I love it when I discover something absolutely new (to me), and I relish the chance to share it with you, Gentle Reader! So I’m up extra early this morning to get this post written before the start of our school day (which is 8:00). The farmers have been busy harvesting the crops around our place, and little Mack is so anxious to go walking (and exploring!) through the fields today in the gorgeous fall weather that we’ve been blessed with so far this month. Our place has been hemmed in on all sides with a very very tall corn crop for months, so I know that a Long Explore, sketchbooks in hand, is in the works for little Mack and me today, now that we can get out. This will be probably my only chance today to get this writing in!
Being a Mama to my kids always takes precedence over blogging duties, no offense to my awesome Gentle Readers. 😉 But I know that you understand.
So without further ado: here is this season’s Absolutely Favorite New Thing: pickled Mexican Sour Gherkins!
The recipe that I put together (adapted from Bon Appetit) turned out absolutely fabulous. My entire crop fit into three quart jars, and (as a friend used to say) we are eating them with long teeth (that is to say slowly, with much appreciation) so we’ll have a few to take to Andrew and Sonia’s house at Thanksgiving time.
I’m going to toss in a bit of encouragement for you gardeners to try your hand at growing these winsome little veg next year. They are so easy to grow, at least in my experience this summer. All you need is a tiny bit of space in your garden, and something (a lattice, a bit of fence, or whatnot) for the teeny vines to scramble up on. And some patience. The tiny vines took some time to grow, at first. But then they really took off (well, once my Icelandic chickens took care of our grasshopper problem, of course, but thankfully we don’t have grasshopper like that often), and produced like crazytown.
Here’s a bit more information about these adorable little veggies. I’m not even sure what to call them! They aren’t mini-watermelons, although they look like it. They are frequently called dwarf cucumbers, but they are not technically cucumbers. The genus Cucumis includes many familiar crops, including gourds, but only one species, Cucumis sativus, is considered a cucumber proper. The Mexican sour gherkin belongs to another genus entirely, Melothria. So it’s not a real cucumber but an honorary one.
Well, then, hello there cutie-patootie honorary cucumber. I think I love you. *smooch* Especially made into these refrigerator pickles!
Here are a few things I’ve learned about the diminutive veg:
- They self-seed freely. 🙂 (Yaaay!)
- You can find seeds at many seed catalogs, including Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and Territorial Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Seed Savers Exchange.
- They grow best on a trellis or fence.
- They are the cutest–thing–ever!
- Grasshoppers love ’em too, sadly.
Here’s the story about my experience growing Mexican sour gherkins this summer, and why it was such a surprise when I actually harvested some last week. (You’ll have to click on the link to get the thrilling backstory.) I had picked an entire gallon bucket full in about twenty minutes, and I was thinking about selling them, when Amalia happened into the hoop house. I was snacking on the cute little gherkins as I picked.
I was happy. 🙂
“Check these out, Amalia! Aren’t they cute? They are tasty, too, and so crunchy! I think I can probably sell the whole batch–” Amalia popped one into her mouth and her eyes got big. She chewed. She grabbed a few more out of my bucket. “I saw online where they are fetching $24.00 per pound in some places–”
“Mom! Why would you sell them?” she gasped. “They are so good! They go pop! in your mouth like . . like kumquats!” (We both love fresh kumquats, and fall on them like crazed wildebeests falling on fresh meat when we happen to see them at Trader Joe’s.) She grabbed a handful and kept eating. There went a few more, down her voracious maw.
“Just think, Mom, about how cute they would look on a charcuterie board! We’ve got to make them into pickles! Mom!”
My daughter’s enthusiasm was contagious. How often is a sixteen-year-old girl that excited about garden produce? But Amalia is not a typical girl. And her appetite for the sour gherkins was a little shocking, in fact, and I nudged the bucket a little farther out of her reach.
“Maybe we better go in for lunch, honey,” I murmured, watching the level of my gherkins in the bucket going down. “You seem to be very hungry.”
Well. Of course she was right. The little gherkins begged to be enjoyed. By us. And pickled. That very afternoon, I made every last gherkin (well, the ones that were left after Amalia and I snacked on them) into pickles, and socked the jars into the refrigerator. The next evening, we were meeting with our family for our much-looked-forward-to Wednesday Night Supper Club, though it was, after all, Thursday evening (long story). I took with me a jar of chilled pickled Sour Gherkins.
They were a hit. Everybody loved them. They do go pop! between your teeth like little crunchy bubbles of pickled goodness. Though the sour gherkins are quite tasty fresh, I think making them into pickles improves them.
I also think it would be a mistake to water-bath these pickles. I am afraid that they would end up as little pockets of mush if you did, though that is just a hunch. I haven’t tried it. Hey. An idea. You could try it, and let me know what you find out, if you feel strongly about it.
For the record, I usually shy away from refrigerator pickles, because my ‘fridge space is sorely limited. It is finite, you might say. It’s prime real estate, basically. I’ve squirreled away (so far) already several two-quart jars of elderberry tonic in my second ‘fridge, several jars of kimchi, and some brandied fruit, all which we will eat in the next few months.
But this recipe is so special, and these little pickles are so delicious, that I scooted everything around to make as much room as possible for several jars of them. I’ll tell you one thing: they are worth the prime real estate space in the ‘fridge.
One more thing: except for the obvious grasshopper problem that I wrote about, these vines don’t seem to attract bugs, and are very vigorous, not only in growing but in producing fruit, so in my experience they are great to raise organically. If you have a little space available in your garden next year, put up a small lattice and try growing some! (My dad gave me the seeds, which he obtained from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, but I know that there are several seed companies that carry them.)
- 1½ cups white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 2 T Kosher salt
- 1 T sugar
- ½ jalapeno pepper
- 1 garlic head (halved crosswise)
- 2 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 4-5 fresh basil leaves or other fresh herbs that you fancy
- 1 cup sour gherkins
- Simmer the vinegar, water, salt and sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves.
- Add the rest of the brine ingredients except for the basil leaves, and allow to steep until the mixture is only warm.
- Place fresh basil leaves in the bottom of your jar.
- Add 1 cup gherkins to the brine, then put into jar and seal. Cool, and store in refrigerator.
- Like any refrigerator pickles, these are best after a couple weeks of curing, but you can eat them right away if you'd like! 😉
- Beware: these don't last long once you pop the lid off. Of course if you don't tell anybody else about them, you don't have to share. Just kidding. I always share. (Almost always). 😉 hehee
Yum, yum, yum. That’s all I can say. At last. I’m speechless. About time, eh?
Happy pickling, you!
Red letter time:
(If you do want to grow these next year, be sure to save this post in your Pinterest board, or whatever. And if you’d share it with your gardening friends, gosh! I’d be grateful! Also tweeting or sharing or whatevering is always an appropriate expression of gratitude and faith in me. 🙂 And thank you!)
- Mexican Sour Gherkins, Grasshopper Destruction & Icelandic Chicken Intervention
- Sketchbook Thursday: drawing what you love to look at