Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
So what’s all the hype about fermenting? Is it an old form of preservation and preparation or a new trend? The bottom line is its both!
To ferment at home is to open up a world of adventure, reconnection and vitality! To ferment is to connect to the micro-cosmos, that is, to see the deliberate and transformative action of microbes on a substrate. Really?
Well, fermenting is to use beneficial bacteria and yeasts in such a way as to create new flavours, and to pre-digest foods making vitamins and minerals more available to our bodies and therefore easier to absorb. It has the potential to introduce many health benefits to our bodies to rebalance our gut bugs or micro-flora.
If I haven’t lost you so far then I’m probably close so let’s back on track (K.I.S.S.). Our bodies, both inside and out are literally covered in microbes; bacteria and yeasts. We are more microbial, than human in some ways. The last few decades has seen a literal war on them in search for new and improved cleanliness and good health. These may be good goals but are at times misguided as I think we have gone too far and given away too much control of our lives and health.
In my opinion the increased allergies that many are seeing in their children is just one indicator of this. My children are still battling allergies that they’ve had since they were little. As an observation, children don’t seem to play in the dirt the way I used too! To run barefoot in the grass and bury their toes in the sand, let alone eat it…..or so I’m told I did!
One aspect of reclaiming gut health could be through fermenting, by consuming fermented foods and drinks. I’d suggest start with small quantities, diversify and learn to read the feedback from your body. Fermented foods are not a meal in themselves. They are teaming with microbial life so you only need a small amount, eventually with each meal. Start with just one in a day and gradually add in others as you feel ready. It’s not volume that you’re after but diversity, so a fermented drink, like Kombucha at a meal, then say kimchi with another and finish the day with a little fermented dairy, like a kefir dip.
As you start, your body will let you know how it is receiving these powerhouse foods and drinks. You may experience nothing or you could get some bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea as you start or increase the volume or diversity. Just cut back and try again in a few days. As long as there is no underlying medical issue, it will literally pass!
You can introduce fermented foods by simply buying them and contributing to the emerging market of fermented products available to you or you could learn fermenting and make your own. I’m an advocate for making your own. Not only is it cheaper, but the benefits are even more bountiful. However if you don’t have the time or inclination to ‘do-it-yourself’ then purchase some – the benefits are too great to put off.
You don’t have to be great to get started, but you do have to get started to be great.
Everyday Life Lessons
I am passionate about fermenting and want to see others empowered to give it a go. I am always sharing what I have learnt on my fermenting journey, either at home with friends or teaching classes and making new ones. I’m even fortunate enough to share my passion with journalists and at events.
I started fermenting after talking to a guy on a course we were both attending on Carbon Farming in Tennessee in the USA. He spoke of his passion for lacto fermented foods like sour dill pickles, sauerkraut and yoghurt. I knew what these were but had no concept that they could deliver beneficial microbes to my gut, let alone that I could make them all....and more! His name is Sandor Ellix Katz or Sandorkraut as he’s known to some. He’s an amazing Ferment Culturalist, travelling the world promoting the reconnection to the ancient skill of fermenting with all the benefits it brings to modern day lives.
After meeting Sandor, I returned home with his books in tow but then I hit a snag, well the floor actually. I’m an epileptic and had a serious seizure the day I returned. It was the worst one I’ve had, causing trauma to my family and friends and physical injuries to myself. It took a long time to recover and reconnect with my fermenting aspirations. The next hurdle was to find a class but once I did I’ve never looked back!
Prior to this lifestyle change I was living with a constant lack of energy, tired all the time, poor skin, unexplained inflammation, food cravings and poor digestion. Over time, I’ve found that things have moved to a better place. I just feel good most of the time. The cravings were the first thing to change. I look back now and realise that my energy levels are higher, my skin clearer, the aches and pains are gone and I’m regular!
With anyone I meet, when I mention my passion for fermenting they are curious to hear more. Most people only associate fermenting with wine and beer. Some think of cheese and yoghurt but rarely is sauerkraut, kimchi, curtido or brined vegetables the first thing that comes to mind. Some have seen the fermented beverages that are sold as Yakult or kombucha in stores. At this point, I outline what it means to me and people either ask am I selling it or teaching it!
We’ve lost something of our heritage by not connecting to our food the way previous generations have. We’ve kind of lost our connection to the source of our food and even the soil it comes from.
It’s like I travelled to a different world and returned with adventures to share. When really I’m just fermenting everything I can get my hands on in my quest to learn more!