Pickling is one of the world’s oldest methods of preserving food. It is believed that Ancient Mesopotamians started the tradition around 2030 BC, after they were introduced to the technique by visiting Indian travellers. With their salty, sour and sometimes even spicy taste, pickles make mouths pucker and tongues tingle.

Different countries have different methods for preparing pickles, and each pickle represents a particular country’s culinary traditions. 

Gari (Japan)

Gari is the Japanese word for pickled ginger, which is often eaten with sushi and sashimi to cleanse the palate between bites. It’s tender, has a mild flavour and a distinct pink colour. Thin slices of ginger are boiled in water, drained, and dried. These are then stored in jars, bathed in a solution of rice vinegar, salt, and sugar. Gari has a long shelf life and can be served either as a garnish, or with main dishes.

Kimchi (South Korea)

Considered the country’s national dish, kimchi has been an important part of South Korea’s culinary history for centuries. Kimchi is essentially fermented vegetables—mainly cabbage, although carrots are also added sometimes. It was developed in the 1700s, back when chillies were introduced to Korea, and this resulted in a spicy condiment eaten with main dishes like fried rice. 

Mango/Lime Achaar (India)

Like most other pickles, achaar or Indian pickle ensures that seasonal ingredients can be eaten throughout the year. North Indian pickles like mango pickle use ingredients like amchoor (mango powder), chilli, mustard oil, ginger, garlic, and panch phoron (a mix of cumin, mustard, fenugreek, fennel and black caraway seeds), whereas a south Indian lime achaar may use lime, crushed chilli and coriander which have been covered in salt or left to mature in the sun.

Sauerkraut (Germany)

Sauerkraut is known for being German but was actually invented by Chinese people, who fermented and preserved cabbage in rice wine. The Mongolians introduced Sauerkraut to Europeans in the 13th century. In Germany, juniper berries are sometimes added to sauerkraut to give it a flavour kick and it is usually eaten with meat or potatoes. Other places like New York have learnt to add it to a classic hot dog. 

Cornichon (France)

Much loved across the world, cornichon or pickled gherkins became a part of French cuisine in the 1700s and were introduced to the United States in the late 1800s. Pickled in vinegar and a mix of spices and herbs that includes mainly tarragon, garlic, cloves and dill, they are crunchy, piquant and incredibly tasty. Cornichon are ubiquitous on charcuterie and cheese boards in Europe, and a favourite with sandwiches in the US. 

Torshi (Iran)

Torshi comes from 'torsh', a Persian word which translates to 'sour'. It is an important part of Iranian and Middle Eastern cuisine. There are many types of torshi, made with fresh vegetables, and ‘torshi left’, made with turnips, is one of the most popular. Its pickling principle is similar to others: vegetables and herbs are aged in vinegar until they develop a tangy taste. Once torshi is ready, it is served with main dishes.