“The main reason I ferment foods is for the transfer of information. Beneficial bacteria are prokariotic cells with free floating DNA. The cells that make up our bodies are eukariotic cells with a nucleus that holds the DNA. When one prok. cell bumps up to another one, info is shared. So, all the bacteria outside our bodies is gathering and sharing information. Then when one ingests those knowledge gathering, pre-digesting, bacteria via kraut, kimchi, etc…a few make it to the bacteria in our guts, and share info, which our bacteria shares with our body…giving our immune system the knowledge to fend off the common cold, influenza and much more. So, get informed. Eat local ferments! Now!!!” ~ Wakan Zion Burrows, From the Facebook Page Wild Fermentation
I’m a big fermenter. I’ve been fermenting my foods for years. I ferment raw milk into kefir, make kombucha, water kefir, sauerkraut, pickles and any bumper crop that I want to preserve like onions, garlic, carrots or just about anything else that I want to turn into a fizzy probiotic powerhouse. Dr. Mercola recently sent off some homemade sauerkraut to the lab and was blown away by the results. You can read more about the Sauerkraut Test or watch his video interview with Sandor Katz, fermenting guru by following the links.
If you’re too shy to ask why you should ferment, I’m going to tell you. Most foods at the grocery store, especially commercial yogourts are full of gel-like thickeners and harbour much fewer acidopholous and bifididus than your refrigerated probiotic … by a lot! Also, how much healthy, raw, alive foods and probiotic rich foods do you eat on a daily basis? Come on, at least whisper the truth to yourself.
I think of fermentation this way. Every winter, a farmer’s field remains fallow. She will also consider that the crop of the prior year has consumed much of the nutrients in the soil and so the microbiota needs to be re-introduced to the soil. In the spring, the farmer will reintroduce good bacteria by spraying her fields with manure. You only need a little bit to create a positive infectious growth of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium so that the harvest will yield a plentiful crop full of nutrition.
Our human organisms come from nature and we can become ill if we’re not loading our organisms with positive bacteria every day. If you’ve had a history of antibiotics, chemmo, radiation, c-difficile infections, yeast, thrush, long term exposure to junk food or cooked food you are a good candidate for fermented foods. Dead foods will create a depleted immune function laying you open as prey to infections and diseases. The truth is you are an extension of the health of your gut, it is that critical.
If you want more information on the relationship between health and microflora, perhaps read this article, How Your Gut Microbiome Influences Your Mental & Physical Health, by Dr. Mercola, or if you’re a scientist or practitioner, you can read the very heady, The Second Brain, by Dr. Gershon. Both reads promise further illumination on how our health is largely dependent on the health of our gut.
Here are 10 reasons to eat more fermented foods:
- Make your Digestion and Bowel Movements Phenomenal: Fermented foods are loaded with enzymes and probiotics which provides your body with great additional tools to help break down and efficiently process your food making much less work for body to synthesize. Also when your body has all the resources she needs, she’s not clamouring for foods rich in life forces from other sources. Cravings will be less too! Weight loss easier! Patients have reported to me after introducing more fermented foods in their diet how wonderful, complete and fulfilling their elimination has become. That is a big bonus to your health. Better out than in!
- Improve your Immune Function: Eating more fermented foods is kind of like bolstering the allies in your gut. A little shot of sauerkraut juice or kombucha can work wonders giving you that added edge to a histamine response, decreasing allergic responses to stimuli. It can also be the deciding factor whether not you contract a virus or bacterial infection as your arsenal of health will be wholly supplemented with the sentinels easily recognized by your body. Learn more about coming back from health challenges by using great recipes for fermenting with Donna Schwenk here.
- Positive Bacteria Makes Foods Taste Wildly Good: Human beings have been fermenting foods for hundreds of years out of necessity as a means to preserve foods simply for survival. In addition, there is nothing like a couple of tablespoons of fermented onion, garlic or sauerkraut to enliven a plate with texture, fizz, and a sparkly wake-up for your taste buds. Did you know that travellers on the silk road in China used to carry kombucha with them as a source of preserved nutrition? Also beer and spirits are also ferments, however the sugar content and alcohol can create more deleterious effects on your health than positive ones. Follow the Facebook page, Wild Fermentation, to learn more about the foods you can ferment.
