We wanted to know if wrapping American cucumbers in plastic—as seedless English cucumbers are packaged—would preserve freshness.
The common American cucumber has a thick, tough skin and is also coated in a food-safe wax to preserve its freshness, but we wondered recently if wrapping these cucumbers in plastic—as thin-skinned, so-called seedless English cucumbers are packaged to preserve freshness—could help them last even longer.
We stored American cucumbers in three different ways—loose, in a zipper-lock bag, and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap—and put them all in the refrigerator crisper bin. The cukes stored loose gave up the ghost first: They started to soften and desiccate after five days. The bagged ones began to rot within a week. The cucumbers wrapped in plastic wrap lasted a full 10 days before they started to soften.
Why the difference? The zipper-lock bag and the plastic wrap both helped slow moisture loss due to evaporation. But because the cucumbers in the bag could still “breathe,” water that evaporated from their skins condensed inside the bag, providing a great atmosphere for microorganisms that cause rot. The plastic wrap formed an airtight second skin, keeping moisture from leaving the fruit and nearly preventing moisture loss from occurring.
We found that this storage method also worked well with related produce like zucchini and summer squash. It will also help slow deterioration of cut cucumbers and squash, but generally once they’re cut, they won’t last nearly as long since the cut end is very prone to rotting.