I think of summer and outdoor lunches when I think of cucumbers—they add such a refreshing crunch to salads, sandwiches, and noodles. That’s why I buy lots of them at once. Yet it’s so disappointing when I reach for a cucumber in the fridge only to find it slimy.
Why Cucumbers Get Slimy
When cucumbers have a slimy film or start to get mushy, that’s a sign that they’ve gone bad and should be composted.
“Cucumbers have a high moisture content. That is what makes them a great hydrating food. However, that high moisture content also predisposes them to a shorter shelf life,” says Amy Reed, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Cincinnati, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Is It Safe To Eat Slimy Cucumbers?
It can be tempting to try to wash off the slime or cut off the mushy parts. But the slime indicates that the whole cucumber is starting to rot and there are health risks linked to eating spoiled produce. Eating foods that show signs of going bad can lead to foodborne illnesses or stomach issues.
To avoid health risks, dispose of cucumbers that are slimy or mushy.
The Best Way To Store Cucumbers
One of the best ways to prevent spoilage is with proper storage. Ideally, store cucumbers in the crisper drawer in the fridge. They should be kept between 50°F to 54°F and about 90% to 95% humidity.
If they are kept in too-cold temperatures (below 50°F) for more than two to three days, cucumbers can develop what’s known as a chilling injury—water-soaked areas, pits in the skin, discoloration, and decay.
If cucumbers aren’t shrink-wrapped in plastic, it can help to store them in a sealed plastic bag, unpeeled and unwashed. It can also help to wrap them in paper towels before putting them in the plastic bag, suggests Reed. Paper towels can help absorb moisture to keep produce fresher for longer.
Don’t store cucumbers near tomatoes, apples, avocados, or other types of produce that emit ethylene. This gas can cause cucumbers to rot faster.
Should You Wash Cucumbers Before Eating?
Cucumbers typically are given a waxy coating—like many other fruits and vegetables—to help keep them hydrated during shipping. The wax helps keep produce fresh, inhibits the growth of mold and disease, and makes the produce look more attractive.
The coating must be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is perfectly safe to eat. But it’s still critical that you wash store-bought cucumbers well before eating.
Wash them under cool, running water or use a vegetable brush to scrub the surface. Don’t slice them until you’ve washed them. That will keep a knife from potentially spreading bacteria from the skin into the pulp of the produce.
How To Pick the Best Cucumbers
It often feels like a game of chance when you’re in the produce section, eyeing which cucumbers to choose for your cart. Cucumbers that have a thicker skin may stay fresher longer, but smaller cucumbers with thin skins can start to get slimy more quickly.
For the freshest cucumbers that shouldn’t become slimy so fast, “you will want to look for a firm cucumber with a darker green color and not have any noticeable bruises or soft spots,” says Reed. “Do not purchase cucumbers in quantities that are larger than what you can eat in a one-week time frame.”