- Causing Less Harm to Your Environment: So picture this … I go to my local market. Pick out the most gorgeous cabbage. Come home and shave it off with my knife, or slicer, add a little red onion and some garlic and mix it up. Next I jam it liberally into a couple of 750 ml jars that I’d bought organic spaghetti sauce in and then pour a simple brine of one tablespoon of sea, or kosher, salt dissolved into pure spring or well water. For the next 3-4 days, when I get up in the morning, I burp the jars by opening the lids to let out the excess C02 that off-gassed during the fermenting process overnight. Sometimes I have to add a bit more water due to the absorption process. Consider that I’ve not used any excess packaging, produced consumer waste or employed any petrochemicals or even electricity. Actually I’ve even recycled a couple of jars!
- Saving Time and Money: If you review my simple recipe for ‘kraut above, each jar of fermented food costs just a dollar or two if that! I’ve also added a whole lot of cost saving convenience by investing in my future health and eliminating the need to buy pricey probiotics. Also, it doesn’t cost a cent to store your ferments in a cool dark place. When you’re ready, just open the jar, or bottle, and enjoy! It’s the cheapest, best and richest food that just keeps on giving.
- Enrich Your Relationships: Do you ever get invited to a friend’s house and don’t have a clue what to bring as a gift? A bottle of fermented garlic or kefir would be a very welcome gift in my home and you could be helping family member or friend enrich their health. You’ll exhibit a burgeoning knowledge and time honoured tradition that is making a big reappearance in our culture (pun intended). Fermenting builds community through it’s life giving properties. What if that sip of kraut brine could bolster the health of another human being?
- Make Your Food Season Last Longer: Ever faced with a bumper crop from your garden or famers market? It doesn’t take much to chop up those veggies and tamp them down into jars. I buy a plethora of pickling cukes, dill, garlic and pickling spices every year in August, jam them into jars and pour in the salt brine. It makes them last right through winter when I crave a bite of stored up summer out of a jar.
- Become a Fermenting Hobbyist: I know lots of folks who love fermenting so much that they start to accumulate the gear associated with fermenting. From crock pots, to self burping lids to even using the nipples from baby bottles to allow for off-gassing. We’re all searching for the best way to make our jobs in the kitchen lighter and easier and fermenting is a brilliant way of investing in our health with little time or money. I make the black tea and organic sugar for my booch (Komubucha) in a large stainless steel pot, let it cool and then pour it into my scoby housed glass jar with the pour spigot at the bottom. This is ideal until the spigot gets clogged with booch debris. Sigh! More research to be done.
- Experimenting with New Flavours: Probably one of the most fun things you can engage with is as fermenter is how long to leave a ferment to ferment! I’m not crazy about a vinegar-like taste which is interesting as most commercial pickles and sauerkraut are made with vinegar. I prefer most of my ferments within a few days of their making which means that I’m quite often stuffing some vegetable in a jar and pouring salt brine over them as we go through them so quickly. My husband likes our ferments more spicey and fizzy than I do which means that his homemade Kimchisits a good while before consuming. Yee haw!
Learning New Things: I was 45 years of age before I learned how to ferment. I took a couple hour course from the gal from Nova Scotia at Farmpunk at that time and I’ve been going strong for the last 8 years. Right now we’re living in Mexico and I needed no gear in my single suitcase to bring along to continue fermenting weekly. Also, probiotics are just not sold here in the Yucatan and so I was quick to get my krauts in their jars. Also, I ferment because I love playing with tastes, textures and new techniques for working with my beloved health-giving foods. Yes, I’ve botched some ketchup that I won’t soon forget so go ahead and play, if it smells off, don’t eat it! Just last night, however, I stirred my sauerkraut into my Greek salad. Boy did it suddenly come alive … also, so good with ground meats like lamb or turkey. Yum!
Enjoy playing with this rejuvenating way of being in relationship with your food. I often say that the body maintains a fine line between building up more life or participating in more breaking down. Why not load the side of your resources in goodness, not just sustaining your health but bringing more life, renewal and a resurgence to your foods and cooking. Also, here’s 20 ways to get your kids to eat more fermented foods here. Happy fermenting!
Note of Caution:
I would also recommend that you start with very small amounts of fermented foods, even just a teaspoon, depending on whether or not you’ve been ill or eating primarily cooked or processed foods. You will go through a bit of a die-off period as the probiotics and enzymes gain purchase in your gut, helping to eliminate colonies of bad bacteria and islets of negative organization. Watch for loose stools and rank urine, pulling back with the amount of ferment you indulge in until your body stabilizes.