A pickle is a preserved cucumber in brine or vinegar. Pickles are categorized as dill, sour or sweet. Dill is the most common variety of pickle and is created by fermenting the cucumber with herb dill or dill oil. Sour pickles are fermented in a brine that does not contain vinegar. Sweet pickles are placed in a mixture of vinegar, sugar and spices.
Pickles date back to ancient Mesopotamia around 2400 B.C.E. Historical records show that Christopher Columbus and his crew ate pickles to prevent scurvy during their journey to the Americas in 1492. Amerigo Vespucci, the mapmaker who America is named after, was a pickle merchant. Queen Elizabeth I, Thomas Jefferson and Cleopatra are all historical figures who loved pickles.
Studies show the average American consumes 8.5 pounds of pickles per year. Dill pickles are twice as popular with American consumers than sweet pickles. Most pickle makers in the U.S.ferment pickles outdoors in open vats because food scientists say sunlight prevents the growth of yeast and mold. Thirty out of 50 states make pickles, with the most pickles being produced in Michigan and North Carolina. More than half of the cucumbers grown in the U.S. each year are pickled.
Pickles play an important role in Pacific Islander culture. In Fiji, suitors prove their wealth by showing how many pickles they produce. Pickles are produced in the Pacific Islands in pits lined with banana leaves.