Back to all articles

The History of Relish

It’s a popular condiment in the summer months, especially on hot dogs and burgers, but do you know the history of relish? It’s thought that relishes probably came about as a way to preserve garden vegetables for use during the winter months. This is supported by the etymology – the word “relish” first appeared in English in 1798 but was derived from the Old French word “reles,” meaning “something remaining.” In the United States today, the term relish usually refers to a condiment that contains vinegar, salt, and sugar along with chopped fruits or vegetables – such as the ubiquitous pickle relish. However, relish isn’t technically a condiment, since unlike ketchup or mustard, a relish can be eaten in large quantities. There are at least four types of relishes. Pickle relish is the most well-known and most popular in the United States. Piccalilli is a sour pickle relish used for preserving cucumbers and other garden vegetables like cabbage, green peppers, green tomatoes, and onions. Chutney, which comes from India, is also in the relish family and is thought to have been introduced to America by schooner captains working in the spice trade. Finally, chow-chow has Chinese origins and features pickled mixed vegetables and mustard. Each type has its own uses and culinary charms, but pickle relish is easily the most iconic and well-loved relish in America.

Share this article

card showing the history of rocking chairs

Your go-to guide for weird history facts

Subscribe to the FREE daily email that makes learning about history fun.