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7 Things You Didn’t Know About Pickles

Pickling was most likely an invention of necessity over flavor.

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You can do this with a pickle, for starters. Photo: Kate Ter Haar / Flickr

Pickling was most likely an invention of necessity over flavor. Archeologists believe we’ve been pickling since as far back as 2400 B.C. when the ancient Mesopotamians realized that by immersing produce in a brine or vinegar they could extend the life of foods for either travel or to enjoy out of season. When cucumbers were brought in from India around 2000 B.C., a match made in heaven was created.

Here are seven more facts about our favorite pickled produce.

1. America Was Named After A Pickle Peddler

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“It’s like paleo gatorade! Two terms you haven’t even heard of, yet!”

When Christopher Columbus set sail, he brought with him Amerigo Vespucci (Amerigo = America), a man who not only sold pickles in Spain but also knew the benefits of stocking the ships with enough pickles to help prevent scurvy during their voyage. Columbus even stopped in Haiti to grow more cucumbers for their voyage home.

2. And Americans Eat A Lot Of Them

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Imagine this plate without the pickles, though. shudder Photo: Brandon / Flickr

Americans consume somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5 billion pounds of pickles, or roughly 9 pounds of pickles per person, per year.

3. Mason Jars Were Invented For Pickling

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Fulfilling their life’s purpose. Photo: Christine / Flickr

John Mason developed the Mason jar in 1858 because he needed a thicker glass jar that could withstand the heat required to sterilize and seal the lid during pickling. Made of soda-lime glass, these jars proved so popular that even after his patent expired, manufacturers (mainly Ball and Kerr) continued producing them with the name “Mason.”

4. Shakespeare Is Credited With Coining The Term “In A Pickle”

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Or maybe Shakespeare’s secret stage note was for Trinculo to be opening a jar of pickles.

Idioms are fun little things, and one of the most popular, “in a pickle,” relates to being stuck in a bad situation. While it’s originally a Dutch term, many credit it to Shakespeare. During an exchange in The Tempest, Alonso asks a sullen Trinculo, “How camest thou in this pickle?” Though many believe Shakespeare is referring to Trinculo being drunk.

5. Drink Pickle Juice For Extra Performance

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Mixing it with vodka may hinder said performance boost. Photo: Droid Eris Man / Flickr

Pickling requires sodium, and sodium is necessary for keeping us properly hydrated. While it may not be as flavorful as Gatorade (though far lower in sugar), the brine is an ideal mix for helping your body retain fluids lost through exercise. Dr. Oz has even claimed it as a way to alleviate symptoms of a hangover.

6. The Pickleback Is The Most Hipster Of Drinks

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And when the pickle juice is served from within an actual pickle, you’ve out-hipstered yourself. Photo: maceelaine / Flickr

While the tradition of taking a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle brine might go back some ways in the Southern U.S., the term “pickleback” is credited to Reggie Cunningham of The Bushwick Country Club, a bar in the hipster haven of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, N.Y. (would you expect anything else?).

7. Pickling Involves Exposing Pickles To The Elements

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“Come and get 'em, birds and bugs!”

Next time you bite into a Kosher dill remember it was probably sitting in a large vat outside, exposed to whatever it is that resides outdoors (cough bird poop cough), but it’s not for nothing. The sun’s ultraviolet rays help prevent mold and yeast growth, both of which could harm your pickle.