January 01, 1997

Pickle Your Fancy

It’s not surprising that most Russians spend most of their summers gardening on their allotments (see Russian Life, September, 1996). After all, in the winter, they eat the conserves they made from food grown at their dachas: all sorts of jams, compotes, sauerkraut and, of course, pickled cucumbers. As little as ten years ago, it was vital that people made these things at home, because, for the average Soviet, buying fresh vegetables in winter was about as easy as taking a trip abroad. 

Times have changed, and the store shelves are now heaving with fruit and vegetables at all times of the year. But most Russians continue to honor their traditions and fill their refrigerators and larders with jars full of pickles. Pickled cucumbers are present in almost every home.

The fact is that the cucumber is a much-loved vegetable in Russia [Thus the saying Zdorov kak ogurchik. Literally, ‘healthy as a cucumber,’ meaning fit as a fiddle.]. It was introduced in the 15th century and quickly spread throughout those areas where climatic conditions allowed it to grow. Pickled cucumbers became one of the most popular and common starter dishes in Russia. 

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