VOA Special English
Nizhyn Pickles


    Editor's note: This story is one of the winning entries from the "Teach Us about Ukraine" writing contest sponsored by VOA Learning English and GoGlobal.

    My name is Liudmyla Shylova and I have been teaching English for 21 years in Nizhyn, Ukraine.

    Nizhyn pickle monument in Nizhyn, Ukraine. (Courtesy photo)
    Nizhyn pickle monument in Nizhyn, Ukraine. (Courtesy photo)

    Nizhyn is a small city in northern Ukraine with more than a thousand years of history. But the city is, perhaps, best known for a small food item that can be found around the world: pickles.

    If you ever taste Nizhyn pickles, you will understand why that small cucumber represents 300 years of the history, tradition, and taste of Ukrainian cuisine.

    In the 17th century, Nizhyn was a Cossack city on the border of the Russian Empire. At that time, some Greeks sailed down the Oster River to escape from the Ottoman occupation. They brought their culture, traditions and, among other things, a recipe for salting cucumbers.

    The Greeks valued the rich soil of Nizhyn and grew cucumbers to make pickles. The pickling process took place in wooden barrels that were bought from Nizhyn craftsmen. Their secret recipe contained spices from eastern markets and local water from the artesian springs.

    The Greeks also paid much attention to the quality of cucumbers. The vegetables had to be the same size, neither big nor small. This permitted the cucumbers to be evenly salted and have a special crunch.

    Eventually, Nizhyn pickles made by the Greeks found their admirers among the Cossacks, local people and even the royals. When Empress Catherine II of Russia traveled south through Nizhyn, she ordered pickles to her table. The Queen of Britain was also known to feast on those crunchy cucumbers.

    In the 19th century, Nizhyn pickles became popular in many European countries. Traders made a lot of money selling them to people in Denmark, France, Sweden, Germany and Great Britain.

    Nowadays, Nizhyn pickles can be found on supermarket shelves all over the world.

    The product has since become a part of Ukrainian culture. In 2005, a monument to Ukraine's fruit and vegetable culture was opened near the local food factory. And a Nizhyn pickle was included in the list of winners of an international project on the food culture of Ukraine.

    So, welcome to Nizhyn, and go ahead and taste our pickles!

    I'm Jill Robbins.


    About the writer

    Liudmyla Shylova has been teaching English for 21 years to both primary and secondary school students. Her motto is the expression of the American journalist Sydney J. Harris, "The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows." As a teacher, she tries to open a window to the children into the future, not just drill them in dry language. Shylova loves incorporating technology into her lessons and seeking innovative ways to engage her students.


    Lesson Plan

    Lesson Plan - Nizhyn Pickles Nizhyn Pickles - Lesson Plan