There has always been some confusion about what gherkins really are, and at this point, it has become simply a matter of where you live and what is the acceptable definition of gherkin in the community.
There are two ways people describe a gherkin. Some call small cucumbers or small, cucumber-like fruits gherkins. Gherkins, according to the book The Chef’s Garden: A Modern Guide to Common and Unusual Vegetables–with Recipes, “refers to smaller cucumbers or cucumber-like fruits.”
Others believe gherkins are small pickled cucumbers. Without pickling, these are just small cucumbers. Pickling makes it gherkins.
- According to Vegetable Crop Science, “a Dutch source says that ‘gherkin’ is from a word for immature”
- If you really love gherkins, visiting the gherkin museum in Lehde should be on your travel bucket list. A book listing some of the weirdest museums in the world has this description: “Das Gurkenmuseum brings alive the story of cucumber cultivation and processing. This private museum of the Starick family is crammed to the brim with gherkin trivia and artefacts.”
- August is the time of the year for the coronation of the Gherkin Queen in Germany, which writer Geoff Tibballs describes as the gherkin enthusiasts very own Miss World.
- Gherkins have an interesting story in India, as explained by book author Pallavi Aiyar in a book published in 2015. While it is common to find a place where locals enjoy and consume the crops grown there, that seems to be not the case in India. “In India, they remain an alien food. In Fact, gherkins grown and pickled in India are almost wholly exported, there being no domestic market for them.”
- William Woys Weaver, in discussing the burr gherkin which was introduced to the US in 1793 first in Richmond, Virginia, pointed out in his book that gherkins “could be counted on when other cucumbers might fail” and that “only the small, undeveloped fruits can be used for pickling, best, when about 1 1/2 inches long or shorter.”
Gherkin Buying Guide
If you are buying fresh gherkins, choose firm gherkins that don’t have any soft spots or blemishes on the surface. Avoid gherkins that look dry, wrinkly, and smells bad. Fresh gherkins are available in supermarkets and at the fresh produce section of grocery stores.
If you are buying pickled gherkins in a jar or can, always inspect the container for any sign of damage or tampering. Make sure the label is complete and intact. Damaged, torn, or missing label is a red flag for food quality and safety when it comes to processed and commercially-produced food. See if the safety seal usually found in glass jars is intact. If the can has a minor or small dent, that is usually not a serious problem, but if the can has some rust spots, that is not good because you don’t know if there is also rust inside the can that has contaminated the gherkins inside and rendered this unsafe for consumption. Pickled gherkins are found on the aisle reserved for canned or pickled food.
Buy enough gherkins for your immediate use or consumption. Buying a lot of perishable goods usually leads to food wastage.
Both fresh gherkins and pickled gherkins are commonly available all year long in Texas, since gherkins are harvested twice every year, during the summer harvest and the fall harvest.
If you are buying gherkins, buy local or source your needs locally. There are many local businesses in Texas that produces gherkins and gherkin products, like Glorious Gherkins in Dallas, Texas.
Gherkin Production & Farming in Texas
Gherkins, according to Vegetable Crop Science, have been used for pickling many years ago. “Gherkin, a small cucumber has been used for pickling since the 1660s.
Cucumbers are grown in Texas both commercially and on in small scale gardens. They are used for ordinary cooking or for pickling. The mature rather quickly and are a cool season vegetable that can be grown pretty much anywhere in the state.
Varieties to grow in Texas for pickling include Calypso, Carolina, Fancypak, Multipik, and National Pickling. For slicing, varieties include Burpless, Dasher II, Poinsett, Pointsett 76, Slice Master, Straight 8, Sweet Slice, and Sweet Success.
Production of cucumbers requires a lot of fertilizer and a lot of water, unless there are heavy rains which usually isn’t the case in Texas. When the vines are about 10 to 12 inches long, apply about ½ cup of fertilizer for each 10 feet of row or 1 tablespoon per plant.
The cucumbers need to be harvested when they are green in color, waiting for them to turn yellow means you’ve waited too long. The size of the cucumber is also a consideration to make because you can harvest it before it’s in full size in order to make them more appealing and easier to pickle.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Commercial production of gherkins or pickled cucumbers uses preservatives. Below are some of the preservatives commonly used.
