Pickle Power!

They're tangy. Sometimes crunchy. Even sweet at times. They add texture, acidity, and heat if they're made with chilies. They can be left to develop flavour in seasoned vinegar. Or they can be made through fermentation. Simple techniques applied to what the Earth produces give rise to textures and tastes that surprise and warm.

Pickles have been around since the time of Cleopatra,, who hailed them as key to her beauty and health. Pickles played a role on the battlefield, too, with Roman emperors arming their soldiers with them in the belief that doing so would make them strong. During the more modern era pickling ensured that families had food to last them through the long, cold winter months. They preserved the bounty of the growing season, .

I have nothing against bread and butter pickles, dill pickles, or any other pickle make with cucumbers. I enjoy them. But the world of pickles is really big and encompasses all sorts of vegetables and food cultures. Cucumber pickles are baseline. As I worked on developing Garden of Eva, I spent a lot of time learning about different cultures and the pickles that they make. My reference point is from my own family, with roots in the American southern state of Virginia that go back to the early 1700s. Mom was a genteel woman who loved the kitchen and celebrating that rich southern heritage, which included making pickled watermelon rind and chow chow, both of which are offered through Garden of Eva.


one culture can claim ownership of pickles. They are found all over the world. Kimchi may be the best-known Korean pickle, but don't forget the other side dishes that accompany Korean meals, such as pickled radish. Moving to the Southeastern part of Asia, achars are found on Malaysian and Indonesian, tables while in Myanmar, parts of Thailand and China, pickled mustard greens are staples. Dorchester, Massachusett, where I lived for many years, has a large Vietnamese population, many of whom came to America from Saigon as the Vietnam War was ending. Fortunately, many settled in Dorchester and brought their food, which has clean, herbaceous flavours.. Banh mi is their version of a hoagie/sub/hero. It comes on French baguette and is piled high with pork (ususally) meats and pates. The meat's fat and richness are cut by green chilies, refreshing cilantro, and a delightful, slightly sweet pickle, known in Vietnamese as do chua. Slices of carrots and mooli mingle in a brine often spiced with ginger and star anise. A pile of this pretty pickle makes the sandwich come alive, bringing needed acidity and brightness.

Move west and south to Latin America, which is the home of lots of vinegary delights. I remember going to Mexico to visit my good friend, Judy, who was doing summer research there when we were in graduate school. Family and restaurant tables, as well as taquerias had jars of bright orange carrots sitting in vinegar, seasoned with oregano, jalapenos, salt, and onion. Those pickled carrots balanced the meat and cheese and served as a warm counterpoint. Mexicans and Peruvians make a super tart pickled red onion that servers the same function - to bring brightness, crispness, and tang.

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