Micro-organisms – Fermented Foods


From Little Things….

Once an age old tradition and way of preserving foods, fermented or living foods are back on the menu. More people are becoming aware of how important the world of the micro-organisms are for our digestive health and overall well being. Living foods are a way of increasing our exposure to healthy, helpful bacterial populations and commonly taste good too.

Its a funny concept that encouraging bacteria into food you can actually prevent spoiling and usually extend a foods life. In fact there are those who have made an art form out of this process, controlling bacteria to create new and delicious products like cheese, wine, beer, breads, salami, miso and fish sauce to name a few.

Outside of these more commercial products most people are familiar with traditional sauerkraut. I grew up with sauerkraut from the can. An interesting experience. Salty, sour and with a very intriguing texture. More recent incarnations of sauerkraut however are delicious, tangy, flavoursome and health laden affairs. Cabbage is a perfect medium for fermentation as it naturally contains large amounts of lactic acid loving bacteria, sugars, water and nutrient to feed these bacteria as they grow. Three main strains drive the fermentation process, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus brevis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides guided by a small amount of salt, temperature and ensuring the cabbage stays covered in liquids to create an anaerobic environment.

Some other popular fermented foods that can easily be made at home include kim chi, kvass, rejuvelac, yoghurt, cheese, home made beers and wines, kombucha, keffir and lactofermented foods to name a few. My personal favourite and the one I find easiest to make is a drink called Beetroot Kvass. Beetroot cubes, water, a pinch of salt and lemon juice left to sit for a week or so until bubbly, sour and delicious.

In Bellingen we are lucky enough for those who are on Facebook to have a Bellingen Fermenters Network. Here the very active fermenting population of Bellingen shares tips and recipes for home made ferments, can share kombucha, keffir and other cultures and can provide news of upcoming workshops and articles of interest related to fermented foods. If you are not close by how about starting up an online sharing group in your area?

Some other priceless resources for those interested in exploring the world of living foods include Sandor Katz books on fermenting with an absolute wealth of recipes and information. Have a read, an experiment and enjoy getting to know some friendly, helpful and delicious micro-organisms.

Article by Damian Harrison, Naturopath from Chamomile Naturopathy , Bellingen.