Follow us on Twitter

Share to Delicious Share to Google 
History of vinegar E-mail

Vinegar's history is widespread and diverse. Vinegar may have infact been discovered entirely by accident. Over the ages ancient civilisations have used vinegar for preserving, and medicinal purposes amongst other things.

It is said that the Sumerians, around 2500 BC were the first to begin using vinegar as a disinfectant and using it to preserve food. 500 years later, vinegar was also being used in Mesopotamia to pickle imported cucumbers. In the classical world from the mid 400's BC onwards, Hippocrates and his fellow pioneers used vinegar mixed in medicine, applied on the skin and as a drink.

During Hannibal's campaign across the Alps into Italy in 218 BC, it is reputed that the boulders blocking his army's path were heated and then had vinegar poured over them in order to crack the boulders into smaller pieces and then remove them easier. By the 1st century BC, the Egyptians were using vinegar to preserve not only their food, but also as a method of preserving during mummification. Cleopatra was a main advocate of vinegar, and used it in skin care. As well as this, Pliny describes how Cleopatra drank a solution of pearls dissolved in vinegar to win a challenge with Anthony over who could eat the most expensive meal.

Perhaps some of the success of the Roman Empire can be attributed to vinegar. During the expansion of the Roman Empire, Roman soldiers were known to drink posca, made from diluted vinegar, said to help whilst soldiers were on the battlefield. The Middle East saw developments in alchemy, the alchemist Jabir Ibn Haiyan discovered acetic acid by distilling vinegar. Middle Eastern physicians of the time used vinegar to ease headaches, burns, and as a clotting agent.

Further East in China vinegar was considered a vital household ingredient, and was listed as one of twelve items every household should always have, used as a handwash and disinfectant. As well as for medicinal and sanitizing purposes, vinegar was believed to increase spiritual energy and remove toxins from the body.

In medieval times, amongst frequent outbreaks of plague, vinegar was used as a disinfectant to ward off the disease. Those employed to clear away bodies doused themselves in vinegar, and villages quarantined because of the plague left money for those bringing food in a container of vinegar, so as to disinfect it. Onwards from this time, vinegar played a major role on voyaging ships. Vinegar kept ships clean, and preserved food, essential for long journeys in confined spaces.

In the 17th and 18th centuries after the development of open sewage systems in towns and cities, vinegar was used to remove the worst of the stench. Men and women carried with them a sponge soaked in vinegar which they held up to their noses. In France in the 17th century, the King of France spent over one million francs on vinegar to cool cannons used in battle. The American Civil War and the First World War, as well as other signicant historical conflicts saw apple cider vinegar used widely to clean and disinfect wounds of the soldiers.

By the 1860's the potential for commercialising vinegar expanded with Louis Pasteur's discovery. He realised that by adding more micro-organisms, and increasing the wine's exposure to oxygen the process sped up considerably. The use of vinegar on a large scale didn't fade out over time. As recent as 2003, vinegar was used to help treat an outbreak of pneumonia in China. Today, vinegar is used around the home, in the kitchen, as a medicine, and as a cleaner.



Would you like to add your voice to the conversation?
Please REGISTER (top right panel) and LOG IN to post a comment.