In a recent episode of the TV series "Portlandia," the lead characters played by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein frolic through the show bragging about all the things they can pickle. But this isn't just another kitchen trend. These days, health experts are touting the endless benefits of fermented foods.

The veggies most of us think about pickling are cucumbers, carrots and green beans. "But then there are the unexpected," says Rebecca Lewis, in-house RD at HelloFresh. "We're talking cauliflower, beets and garlic, and then there's the truly unusual: watermelon rinds."

Read on as our experts share recipes for seven pickled fruit and vegetable dishes to make this year.

1. Fermented Carrot-Sweet Potato

"We are loving our fermented carrot-sweet potato mix this year as a great spread to add to sandwiches, wraps and even as an addition to hummus to super-charge its health qualities." — Ken Immer, chief culinary officer at Culinary Health Solutions

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pounds of carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 pounds of sweet potatoes, shredded
  • 1/4 inch piece of ginger, grated (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 rounded teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  1. Combine carrots, sweet potatoes and salt, and squeeze well with your hands. It should 'weep' just a bit.
  2. Pack carrots into a small glass jar.
  3. Combine water and rounded teaspoon of salt in separate jar, mix well to dissolve. Pour enough of this brine to just cover the carrots, and keep remainder in another jar.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and poke 1 small hole. Keep in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight.
  5. Allow to ferment for up to 10 days, check daily and if the water level drops below the carrots, add more brine liquid. Taste to achieve your level of sour, and refrigerate with a tight fitting lid. It will keep for months.


2. Pickled Watermelon Rinds

A bowl of pickled watermelon rinds Pickled watermelon rinds are a surprising summer treat. (Photo: RussieseO/Shutterstock)

"When brining, avoid using table salt which has iodine added to it. Since iodine has anti-microbial properties, it inhibits the fermentation process. Instead, opt for sea salt or kosher salts." — Rebecca Lewis

Ingredients

  • Watermelon
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 4 cups water
  • Whole cloves to taste
  • Cinnamon stick to taste

Directions

  1. After dicing up the red "meat" of the watermelon, save the rinds.
  2. Mix salt and water to make a brine.
  3. Add the rinds to the brine and add desired seasonings.
  4. Let ferment in the refrigerator for about a month and a half.


3. Pickled Garlic

A jar and dish of pickled garlic cloves Pickled garlic is a fun addition to a pickle platter. (Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

"If your garlic begins to turn blue don't worry. It's a reaction between a compound in the garlic (anthocyanins) and traces of copper in your water." — Rebecca Lewis

Ingredients

  • 40 to 50 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/4 cups white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh dill
  • 4 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • Lemon slice

Directions

  1. Peel garlic cloves.
  2. Make the brine by combining white wine vinegar, water, kosher salt, bay leaves, fresh dill, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes and peppercorns.
  3. Once the salt is dissolved into the brine (this may require heating it up a bit), add the garlic cloves into the brine and top with lemon slice.
  4. Let ferment in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.


4. Pickled Carrots with Wild Fennel Seeds

A bowl of pickled carrots with seeds Pickled carrots with fennel seeds are a savory and sweet pickled snack (Photo: Sonia Goyal/flickr)

This looks its most exotic with red carrots, but if you can't find them, orange carrots will do the trick. "This will come out great if you cut your carrots as thinly into matchsticks if you can!" — Erika Kerekes, condiment queen and CEO of Not Ketchup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound carrots, scraped and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup grapefruit vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon fennel seeds (wild if you can get them)

Directions

  1. Pack the carrot sticks tightly into two clean, wide-mouthed pint jars.
  2. Bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan.
  3. Pour the hot liquid over the carrot sticks, right up to the rim of the jars.
  4. Put the tops on the jars and let cool on the counter.
  5. When the jars are cool, store in the refrigerator.
  6. The pickled carrots will be ready in three days and will last up to a month in the refrigerator.


5. Pickled Cauliflower

A jar of pickled cauliflower and red peppers Cauliflower is so versatile it even makes for a good pickling choice. (Photo: Alexandar Iotzov/Shutterstock)

"This will make eight half-pints — double the recipe to make more." —Harry Rosenblum, founder, The Brooklyn Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 12 half-pint Ball Jars with lids
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt or kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 large heads cauliflower florets
  • 5 or 6 mini bell peppers halved (for color)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed or curry powder per jar
  • 1 medium sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated, 1/4 teaspoon in each jar

Directions

  1. Pick or buy only extremely fresh produce. Keep all produce cool and refrigerated as long as you can before processing. Discard any bad/discolored/old produce.
  2. Fill a large pot with water so it covers your jars. Bring to boil. Sterilize jars for 2 minutes in boiling water. (Boil temp is 212 degrees Fahrenheit).
  3. Simultaneously, in a separate pot, bring vinegar, water and salt to a boil. While this is happening, cut your veggies so they fit well in your jar. Do a test cut and make sure the vegetables do not go past the "neck line" (the bigger glass line on your jar near the top just before the screw-part).
  4. After the jars have been sanitized and when the brine is just about to boil, pack jars with the spices first, then the cauliflower. Make sure 1/4-inch headspace remains at the top of the jar.
  5. Take lids, usually a 2-piece "continuous thread" lid, and sanitize lids in a boiling water pot for about 2 minutes.
  6. Remove lids and seal jars, tightening firmly, but be careful not to over-tighten.
  7. Turn jars over for 3 to 5 minutes to allow rubber ring on lid to loosen up.
  8. Take jars and place them in a boiling water pot and process for 10 minutes.
  9. Remove jars and allow them to cool. The lids should pop down within a few hours. If they do not, reprocess the jars for 5 minutes in boiling water or refrigerate them.
  10. Wait 5 to 7 days and your pickled cauliflower will be ready!


6. Pickled Cherries

A jar of pickled cherries with a plaid cloth cover Spruce up your salads with these tart cherries. (Photo: Kasza/Shutterstock)

"These pickled cherries are great in grain-based salads. The pickling brine can be used in place of vinegar in salad dressings for a slightly sweet and mildly cherry-flavored dressing." — Ally Milligan, founder, Loveleaf Co., a site devoted to eating one salad a day.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cherries, pitted and stems removed
  • 1 1/2 cups white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Place pitted cherries in two heat-proof pint jars.
  2. Bring vinegar, sugar, salt and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt.
  3. Pour over cherries and let cool. Cover and chill.


7. Pickled Apples

Two jars of pickled apples Enjoy apples another way by pickling them. (Photo: jeffreyw/flickr)

"These delicious apples keep for 30 days refrigerated." — Robert Lyford, chef, Patina Green Home and Market in McKinney, Texas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 apples, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed

Directions

  1. Heat vinegar and water to a boil in a saucepan, add sugar and dissolve.
  2. Pour hot brine over apples and spices in a non-reactive container.
  3. Refrigerate overnight.