Aachar: A Condiment That Needs No Introduction

What comes to your mind when you think of a condiment quintessential to every single household in India? When I say every single household, I literally mean it. I think you have figured out that we are talking about pickles or like we say in India, aachars. To me, this food item gives a very homely feeling and is perhaps the most asked-for package to carry overseas. Aachars are packed with so many flavours as well as love and warmth. Isn’t it?

Let us dig a little deeper into this one of the most loved condiments across the globe. The idea of pickle differs from one region to another in India. Athanu in Gujarati, Loncha in Marathi, Urukai in Tamil, and Pachadi in Telugu, pickles have so many renditions, but their charm remains the same. You must embrace this beauty, but have you ever wondered what was the idea behind the origin of pickles? Among many legends, the earliest traces of pickling dates back to 2030 BC when Indian cucumbers were pickled in Wayanad’s Tigris valley, as stated by the New York Food Museum. It is reportedly believed that the word ‘pickle’ comes from the Dutch word ‘pekel,’ which means brine. Though aachars, widely used in India, are believed to have Persian roots. 

If some legends are to be believed, then Portuguese physician Garcia da Orta mentioned aachar in the book ‘Hobson-Jobson: The Definitive Glossary of British India” to indicate cashew preserved in salt. As per a theory, the Roman emperor Julius Caesar was fond of pickles, and he had also asked his men to eat some pickles before their battle for gaining spiritual strength. You didn’t know this, did you?

The supremacy of mango pickle supremacy in India is not hidden from anyone. All you need is a square inch of this pickle to make a meal fulfilling. Not just mango but also other varieties like green and red chili, gooseberry, tomato, and other vegetables or fruits are pickled. In some parts of India, non-vegetarian pickles are quite popular. The Indian tradition of making Achaar is not just an heirloom thing but is also one of the highlighted ways of conserving fruits, vegetables, and sometimes meat for months. It is not just a process but a tradition. Making perfect pickles is an art and not everybody is an artist. It requires a lot more dedication, patience, and discipline than you think.

Pickling, literally any fruit or vegetable, may have originated from a problem but has written history and we know why. There is nothing that can take the place of our beloved aachar. Indeed, Indians love their food, and they can never dare to overlook this quintessential condiment. Never!