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Pickles: Fun in baseball, good for you to eat

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The first thing that pops into most people’s minds when they hear the word “pickle” is a pickled cucumber (often seasoned with dill). And that’s fine! There’s a reason that particular fruit/vegetable has risen to the top of the pickle pile. Pickled cucumbers are easy to make and fun to snack on.

Next on the list are usually other pickled vegetables: carrots, cauliflower, peppers, even whole garlic cloves. These brined and crunchy treats are both good tasting and good for you. The good tasting part comes from whatever you add to the pickling process for your end result (this author prefers a little bit of spicy heat), and the good for you part comes from the fermentation process that occurs when something is pickled. (More on that below.)

There are some other options for things to pickle, especially when we think about celebrating National Pickle Day, which takes place every Nov. 14. Think outside the box! Or the jar, as it were.

Although they’re currently out of season, strawberries are a fun fruit to pickle. They’re good for salads and cocktails once they’re preserved this way. Another one to think about for next year is watermelon rind – yes, the rind, after you peel off the tough green skin. Pickle the white part of the rind for a snack throughout the year.

Editor Courtney’s favorite pickles are peppers, asparagus and cauliflower.

Pickled onions are often used on sandwiches and salads, so why not make some yourself? Red onions specifically add a bold pop of color to your dishes and the pickled version of this veggie tends to be a lot more mellow than its raw counterpart.

Red tomatoes are for sauces, but green tomatoes can be for more than frying! The Food Network offers up a scrumptious and spicy option for pickled green tomatoes – check it out here.

On the non-produce side of pickled things are pickled eggs, one of my brother’s favorite treats. I have seen this man eat entire 12-ounce jars of quail eggs and a dozen chicken eggs in one sitting. That’s probably too much for most of our readers, but preserved properly and enjoyed in normal portions, “pickled eggs are healthy,” said the FoodXP, an online hub for food enthusiasts. “They are rich in protein, have low-fat content and are low in calories as well. They also provide antioxidants, healthy fats, vitamin A, vitamin D, etc. They help in maintaining your gut health as they contain probiotics due to pickling. Pickled eggs also help inefficient digestion and improve your immune system.”

Which leads me back to the benefits of pickling. The health benefits are derived from the live microbes that thrive in fermenting foods which are probiotics. Probiotics are a mixture of live bacteria and/or yeast that lives in your body. They are good bacteria that help keep you healthy.

“In addition to helping food last longer, fermentation also enhances the taste of foods, giving them added complexity. Plus, the fermentation process works other forms of magic on foods, changing them and adding nutrients,” according to research from Harvard Medical School. “For example, by eating fermented vegetables, vegetarians can get vitamin B12, which otherwise isn’t present in plant foods,” said Dr. David S. Ludwig, a professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Consider pickling the last of your produce as the harvest season winds down – or purchasing some from your local co-op or farmers market. Pickled foods will provide an exciting little bite of flavor through the cold winter months.

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