Sep 26, 2008 at 03:54am IST

The hottest pick-les from around the world

New York City celebrated International Pickle Day on September 14 to celebrate pickles from all over the world. This is one festival I hope to attend someday. You see, I have an endless fascination with pickling.

Pickles originated as a form of food preservation, affording access to out-of-season produce and essential nutrients over long journeys,or in seasons when fresh vegetables were unavailable and the idea of holding on to flavours out of season is especially appealing.

In the US and Canada, the word 'pickle' refers to a pickled cucumber that comes in two versions. One, a sweet one made by cooking cucumbers in spiced sugar syrup.

HOT PICK-LES: Here's where to sample kimchi, gari 'n' Tsukemono in India.

And two, a sour one in which cucumbers are pickled in a vinegar-brine solution flavored with dill, garlic and other spices.

Although these pickles hold historical significance in the discovery of American history (they came to America with Columbus, in whose time many transoceanic voyages were debilitated because crews suffered from scurvy, a disease caused by lack of Vitamin C. Columbus' ship supplier, Amerigo Vespucci, supplied the ships with Vitamin C-rich pickles that helped prevent scurvy outbreaks).

I am very fond of these pickles, they first made an appearance in McDonald's burgers in India but disappeared later. One can get them off supermarket shelves in India (look for pickled gherkins).

Usually, they share shelf space with pickles from Latin America; onions, chillies like habanero, jalapeño and serranos pickled by themselves or flavoured with garlic, black pepper, thyme, oregano and ginger. These hold their own as table condiments but can also add punch to salads, enchiladas and other tortilla dishes.

Pickles in Europe and the Mediterranean are of the mild, brined and sparingly spiced variety. But to really appreciate the world of pickles, one needs to sample those of Asian cuisines.

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