When Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, perhaps the preserved probiotics produced positively participated in his prosperity. In other words, pickles are good for you.

North Americans may largely associate pickles with grilled foods commonly eaten while tailgating, but pickles have been loved extensively throughout the world for thousands of years. In fact, Japanese pickles, collectively known as tsukemono, are served with almost every meal to take advantage of their health benefits and ensure a variety of cooking methods are included.

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While pickles are a form of fermentation, they are not the same thing. Pickled foods do include a lot of the same health benefits, though, such as providing probiotics that improve digestion and immune function and increasing the availability of nutrients and antioxidants found in foods.

However, pre-packaged pickles from the store are often filled with loads of sodium and are usually produced using high heat and pressure which can destroy nutrients. The healthiest (and probably cheaper) way to have your pickles and eat them too is to make them yourself. And considering pretty much any vegetable (and many fruits) can be pickled, the preserve possibilities are plentiful.

Cucumbers

Ayurvedic Sauerkraut (Homemade Pickled Cucumber) [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

All pickles are made pretty much the same way, in that vegetables are packed into a container that also contains vinegar, salt, and optional spices. The vinegar acts as an acidic base and is what preserves the contents. The mixture is referred to as brine. Remember you can always play with spice mixtures besides dill, including garlic, caraway, cumin or even sugar for sweet pickles.

Cucumbers are the most familiar choice for pickling, found in everything from Dill to Bread and Butter. To make cucumber pickles, first cut them into slices or chunks, keeping in mind firm cucumbers produce the best result, and pack them into a jar or other container with a lid.

Heat the vinegar, salt and spices on the stove and stir until the salt dissolves. Allow the brine to cool and then pour it into the jar, making sure to leave 1/4 to 1/2 inch of room at the top. Store the jar in the refrigerator for at least three days and consume within a month.

Beets

Generally, crunchy and watery vegetables make the best pickles, and beets are certainly crunchy, as well as filled with nutrients. They taste great pickled as well, and can be served as salad toppings or a crunchy layer on a sandwich.

To make Pickled Beet Mini Tacos, beets are sliced and then stored in a container of apple cider vinegar and salt overnight. In addition to selecting a variety of spices, you can use different vinegars as well. Experiment with apple cider and wine vinegars to create your own unique flavors.

Radishes

Radish-Pickle

Any type of radish can be pickled, including daikon, red or even watermelon. And since radishes have a somewhat bland taste, they can become even tastier when pickled with a variety of spices.

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Indian Radish Pickles combine red radishes with Indian spices for an exotic side. Not made the traditional way, these pickles are sautéed in a pan with added lime juice as the acid. After cooling, they can be stored in refrigerated jars or a sealed container for up to six months.

Shallots

Shallots are like fancy onions, and they can be made even fancier by making them into pickles! For a slightly Asian spin, bring 1 cup rice vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour the mixture over chopped shallots in a container and refrigerate for at least three days. They make a great topping on Asian dishes or a sushi roll ingredient.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes aren’t just for ketchup and marinara, and can be pickled as well. Prepare them the same way with a vinegar, salt, and spice brine, heated until the salt and spices dissolve. Include garlic and oregano for Italian themed pickles or ginger and cumin for tasty Indian flavors. Pickled tomatoes also make a great addition to salads and sandwiches.

Carrots

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Carrots are very crunchy and make for excellent pickles, pairing well with Asian noodles, sushi or stir-fry. Bahn Mi Sald With Pickled Vegetables creates carrot and daikon pickles using white vinegar, sugar, and salt, but you can throw in some lemongrass or fresh cilantro for extra Asian flavor.

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Fruits

Yes, fruit can be pickled as well, most often seen as pickled fruit rinds. Try mangoes to make a delightful relish, lemons to add to Middle Eastern dishes or even watermelon rinds for a savory and sweet condiment. And pickled fruits make excellent snacks, garnishes, and relishes.

Remember you can pickle almost anything, so feel free to experiment with foods like figs, peppers (hot or mild), pears or ginger. And when you’re done eating your pickles, the juice can be used to give vegan foods a Rueben flavoring, such as Best Beet Reuben.

Stock up on some jars, let your creative juices flow and enjoy your pantry pickle paradise!

Lead image source:nada54/Shutterstock