Pickle juice for muscle cramps? Find out more fascinating facts about pickles

Pickles have been around for nearly 4,000 years and are found in cuisines across the world. The term pickle comes from the Dutch word “Pekel” meaning salt or brine

Seasonal fruits and vegetables are often preserved to extend shelf life, and salt, used for centuries for this purpose, is one of the oldest known preservatives

Salt or a percentage of salt in water, known as brine, prevents food from rotting. The various methods of salting vegetables, fruits and meat for later use is called pickling

Pickles have been a part of legends. It is said that Christopher Columbus travelled on his great voyages of discovery with pickles to overcome seasickness

Amerigo Vespucci, a ship chandler, made pickles and supplied them to the crew. Cleopatra is also said to have used pickles to maintain her health and beauty

Napoleon is said to have triggered the quest for extending the life of pickles leading to the invention of the canning process by Nicholas Appert

Even during the construction of the Great Wall of China, pickled vegetables were given to labourers. Pickling is the first and oldest preservation technique

Indian Cucumbers were the first vegetables to be pickled and marketed. Salted amla or gooseberry was used by sailors to combat sea sickness

In fact, it was pickle manufacturers who helped in the formation of the US Food and Drug Administration or FDA which checks food safety of products in that country

Indian pickles are spicy, tangy and have a good flavour, texture and consistency. Generally, pickles are of two types: Fermented and non-fermented pickles

Fermented pickles are made by soaking a vegetable in brine for a few days and waiting for the growth of microorganisms to give it a desired taste and texture

One such fermented food is Kimchi, the famous Korean cabbage pickle, loaded with nutrients and probiotics

In India, lemon, citron, mango, and gooseberry are commonly allowed to ferment in brine for weeks or months and then seasoned with spices and chilli powder

In some cases, vinegar is added to create an acidic environment and in the traditional method, excess oil is added as a barrier to the entry of pathogens

Pickles have high sodium content which retards the growth of harmful microorganisms but it makes pickles a no-no for those with heart disease

Pickles available in supermarkets are usually non-fermented. They contain chemical preservatives and therefore lack the unique flavour and taste of marinated pickles

The chemical preservatives in pickles are sodium benzoate, citric acid. In case of meat-based pickles, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrites are added to retain colour

A research group reported in 2022 that a sip of pickle juice (usually a combination of water, vinegar, salt and sometimes sugar), helps reduce the muscle cramps

Traditional Indian pickles are loaded with health benefits but are best had in small quantities. Always use a dry spoon to serve pickles or you may contaminate them

Store pickles in air tight jars/bottles and frequently place them in sunlight to control the growth of pathogens. Carry pickled mango or amla to combat travel sickness

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