A Pickle by Any Name:

A 90-Year-Old Tortoise Named Mr. Pickles Is a New Dad of Three

The radiated tortoise is the oldest animal at the Houston Zoo. He has been with his partner, Mrs. Pickles, since she arrived in 1996. The mom and hatchlings are doing fine. (from the New York Times, March 23, 2023)

photo from turtleroom.org

If you want to feel good today, read this joyous birth announcement, and meet babies Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño resplendent in their first baby pictures. The birth of these Radiated Tortoises,(the name has nothing to do with the treatment they’ve received, but merely identifies this type of tortoise unique to Madagascar), is “an astounding feat.” That Mr. Pickles, the proud father, is 90, and Mrs. Pickles, 53—is rare enough, but as endangered species producing offspring in captivity they become an even greater marvel.

My husband shared this story with me over morning coffee yesterday probably because, since the pandemic, we have become a pickle-loving family, (and we’ve always been fans of clever writing). In that lockdown period when many turned to baking, we turned to cucumbers—well, my husband did.

He has never liked the vinegar-based pickles, but he does love those crunchy, petite Persian Baby Cukes that have sprung up in produce aisles. Like everyone, we were shopping less frequently, planning trips carefully, and wanting what we bought to last the ten-or-so days between trips.

Cucumbers are finicky, delicate vegetables, their bumpy shell belies innate fragility. When my husband found the pickle recipe, switching salt and spices for the vinegar, he decided to try it on the bags of cukes we’d bought, crispy and fresh but quickly heading for their expiration date.

A passion was born, and a devotee: ME! I knew of their benefits, the juice for hydration, but the texture, the soggy center where the seeds rested in a bed of mushiness, I had never truly loved. Not so now. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t enjoy a pickle—or two. They remain crunchy, probably because they don’t last long, and they are flavorful; without the bossy vinegar to overshadow the array of spices—mustard seed, coriander seed, dill seed, dill weed, peppercorns, salt and GARLIC—flavor sings and brings pickle power to the palate.

As the four quart jars diminish to one, cucumbers by the bagful populate the shopping list. The chopping, grinding, mortal-and-pestle machinations are soon to follow. And then after a four-day gestation, new pickles are born.

This is just to say, “Thank you, Houston Pickles, and congratulations! You are an inspiration and among friends.”

7 thoughts on “A Pickle by Any Name:”

  1. I saw this story about Mr. Pickles this morning. Shows you are never too old. When we were kids, my grandmother usually had a crock of pickles behind the heatrola in the living room. We couldn’t wait until they were ready to eat. She also had a friend who would bring her jars of bread-and-butter pickles that her mother jarred. delicious.

    1. My love of them has surprised me, and thrilled my husband. He tells people that I keep him around for the pickles! (I love to eat them sliced on a toasted tortilla with either avocado or peanut butter…yum!)

  2. I remember about 15 years ago reading about the death of a 250 year old tortoise in Kolkata. I remember thinking about so much happening in our country in those years 🙂 We too eat different types of pickles. We have very spicy ones and non-spicy ones. I have not eaten the cucumber ones.

  3. Trish, I appreciated this sweet writing today. Your pickle tie in to the birth of little Gherkin, Dill and Jalapeno was so fun and well-played. You made me want to eat some of your pickles. You know I have a story about those darling little Persian cucumbers. Cucumbers are one food I have never liked! Not from the garden or in salads or anywhere. But when I moved to Bahrain about ten years ago, my kindergarten students would have whole cucumbers in there lunch bags. They would just eat it from top to bottom. I wondered how in the world so many of them would like cucumbers. Well, gradually I came to learn they were so very different than our old cucumbers. It wasn’t long until I had a whole cucumber and a whole carrot in my lunch box. I was so grateful when stores in America started selling them.

  4. Thanks for your kind words, Denise. Yes indeed, those babies bear little resemblance to the waxy cucumbers of former salads. I do love Kirbys, too, a plumper version, but Persians are the best by far.

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