Who among us doesn’t love a good pickle? And, who hasn’t lamented that a good pickle, like love, is hard to find?
Now, before anyone starts the sour vs. half-sour debate, note this: There’s more about pickles that unites us, than divides us. It’s true.
That unassuming, crunchy, little side item carries with it quite a powerful punch of history and more than a dash of folklore.
Bonus: New York Pickle Festivals Listed Below
If you think of the gherkin as nothing more than what accompanies your deli sandwich, you’re missing the whole pickle point.
Check this, for starters: The pickle has been around since 2030 BC, when cucumbers made their way from India to the Tigris Valley, and voila! Pickling began.
Somewhere along the way, Aristotle praised the pickle and elevated it to super-food status. Roman emperors fed pickles to soldiers to ensure health and great strength. Cleopatra thought pickles made her pretty.
Fast forward to 1659. Pickles hit Brooklyn.
In 1893, pickles unionize.
In 1942, Detroit births Vlasic.
Isn’t this fun?
Time to bring this story home, to tell the tale of the pickle king of Greenlawn, Long Island. Samuel Ballton worked on the Virginia Railroad, but sometime during a holiday weekend in 1862, he escaped slavery. Before he made a run for it, he tucked flour and bacon under his shirt for the trip.
About 10 years later, he landed in Greenlawn — a tiny community just starting to spring up around the newly-built Long Island Rail Road station.
Soon, the hard-working Ballton owned a little bit of land. Soon, he started the pickle thing. Soon, he was churning out over a million pickles.
Ballton, along with his inspiration, Greenlawn’s pickle pioneer, Alexander Gardiner, cemented Greenlawn’s history of pickle dominance.
Greenlawn’s Pickle Festival just celebrated its 38th year. A $5 donation at the door supports the local historical society. Inside, pickles are the centerpiece of a family outing that includes food vendors, a farmer’s market, a Lollipop train for the kids — and the chance to get your photo taken as one big pickle. Seriously.
Pickles in barrels, in containers and on a stick could be found everywhere. The smell of garlic and vinegar permeates the air — but in a good way. Pickles with jalapeno peppers keep the hot-and-spicy lovers happy. Horseradish pickles seem more like an ingredient for cole slaw. Red Flannel pickles look the prettiest.
How did bread-and-butter pickles get their name? During times of depression, white bread, butter and pickles made quite the sandwich.
editor’s picks of Pickle Festivals in New York:
Sept. 25, 2016: Pickle Day, on the Lower East Side: East Side Pickle Day
Nov. 20, 2016: Rosendale International Pickle Festival: Find out more here