10 Pickle Facts to Savor (in Honor of National Pickle Day)
In honor of one of the year's most important food-focused holidays—yes, we're talking about National Pickle Day—learn more about the snack that's so much more than just a sidekick to your sandwich.
1. PICKLING IS THOUSANDS OF YEARS OLD.
Cucumbers, which are native to India, were first brought to the Tigris Valley and pickled way back in 2030 B.C.—although preserving food in a vinegar or brine solution may stretch back even further with the Mesopotamians.
2. AMERICA GOT ITS NAME FROM A PICKLE MERCHANT.
Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci was once a ship chandler, supplying merchants and sailors with supplies for their voyages, including preserved meats and vegetables. His nickname, the pickle merchant, likely arose from his former trade, although writer Ralph Waldo Emerson derisively referred to Vespucci as a “pickle-dealer” in his book English Traits.
3. THE WORD "PICKLE" COMES FROM THE NETHERLANDS.
In Dutch, to salt or brine something is called pekel. The word may also come from the German pökel or pökeln.
4. WE EAT A LOT OF PICKLES.
Americans consume about 9 pounds of pickles per person every year. The most popular type remains kosher dill, thanks to the large numbers of Eastern European Jews who emigrated to the United States and New York City in the late 19th century.
5. CLEOPATRA USED THEM TO PRESERVE HER GOOD LOOKS …
Cleopatra was supposedly a pickle devotee. She ate them regularly, believing that they helped keep her gorgeous.
6. … WHILE CAESAR AND NAPOLEON THOUGHT THEY COULD BUILD MUSCLE.
Julius Caesar and other Roman emperors had soldiers eat the crispy preserves because they were thought to provide strength. Napoleon Bonaparte, like Caesar, valued his troops’ health, and offered 12,000 francs to anyone who could safely preserve food for his soldiers.
7. SHAKESPEARE COINED THE PHRASE, "IN A PICKLE."
Shakespeare used it to refer to finding oneself in a difficult position in The Tempest. In the 1611 play, Alonso asks Trinculo, “How camest thou in this pickle?” to which Trinculo responds, “I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last that, I fear me, will never out of my bones: I shall not fear fly-blowing.”
8. PICKLES ARE CURED IN OPEN, OUTDOOR VATS.
Companies that produce pickles on a mass scale ferment their cucumbers in giant outdoor pots in a salt brine. Yes, that means anything can get in there, including bird droppings and bugs, but the sun’s UV and infrared rays help prevent yeast and mold growth.
9. THE U.S. RATIONED PICKLES DURING WWII.
Forty percent of all pickles produced in America were set aside for the Armed Forces and soldiers’ ration kits.
10. THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES USED PICKLE JUICE TO BEAT THE COWBOYS.
During a hot September 3, 2000, game in Irving, Texas, when temperatures on the field of Texas Stadium reached 109 degrees, Philadelphia players chugged pickle juice and credited the briny solution for their 41-14 win. The Eagles outgained Dallas 425-167, and defensive end Hugh Douglass said, “I may start drinking pickle juice when I’m home chilling.”
A BYU study later confirmed that drinking pickle juice can help relieve a cramp 37 percent faster than drinking water.