The History of Dill Pickles


For centuries people have pickled food in order to preserve it. While our ancestors pickled many different kinds of foods, including meat, fish and fruits, cucumbers are the most common pickled food in America today. They are great on burgers, with a sandwich, as a low fat snack and even deep fried!


  • The first pickles appeared in Mesopotamia over 4,000 years ago. Cucumbers were first grown in India, and the Romans brought them into countries throughout Europe. Europeans were fascinated by this new exotic food and began experimenting with different pickle recipes.


  • The word "pikel" first appeared in English as early as 1400 and originally meant a spicy sauce served with meat. The Dutch word "pekel" meant a brine used to preserve food. Over time the English word came to mean both a spicy sauce and a brine. The Dutch phrase "in de pekel zitten," which translates to "sit in the pickle," may have led to our modern phrase "in a pickle."


  • Dill pickles are soaked in a brine with spices and dill seeds. The dill plant originated in the Mediterranean region, not far from where pickles were first created. A "kosher" dill pickle refers to the type made by Jewish pickle vendors in New York City, not pickles that have been produced under the supervision of a Rabbi. Traditionally kosher pickles contain a lot of garlic. The "Polish" dill pickle comes from northern Europe and is not made with vinegar. Polish dills are quite sour from the fermentation process.

Famous Ties

  • Cleopatra maintained her beauty was the result of the many pickles she ate. Napoleon believed pickles were necessary to sustain his troops. And on his voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, Christopher Columbus gave his crew pickles to combat scurvy, a disease that commonly afflicted sailors on long voyages.

Selling Pickles

  • In 19th and early 20th century New York City pickle pushcarts were very popular, particularly in the Lower East Side, selling "pickles for a penny." Heinz used pickle pins as a gimmick to draw attention to his booth at the 1893 World's Fair.

Pickles Today

  • In America today dill pickles outsell sweet pickles two to one. We eat a whopping 8.5 pounds of pickles each year, according to the Department of Agriculture. A new fad among children in the South is to soak a dill pickle in Kool-Aid for seven days to create a sweet-tart treat. Deep fried dill pickles first appeared in Arkansas in 1963 and can now be found throughout the country on restaurant and pub menus, as well as food vendor booths at state and county fairs.

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