction. UC says use refrigerated cukes asap–and use them right out of the fridge–not within 3 days, as I said above.

      Where’s my head? I guess I had the 3 days thing on the brain. 3 days is how long you *can* keep your cukes in the fridge if you must.

  3. thanks so much for the link. Yet another reason I read your blog on a regular basis! Can’t go to all the trouble of growing your own food without fine-tuning post-harvest techniques…

  4. I asked the produce manager why the apples were going off whle on the shelf. He said that after they were held in cold storage, they go off upon reaching room temperature. He taught me how to search the bin for the ones just out of storage. So, I no longer have apples getting soft.

    Now, it appears that cucumbers suffer the same fate. It also appears our food was not meant to be stored in the cold of refrigeration!

    This takes some of the mystery out of disintegrating food.

  5. Hmm. I store my cukes in the fridge all the time and they usually last at least a week…but they are not refrigerated at the market, super or farmers. But if I store them on the counter, the need to e near the bananas and tomatoes, because I have a tiny kitchen. What to do, what to do…

  6. I wondered why my baby cukes kept turning mushy after a couple of days in the fridge. I will definitely give this a try.

    I guess next to the fruit bowl, there will now be the vegetable bowl

    Thanks for the info!

    • Dunno. They don’t say. I think they’d mean for instance don’t keep cukes and eth. producers all together in a big bowl on your counter, or leave them in your shopping bag because you’re too lazy to unload it (ahem… as happens around here sometimes).

  7. I like to slice up a bunch of cuke on the weekend to make salads faster during the week… Wonder if it is ok to leave them at room temp in a sealed container if they have been sliced. I kind of worry about bacteria without the protection of an intact peel.

  8. Root house storage is best in a box of at least 3″ sand; old dutch trick. Temp of Fridges crisper should be within range of a root house. Fridge should be set about 40-48o F crisper should be 48-50o F. Extend life of ‘cukes by super cooling down to near freezing in ice water (at picking time). Dry off & buff up natural wax & seal with drop veg’ oil, any will do but acid oils are better- Ideally grape seed oil. this is what my pioneering grand parents great grandparents did i n Osoyoos & Kelowna (but they used safflower oil), Myson Effa Traditional Orcharist.

  9. BUT…the fact sheet says that the optimum storage temperature is 50-55F (and that storage at too high a temperature is a cause of yellowing). It’s high summer here in the Midwest, and my kitchen’s room temperature hasn’t dipped below 70 in weeks. This week it’s probably about 90. I haven’t lived here long enough to know how warm the landlord keeps the place in the winter, but even most energy conscious people keep their heat above 55. Anyway, it sounds like room temperature isn’t optimum, either.

    • I’m wondering the same thing. It’s been in the high 80′s to mid 90′s (F) around here, and I can’t see storing them at such a high temp. In the winter? Sure. I put all kinds of produce on the counter. But in summer everything wilts and/or gets mushy very quick. Even my oranges, bananas, and plums (which I still keep in the fruit basket) are going bad quicker.

  10. Wait, 9 days at the stated temperature, then another five at 20′C? No wonder they’re not looking good. I wouldn’t expect a picked cucumber to stay particularly fresh for two solid weeks…

    Also, how in the world do you suggest we keep them at 10 or 15 celcius, before transferring them to the 20 celcius environment? I mean, I’ve got a 5-celcius refrigerator, and a roughly minus-20 freezer, but other than the heating system which kicks in when things drop below about 17-18′C I don’t have any other magic boxes that enclose food-safe environments at other regulated temperature points.

    I live in a poorly ventilated, over-glazed (with non-”thermal glass”), non-air-conditioned apartment. It gets hella cold in winter without the heating, and hella hot in summer. Like, 25′C+ is not unusual. Would the produce still survive at the higher temperatures?

    Also, I can’t say I’ve had much in the way of problems with storing peppers, tomatoes or aubergine in the fridge, except the expected eventual mould from neglecting them altogether too long…

  11. If the cucumber is uncut, I slice each end off (1/2″), add a little water in a zip-seal baggie. I put the cucumber in the baggie and make sure that the water covers the end, or both ends. I can keep cucumbers fresh for at least two weeks this way. This will work for most vegetables except leafy ones.

  12. I call shenanigans on UC’s study. There are other factors involved, because I keep my cucumbers individually wrapped in paper towels, then in a plastic bag, and on a shelf in the fridge, but not the bottom shelf because it’s too cold for them there. Uncut, they last for a couple weeks, As fresh on day ten as day one.

    If I leave them out, they go bad pretty quickly. Potatoes and tomatoes are the only ones I leave out. I even refrigerate my apples, though I cut them up and dip them in citric acid before putting them in the tupperware bin. They stay fresh for a long time.

    Anybody think I’m nuts? Or, um, fruity? :o )

  13. Also, if i do cut them, then I store them sealed in tupperware, and not in a paper towel in a plastic bag, but once they’ve been cut I’m keen on using them pretty quickly after. If I don’t get to them the next day or two, the end that was cut usually gets soft and I usually discard the soft end.

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