The Art of Fermentation

fermentation

Fermentation is an art practiced by nearly every civilization in history.  It can be traced back to Neolithic times, the latter part of the stone age.  Yes, that was quite sometime ago!  Rarely is an ethnic meal eaten without at least one fermented food or beverage.  An example of that is wine and beer.

But what exactly is fermentation?  Fermentation is the chemical transformation of organic substances into simpler compounds by action of enzymes which are produced by microorganisms such as molds, yeasts, or bacteria.  Fermented foods aid in digestion, especially when a meal is exceptionally heavy.

What does that mean to us?  Fermentation releases nutrients from food making them more bio-availaible for the body.  A good example of this is sauerkraut which consists of mainly cabbage.  Due to the fermentation process, sauerkraut contains 20 times the amount of bio-available vitamin C than fresh cabbage.

Can’t we just take probiotic supplements for the same benefits?  Unfortunately supplements settle in the upper parts of the digestive system and don’t typically make it all the way down to the bowel while fermented foods do.  These probiotic microbes will travel all the way down to the end of the digestive tract when eaten in food form.  Lacto-fermentation is the process and lactic acid is the natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria.  Lactic acid not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestines.  If you are not yet aware of the importance of keeping a healthy gut please do some research as the health of our GI tract is essential for a healthy and efficiently working system.  An unhealthy gut has been linked to many serious issues like autoimmune diseases, depression, autism, degenerative diseases and much more.

Below is a list of civilizations who practice fermentation and the principle food/s they make.

Europe:  sauerkraut
Japan:  miso, soy sauce, pickled veggies, natto (soybeans)
India:  soured milk, fruit chutney
Indonesia:  tempeh
Korea:  kimchi, banchan
Africa:  porridge of fermented millet or cereal beers, Garri (cassava)
Muslim countries:  bread, pulses, milk products
Russia & Poland:  pickled green tomatoes, peppers and lettuces
Americans:  corn and cucumber relish
Vietnamese:  mam (seafood)
Chinese:  douchi (black beans), Lao pa daek (fish sauce)
Tanzania:  togwa
Interesting fact:   Our bodies consist of more bacteria than actual human cells.  The ratio of bacteria to cells is 10:1.

You can find my recipe for kimchi on the blog and I’ll be posting a picked okra recipe shortly as well.  Much more of this superfood to come.  Fermentation is the closest I’ve come to working alchemy so I’m pretty stoked on it!  Happy fermenting.