New York puckers over pickle gap

Energy shortages may get most of the publicity these days, but in New York City there's another shortage -- of pickles. Some local pickle packers just can't seem to find enough cucumbers, the main ingredient for pickles, along with salt and garlic.

Since it takes a month to turn a cucumber into a good sour pickle, Bert (Best Pickle) Blitz is busy combing farms in New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland as well as upper New York State for the best quality cukes. 'No, none come from New York City," he laments, "not any more."

Not only do pickles "add spice to your life," but they cost only a fraction of what many ice cream cones do, proclaims Mr. Blitz of L. Hollander O Son, in the heart of the Lower East Side's pickle district.

In fact, as any pickle peddler worth his salt will tell you, some one-scoop cones have hit the dollar mark. But fresh, cool-out-of-the-barrel pickle prices have remained at 25 cents a piece -- 35 cents for the larger variety.

When people talk to Lou (the Pickleman) Lichper of the Pickleman Inc. or Bert (Best Pickle) Blitz, they invariably try the product right there on the spot.

Will a sour pickle make a sour person a little sweeter?

"Sure!" Bert says. "People come here from as far away as California, and they're walking around and they see the place and they just have to have a pickle."

New Yorkers love their pickles, too, eating more than 3 million fresh and packed pickles a week.

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