The History of Pickling

If you have ever eaten a pickle, you will know they have a very distinctive, tasty, vinegary flavour, and crunchy texture.  And if you’re like me, you might have wondered where pickling all began?  Luckily for you, I have some answers.

Pickling was first used by Mesopotamian and Indian civilisations around 2030 BC, so quite some time ago!1-4  Meat, fish and vegetables, including cucumbers, were commonly pickled to preserve them and enhance their flavour.  Notable historical figures like Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and Napoleon Bonaparte were huge fans of pickled foods because they believed that they had mystical healing powers and amazing health benefits.1-3 

Pickles were later carried around the world by explorers who travelled with pickles on board their ships, and in the 1500’s they were introduced to the United States of America, where today they are an iconic North American food.1,3  However, it was not until the late 1800’s that advancements were made in the preservation and food safety of pickles sealed in jars, through the invention of paraffin wax, the Mason jar and the discovery of pasteurisation.2,3  Did you know that a perfectly preserved bottle of pickles from the 1850’s still exists today?5  If you’re ever in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania you can check this out at the John Heinz History Center.5

Since then, pickles have been commercially produced by food companies.  In fact, pickles have become such a loved food in the United States that they’ve even earned themselves a National Pickle Day, on the 14th of November!6

So grab a jar and celebrate, because you never know, maybe they really do have mystical healing powers!


Author: Amy Rowe, Dillicious Intern 2022

3rd Year Bachelor of Nutrition Science Student, Monash University



Photo by Ray Shrewsberry on Unsplash


  1. New World Encyclopedia. Pickled cucumber [Internet]. New World Encyclopedia; 2008. Available from:
  2. Joardder MUH, Masud MH. A Brief History of Food Preservation. In: Food Preservation in Developing Countries: Challenges and Solutions. Springer, Cham; 2019. p. 57-66. Available from: doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-11539-2_3
  3. Terebelski D, Ralph N. Pickle History Timeline [Internet]. New York Food Museum; 2003. Available from:
  4. Chakraborty R, Roy S. Exploration of the diversity and associated health benefits of traditional pickles from the Himalayan and adjacent hilly regions of Indian subcontinent. J Food Sci Technol. 2018;55:1599-1613. Available from: doi: 10.1007/s13197-018-3080-7
  5. Reck S. Never a Dill Moment at the History Center [Internet]. Heinz History Center; Pennsylvania: 2017. Available from:
  6. National Day Calendar. National Pickle Day [Internet]. National Day Calendar. Available from: