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The History of Pickles

Pickles are a lot older than you might think! They got their start over 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, when people began soaking cucumbers in acidic brine to preserve them. Cleopatra credited pickles with contributing to her health and beauty, while emperors like Julius Caesar gave them to troops, believing the pickles would make them strong. Christopher Columbus, like many other explorers, ate pickles on long journeys to help prevent scurvy and is thought to have introduced pickles to America. (However, Eastern European Jews who immigrated to New York introduced America to kosher dill pickles.) In the 1650s, cucumbers grown by Dutch farmers in New York were purchased and made into pickles by dealers, creating the pickle industry. By the 19th century, the H.J. Heinz Company, Inc. had cornered the pickle market, thanks in large part to the pickle pin promotions run at the World’s Fairs of 1893, 1896, 1898 and 1939. During World War II, the United States government rationed pickles, with 40 percent of the nation’s supply going to troops. Today, pickles are no less popular and are in fact well-known for their heartiness, health benefits, and delicious taste. In the 2010s, Americans consumed more than 2 million pounds of pickles each year!

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