By Shannon Cothran
People have been eating pickles ever since the Mesopotamians started making them way back in 2400 B.C.E. Here are some even more important things you should know about them.
1. In the Pacific Islands, natives pickle their foods in holes in the ground lined with banana leaves, and use them as food reserves in case of storms. The pickles are so valuable that they've become part of the courting process, helping a man prove he'll be able to provide for a woman. In Fiji, guys can't get a girl without first showing her parents his pickle pits.
2. Cleopatra claimed pickles made her beautiful. (We guess it had more to do with her genes.)
3. The majority of pickle factories in America ferment their pickles in outdoor vats without lids (leaving them subject to insects and bird droppings)! But there's a reason. According to food scientists, the sun's direct rays prevent yeast and molds from growing in the brine.
4. In the Delta region of Mississippi, Kool-Aid pickles have become ridiculously popular with kids. The recipe's simple: take some dill pickles, cut them in half, and then soak them in super strong Kool-Aid for more than a week. According to the New York Times, the sweet vinegar snacks are known to sell out at fairs and delicatessens, and generally go for $.50 to a $1.
5. Not everyone loves a sweet pickle. In America, dill pickles are twice as popular as the sweet variety.
6. The Department of Agriculture estimates that the average American eats 8.5 lbs of pickles a year. [Image courtesy of Dangerous Intersection.]
7. When the Philadelphia Eagles thrashed the Dallas Cowboys in sweltering heat in September 2000, many of the players attributed their win to one thing: guzzling down immense quantities of ice-cold pickle juice.
8. If it weren't for pickles, Christopher Columbus might never have "discovered" America. In his famous 1492 voyage, Columbus rationed pickles to his sailors to keep them from getting scurvy. He even grew cucumbers during a pitstop in Haiti to restock for the rest of the voyage.
9. Speaking of people who get credit for discovering America, when he wasn't drawing maps and trying to steal Columbus' thunder, Amerigo Vespucci was a well-known pickle-merchant.
10. Napoleon was also a big fan of pickle power. In fact, he put up the equivalent of $250,000 as a prize to whoever could figure out the best way to pickle and preserve foods for his troops.
11. During the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, H. J. Heinz used pick-shaped pins to lure customers to his out of the way booth. By the end of the fair, he'd given out lots of free food, and over 1,000,000 pickle pins.
12. Berrien Springs, Michigan, has dubbed itself the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World. In early December, they host a parade, led by the Grand Dillmeister, who tosses out fresh pickles to parade watchers.