Origins and History

The word 'gherkin' may have come from the Swedish word 'gurka' or the German word 'gurke' both meaning 'cucumber'. Gherkin is cucumber pickled or preserved in brine or vinegar. It is the fruit of the plant cucumis sativus from the cucurbit family. There are two types of cucumber: those with smooth epidermis and those with spiny epidermis. Only the type with spiny epidermis is made into gherkin. It is a cucurbitaceous vegetable crop of 90 days duration whose raw young fruits are harvested and pickled immediately after harvesting in brine, natural vinegar or acetic acid.

Though gherkin originated in India, the first ever mention of it, in the recorded history, is related to Mesopotamia. It is believed to be the first ever pickle in recorded history, enjoyed by the people of Mesopotamia four and half millennia ago. Cleopatra was fond of pickles as she thought that pickles helped in enhancing her beauty. Roman soldiers and Napoleon's troops were given pickles as part of their food supplies. Gherkins were thought to be a sacred food of the Yaskxia people of Russia.

Pickled gherkin is mentioned in English in the 17th century. Virginia Gazette of 1792 carries an advertisement for sale of gherkin to the American public, thus introducing it to the Americans. It conquered the American palate so quickly that it became 'the pickle' to the American within a century. During the Second World War, 40% of all pickles manufactured in the US were allocated for the soldiers engaged in war as a delicacy they would like and remind them of their homes. Pickles would make up for the lack of appetizers and tasty side dishes that would be lacking in the makeshift kitchens on the warfront. Gherkin pickle in glass jar became a commercial product in France in the 1820s.