Crunchy, tangy and sometimes just a little funky, pickles are one of life’s most enticing foods—and they've captivated some of history's most important figures.

By Justine Sterling
Updated May 24, 2017
Spicy Dill Quick Pickles

Here, five famous people who just couldn’t get enough pickles.

1. Cleopatra
One of history’s most legendary beauties, Cleopatra partially credited her good looks to a diet high in pickles. She also regularly bathed in donkey milk and applied crocodile dung facial masks. We’ll stick with the pickles.

2. Napoleon Bonaparte
The angry, famously tiny general and his armies regularly feasted on pickles. They were such a valuable source of nutrition for his troops that Napoleon offered a reward of 12,000 francs (about $250,000 today) to anyone who could come up with a way to preserve pickles safely. In 1809, chef and confectioner Nicolas Appert won the prize with his brilliant method: He removed all the air from a bottle of pickles before sealing it and then boiling it. Appert’s method is still used by home preservers today.

3. Christopher Columbus
Some sailors ate citrus fruits to prevent scurvy, but Christopher Columbus and his crews aboard the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria relied on pickles for their daily dose of scurvy’s worst enemy: vitamin C. Columbus was such a fan that he grew a crop of cucumbers in Haiti to restock his ships for the remainder of the voyage to the New World.

4. Thomas Jefferson
An accomplished gardener, Jefferson loved fruits and vegetables. His favorites included figs, English peas, greens and, possibly, pickles. Jefferson is claimed to have said, “On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally’s cellar.” But according to an article in The Wall Street Journal there’s no evidence of Jefferson ever having said or written such a thing. Nonetheless, Jefferson had a sophisticated palate, so we’re sure he would have enjoyed a crunchy half-sour.

5. George Washington
Jefferson isn't the only Founding Father with a reported love for pickles. Washington, who cultivated and collected both rare and commonplace plants in the gardens at Mount Vernon, amassed 476 different varieties of cucumbers meant for pickling.