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Cucumbers, perfect for pickling, and various vegetables that are all available at farmer's markets.  Photo taken at the Boston Public Market courtesy of Emily Ott.

Cucumbers, perfect for pickling, and various vegetables that are all available at farmer’s markets.
Photo taken at the Boston Public Market courtesy of Emily Ott.

Looking for an easy way to preserve the delicious produce you bought during Farmer’s Market Week? Read more on the history of pickling.

Served crispy as an appetizer or spicy as a snack, pickled green beans, more commonly known as “Dilly Beans”, can even be served instead of celery in a Bloody Mary. Pickling is a way of preserving food especially during the summer when there is an abundance of fresh, local produce.

Pickling began 4,000 years ago using cucumbers native to India. Pickling was used as a way to preserve food for out-of-season use and for long journeys, especially by sea.  Pickling and food preservation developed and grew in the United States during the sixteenth century with the arrival of new foods from Europe and other parts of the world.  Although the process was invented to preserve foods, today pickled foods are made and enjoyed because people like the way they taste.

The term pickle is derived from the Dutch word “pekel”, meaning brine. Pickling is the process of preserving food by anaerobic fermentation in brine or vinegar. Unlike the canning process, pickling does not require that the food be completely sterile before it is sealed.    Pickling can preserve perishable produce for months. While vinegar is an essential piece to any pickling project, it does require some other ingredients, which tend to be the chef’s choice.  Often you will find the use of herbs and spices such as dill weed, garlic, mustard seed, cinnamon or cloves and most likely a lot of salt.

In the U.S. and Canada the word “pickle” alone almost always refers to a pickled cucumber, however plenty of other vegetables, like green beans also make a delicious pickle. It is not uncommon to see pickled onions, cabbage (think sauerkraut) and cauliflower.  Giardiniera, a mixture of pickled peppers, celery and olives, is a popular condiment with Italian-American populations. In the UK, “pickle” (as in a “cheese and pickle sandwich“) may also refer to Ploughman’s pickle, which is a kind of chutney.

Visit a farmers’ market or farm stand this summer and stock up on some of your favorite local vegetables and venture into your kitchen for your very own pickle project!  Learn what you may need from the National Center for Home Preservation.

Written By:


DAR Program Coordinator

With a background in the culinary arts, nutrition education and program development, Julia joined The Department of Agricultural Resources Division of Agricultural Markets in 2008 to help spread the word about Massachusetts’ incredible agricultural and culinary opportunities. She also coordinates several grant and marketing programs available to a diversified group of growers and agricultural associations across the Commonwealth. A Boston University graduate, she can be found in her spare time sourcing out the best local products for her next culinary creation or volunteering in the community.

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