Pickles! Glorious pickles! A farmer or gardener’s pantry is usually built on the back of pickles. I really do love to peek in and see the rows and rows of rainbowed jars filled with pickled goods. Pickling items is important because it helps stretch the surplus bounty of any garden, you can take almost anything that comes out of the ground and make it last well past the growing season has come and gone by pickling it. Not only are pickled food items a delicious and colorful addition to most meals, but they also bring with them certain health benefits!
First, it’s important to note that some pickles are fermented, BUT not all pickles are fermented. Pickling is an ancient method of preserving vegetables by covering them in a solution of boiling vinegar. (Fun Fact: Did you know that the earliest record of pickling goes back to 4000 BCE in India?) Some brines are fermented and some are not. Non-fermented brine is used essentially for preserving food items whereas fermented brine contains good bacteria that may improve health. This fermentation process essentially acts like a probiotic for the gut and protects the body’s overall microbial health. Probiotics are also known to help with issues of chronic inflammation like depression, anxiety, managing diabetes, alleviating allergies, lowering the risk of some cancers, and much more!
Pickled items can also bring other health benefits to the table even if they’re not fermented.
As we sweat, our bodies lose a lot of important salts known as electrolytes. These salts are needed for overall healthy functioning. Pickles are fairly high in sodium, therefore, they’re also fairly high in electrolytes. Drinking a little pickle juice in the summer might even be a healthier option than Gatorade – at least it doesn’t have all the added sugars, artificial colors, and artificial flavoring.
Additionally, there is research that suggests pickles may actually help with muscle cramps. It’s interesting to note that this research also found that it wasn’t the level of electrolytes or hydration status that produced these results – that it was actually something in the pickle juice itself that sets off a reaction in the nervous system that stops cramps. That’s nuts!
Controlling Blood Sugar: Consuming vinegar before a meal has been shown to help lower fasting blood glucose levels, as well as alleviate intense blood glucose spikes. So it may be worth it to you to add a few pickles to your appetizer course every now and then.
However, it is most important to be aware of where your pickles are from and what is in them. Getting pickles from local sources that were grown in organic or Certified Naturally Grown farms (like Woodside Farms) are important for added nutritional benefit as well as making sure to keep out any of the nasties you don’t want to be feeding your family (synthetic fertilizers and pesticides – you are what your food eats!). This, along with many other reasons, is why we’re so excited to be hosting the local Hangry Pickle as a vendor in our upcoming pop-up markets. Come check her (and many other local makers, bakers, and growers) out at our next market on Saturday, April 23rd from 10 am-2 pm for our big Earth Day celebration! We can’t wait to see you all on the farm!