While the practice of pickling is prevalent all over the world, there is evidence which clearly shows that pickling began in India more than 4000 years ago. The earliest pickles have been traced back to 2030 BCE.
However, back then in those ancient times, the aim of pickling wasn’t just to create exciting accompaniments for meals – it had more to do with preserving vegetables, fruits, meat, etc for the winter months when these would be in short supply. In this sense, pickling was more of a survival tactic than a culinary practice.
Mustard and Mustard Oil are known to have existed in India as far back as 5000 years ago – so naturally, mustard oil was the preferred preservative for pickling, especially in North India. However, for some pickles brine and vinegar were also used.
While we’re on the subject of history and pickling, here’s another interesting fact: Cucumbers are originally from India. They grew profusely in the foothills of the Himalayas. You couldn’t get them anywhere else in the ancient world. Far away in Rome, Emperor Tiberius developed an avid liking for this vegetable. He insisted on having copious amounts of it with every meal. The only way to get them from India to Rome without them turning rotten was to pickle them in mustard oil and brine.
And that’s how India’s exports of pickles began. Today, Indian pickles are hugely popular all over the world and you can spot them at stores and supermarkets in every country. You can also spot traditional German, French, Korean, Italian, Japanese and Turkish pickles – but remember… it all began here – in India.