As a young girl I had the incredible fortune of being raised in the Orient. It was here that I had my first introduction to Tsukemono, a Japanese fermented vegetable medley, along with Kimchi which is the Korean version of sauerkraut. Both of these condiments I grew to enjoy, but as a youngster I was completely unaware of the numerous health benefits of these delicious cultured foods.
It’s really only been recently that fermented foods have begun to disappear from our plate. Many of today’s pickles and sauerkrauts are now made with vinegar instead of using the traditional method of lacto-fermentation which uses only salt or whey. Most breads and pastas today are made with commercial yeast instead of being leavened with wild yeast (sourdough). Wine, beer, and cheeses are typically pasteurized now which destroys enzymes and kills off all the good bacteria that our bodies need to maintain health.
Humans all over the world have been fermenting food since ancient times. In fact the earliest evidence of winemaking dates back eight thousand years. The people of yesteryear knew how to preserve vegetables and fruits for long periods of time without the use of freezers or canning equipment. This was all done through the process of lacto-fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative and the starches and sugars in fruits and vegetables are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-producing bacteria such as lactobacilli, which is just one of the many “good” bacteria. Lactobacilli are ubiquitous and present on the surface of all living things and are especially numerous on leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground. Our ancestors learned the techniques for controlling and encouraging their proliferation and put them to extraordinary use.
With the proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables their digestibility is enhanced and vitamin levels are increased. They produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Additionally, they help to promote the growth of healthy gut flora which is extraordinarily important for the overall strength of our immune system.
It’s incredibly easy to ferment vegetables in your own kitchen but if you’re like me, I was intimidated. Finally after watching a few YouTube videos and asking others I knew who participated in this culinary practice, I felt prepared to take the plunge. I have no regrets. So if you’re curious to learn more, come join us on Saturday June 22nd from 10-12pm for a little fun in the Cultured Kitchen. There will be a demonstration as well as a hands-on experience where you’ll get to make your own jar of sauerkraut to take home and enjoy!!
Hope to see you soon!
Resources: Nourishing Traditions – Sally Fallon