Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Raleigh, North Carolina » Food Science Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #319461

Research Project: Improved Processes for the Preservation and Utilization of Vegetables, Including Cucumber, Sweetpotato, Cabbage, and Peppers to Produce Safe, High Quality Products with Reduced Energy Use and Waste

Location: Food Science Research

Title: Cucumber fermentation

item FRANCO, WENDY - University Of Catolica De Chile
item Johanningsmeier, Suzanne
item LU, JEAN - Kennesaw State University
item DEMO, JOHN - John Demo Consulting, Inc
item WILSON, EMILY - North Carolina State University
item MOELLER, LISA - Fermenting Solutions International, Llc

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/3/2015
Publication Date: 10/27/2016
Publication URL:
Citation: Franco, W., Johanningsmeier, S.D., Lu, J., Demo, J., Wilson, E., Moeller, L. 2016. Cucumber fermentation. Book Chapter. Chapter 7. p. 107-155.

Interpretive Summary: Humans have consumed fermented cucumber products since before the dawn of civilization. Through time, human populations have developed these processes to create many different products and prolong the shelf life of highly perishable vegetables, such as cucumbers, thereby increasing food security. This book chapter highlights the current knowledge associated with cucumber fermentation. We start with a detailed description of the industrial scale process, followed by information that explains the scientific basis of the microbial and chemical changes occurring during cucumber fermentation, and finish with trends, current innovations, and future directions for cucumber fermentation.

Technical Abstract: Humans have consumed fermented cucumber products since before the dawn of civilization. Although cucumber fermentation remains largely a traditional process, it has proven to be a consistently safe process by which raw cucumbers are transformed into high quality pickles that have a long shelf-life at ambient temperatures. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB), especially Lactobacillus plantarum, which drives the fermentation process in community with yeast, both aerobic and anaerobic, confer the flavor and aroma characteristics of the end product. Conditions for natural fermentations that consistently result in high quality products that are microbially stable for many months include: 1) brining with sodium chloride and calcium chloride to equilibrate with the cucumbers at 6-7% (wt/vol) and 0.2-0.4%, respectively; 2) purging fermentation brines during active fermentation to remove carbon dioxide which can cause hollow cavities inside whole cucumber fruits; and 3) excluding oxygen from the process as much as possible during fermentation and storage. However, to create more sustainable industrial processes, continued efforts will be needed to further reduce the salt used for brining while still delivering safe, high quality fermented cucumber products to consumers. Future developments will likely involve the strategic selection of LAB starter cultures with health promoting properties (probiotic and bioactive compound generating) to enable controlled fermentation processes and develop novel products.