In the produce section of my grocery store, right above the big bin of work-a-day, slicing cucumbers, there sits another section of cucumbers snuggly blanketed in plastic wrap. I'm certain there's a similar setup in your local grocery store, and I have no doubt that the same question that has crossed my mind has also crossed yours: Why are some cucumbers wrapped in plastic? It's time to finally put your curiosity to rest, because I have the answer for you.
Plastic Wrap Helps Cucumbers Last Longer
Plastic wrap serves as an extra layer of protection for cucumbers that have particularly thin skin, like English cucumbers. This snug seal reduces and prevents rehydration and potential damage that can occur during packing and transit, and continues to play an important role even once you get them home.
The tight plastic wrapping also helps cucumbers last longer in the fridge at home. It acts as both an insulator to protect against cold injury and prevents and slows dehydration and spoilage. Plastic-wrapped cucumbers typically last about 10 days in the refrigerator, which is a bit longer than their unwrapped counterparts. As an added bonus it also means that less hands are touching those cucumbers before you take them home.
The Skin Makes the Difference
So, if plastic wrap protects the cucumbers and helps ensure a longer shelf life, then why aren't they all wrapped? It all comes down to the skin. English cucumbers are the variety most commonly sold wrapped in plastic because they have a particularly thin skin compared to American cucumbers, which have a thicker, tougher skin and are sturdy enough to be sold loose.