- Sodium benzoate is added to improve the shelf life of gherkins.
- Alum is used to make the texture of the pickled cucumber crispy. This food additive is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
- Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are used to help preserve gherkins inside the glass bottle.
- Sodium chloride is used for preservation and to improve the taste.
- Citric acid is used to boost the acidity or the sour flavor.
Pesticide Action Network (PAN) listed several pesticides used in growing cucumbers and gherkins.
- Carbendazim (MBC)
- Chlordane cis
- Chlordane trans
- Cyhalothrin, Lambda
- Dichlorvos (DDVP)
- Diphenylamine (DPA)
- Endosulfan I
- Endosulfan II
- Endosulfan sulfate
- Fenamiphos sulfone
- Fenamiphos sulfoxide
- Heptachlor epoxide
- Oxamyl oxime
- Oxydemeton methyl sulfone
- Permethrin cis
- Piperonyl butoxide
- Propamocarb hydrochloride
- Quintozene (PCNB)
- Spinosad A
- Spinosad D
- Tetrahydrophthalimide (THPI)
The book Vegetable Crop Science shares some important information about gherkins, which is believed to originate in what the book describes as “tropical America”, adding that the gherkin’s “true wild form is not clearly known” and adding that this “vegetable originated in northern India and came to Eastern Europe via the Byzantine Empire.”
India is one of the major producers and exporters of gherkins. The book entitled New Old World: An Indian Journalist Discovers the Changing Face of Europe explains that “from almost zero in the early 1990s, India today grows some hundreds of thousands of tons of gherkins annually and has emerged as one of the world’s leading producers and suppliers of the vegetable.”
It has been reported that India has exported 1,23,846 metric tons (valued at $114 million) of gherkins from April to October, from 2020 to 2021.
M.K. Rana, in the book entitled Vegetable Crop Science, pointed out that gherkins “are popular in the northeast and north of Brazil, where they are an ingredient in the local version of meat and vegetable stew.”
M.K. Rana, in the book entitled Vegetable Crop Science, explained: “Gherkin is primarily grown (as a crop plant) for its edible fruit, which are used in pickling, a cooked vegetables, or eaten raw.” This only goes to show that gherkins are very versatile and these can be enjoyed in many different ways.
According to the book New Old World: An Indian Journalist Discovers the Changing Face of Europe by Pallavi Aiyar, “Pickled gherkins are consumed in large quantities in Europe and the United States as condiments.” You can also eat gherkins as a side dish or an appetizer, as a snack, or as a companion food. In southern England, it is common to find people eating fish and chips with gherkins. It is common for a lot of people to take a gherkin from the jar and munch on it.
You can spread hummus on toasted bread and top it with sliced gherkins, fresh tomato slices, and spinach. Some restaurants especially in the southern part of the US cook and serve deep-fried gherkins coated with breading or batter. Sliced gherkins can also be added to soups, similar to how they do it in Russia and Ukraine when preparing the traditional soup they call rassolnik. In southern England, they eat gherkins with fish and chips.
What else is great if it had gherkins? Tuna salad, potato and egg salad, macaroni salad, sushi, sliders, grilled cheese, sloppy joe, meat roll-ups, pork chop and other grilled, pan-fried, or roasted meat, pizza, and bacon and fries are just some of the many different foods on the list. Or be creative and use gherkins to make pickle pops, fried pickles, pickled chips, or breaded pickle sticks.
Gherkins, tomatoes, and some herbs make a simple yet delicious and nutritious dish. Or do another combo and use watermelons and feta cheese the next day.
M.K. Rana, in the book entitled Vegetable Crop Science, explained that gherkins contain vitamin A for immunity, vitamin K to help in blood clotting, folate, calcium, and iron, as well as “moderate amount of fat and calories controlling weight, which reduces risk of health concerns like heart disease and cancer. Potassium in gherkin helps in contraction of muscles and bones and is important for digestion as well.”
This explains why, in early folk medicine, gherkins is believed to treat stomach ailments. Fresh gherkins have high water content, helping manage arthritis. Other benefits of eating gherkins include helping regulate blood pressure, promote nutrient functions, relax the nerve and muscles, and promote smooth blood circulation.