Rain did not prevent Ann Arbor residents and other pickle fans from gathering at the Downtown Home and Garden’s Ninth Annual Pickle Contest and Tasting Saturday morning at their store on South Ashley Street.
Downtown Home and Garden has been located in Ann Arbor for a little over a century as a gardening and kitchenware vendor. They host several events throughout the year that feature different locally grown vegetables and spreads.
Kelly Vore, store manager and event host, explained the pickle contest is a follow-up project to their jam contest, which they have been hosting annually for almost 20 years.
This year’s pickle contest saw 22 entries, which were submitted by members of the community, including many Downtown Home and Garden customers. According to Vore, many of those who entered submissions to the contest gathered their supplies at her store.
“We’ve all been kind of through this harvest process together,” Vore said. “We sell all of the canning equipment — the supplies, the jars and all of the things you need. This is really just everyone’s opportunity if they want to share things they can.”
Vore pointed out that though it is a pickle contest, entries are not just limited to cucumbers. The contest is a larger celebration of the pickling method of preservation and how it can be applied to all different kinds of vegetables.
Contest entries offered a taste for every palate, from pickled jalapenos to spicy or sweet pickles and even to kimchi — a popular Korean side dish made from preserved vegetables.
Visitors were able to sample all of the entries and then cast their votes on a ballot to pick three winners. Each winner received a Downtown Home and Garden gift card. Picklers gave their entries creative names to ensure their products stood out, such as “Netflix and Dill” and “Cowboy Candy.”
Ann Arbor residents Richard Peng and Kira Boneff, who attended the Pickle Contest last year, returned to Saturday’s event to taste the new entries. While Boneff said she likes spicy pickles, Peng said he prefers a more bitter taste.
“The feeling that it makes you pucker up, how it’s tart,” Peng said.
Preferred flavors of pickles naturally varied among contest goers, but most attendees agreed on the most important aspect of a pickle.
In the words of Ann Arbor resident Scott Franz summarized the prevailing attitude on pickles at the contest: “It’s got to have a crunch.”
Sara DelFiero claimed third place with “Wabisabi Kimchi,” a Korean take on pickled vegetables. Second place went to Dan O’Toole with “Free Range Pickles.” First place went to Bruce Jarana, whose “Spicy BnB” pickles wowed voters.