Sunday, February 11, 2007
French for "gherkin," cornichons are crisp, tart pickles made from tiny gherkin cucumbers. They're a traditional accompaniment to PÂTÉS as well as smoked meats and fish.
The gherkin may have been introduced to the American public by one Minton Collins of Richmond, Virginia, who was offering it for sale in the Virginia Gazette in 1792, although it might have been known in Colonial times under another name. It was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson. Pickling of gherkins was at first a domestic activity, but the jar of pickles became a commercial product in France as early as the 1820s. The condiment rapidly became generally popular, although always more so in the USA than among the British, for whom the generic ‘pickle’ remained the small, sweet onion.
In the United States, consumption of pickles has been slowing, while consumption of fresh cucumbers is rising. In 1999, the consumption in the US totalled 3 billion pounds with 171,000 acres of production across 6,821 farms and an average farm value of $361 million. Worldwide, production is highest in China, followed by Turkey, Iran and the US, which produced 4% of the world's cucumbers.
Suprising to most people cucumbers grow in a variety of shapes, colors, and textures. These ‘heirloom’ cucumbers are very popular at farmers markets. It is common to find a cucumber at the market that is neither elongated or green.
There are three general types of cucumber: greenhouse or indoor, outdoor or ridge, and pickling cukes or gherkins.
Greenhouse varieties include: Crystal Apple, Danimas, Telegraph, Telegraph Improved, and Yamato.
Outdoor varieties include: Bianco Lungo di Parigi, Burpless Tasty Green, Chicago Pickling, Crystal Lemon (the size and tang of a lemon), Long Green Improved, Marketmore, and Boothy Blond (a fat yellow cucumber).
Pickling or gherkins include: Arena, Athene, Gherkin, Hokus, Midget, National Pickling (first introduced in 1929 by the National Pickle Packers Association in Britain), and Vert de Massy Cornichon.
Cucumbers are fruit! Having an enclosed seed and developing from a flower, cucumbers are scientifically classified as a fruit. Much like tomatoes and squash, despite the scientific classification their sour-bitter flavor contributes to cucumbers being percieved, prepared and eaten as vegetables.