Fermentation, or culturing, is the conversion of carbohydrates to organic acids using a combination of favorable bacteria under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions. These microorganisms protect the food from pathogenic bacteria and mold and when eaten, also repopulate the gut lining with these same favorable bacteria.
An age-old practice in many cultures around the world, traditionally fermented foods provide many benefits to human health. The favorable bacteria in fermented foods, in combination with the slightly acidic environment created by them, deter the growth of pathogenic bacteria and can destroy super bugs currently resistant to most antibiotics. Fermented foods also help to balance the production of stomach acid by increasing the acidity of gastric juices if stomach production is inadequate or helping to protect the stomach and intestinal lining when too much acid is produced. Fermented foods also help the body to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps with the movement of the bowel, thus alleviating constipation. It also helps to improve the release of digestive juices and enzymes from the stomach, pancreas and gallbladder, thus acting as powerful digestive aids.
The good news is that with a little practice, just about anyone can master the simple practice of fermenting food. You can enhance the health benefits of your food at considerable savings over purchasing traditionally fermented foods from farmer’s markets, health food stores and on line sources.
There are many great resources to learn how to ferment foods. One very good resource is www.culturesforhealth.com where you can find out about all the many ways to ferment foods in traditional ways as well as using starter cultures, supplies and u-tube instructions and great recipes. Today’s recipe ideas come from this web page as well as the product used to ferment the foods. One of the best cookbooks available for old world cooking including the art of fermentation is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig.
Just about any food can be fermented but vegetables are one of the easiest places to start. It is a very simple 3 step process of 1) choosing and chopping fresh organic vegetables, 2) creating the right liquid or brine, which is where the cultures are located, (usually water or celery juice with salt or a starter culture) and 3) properly packing the vegetables into a glass jar with the liquid brine and then allowing the fermentation to occur.
To help make it even simpler, today in our recipe corner we are recommending ways to ferment store bought foods by purchasing a vegetable starter culture (recommended brands listed below) and adding it to whole, all natural or organic store-bought food such as hummus, unsweetened applesauce or salsa.
We hope you will take the challenge and give fermented foods a try. Here are some traditionally fermented vegetables available in grocery stores and on line:
- www.immunitrition.com sells homemade fermented vegetables
- Bubbies, Cortland Valley Organic and Farmhouse Culture are three reliable brand names to look for in better and whole food grocers. You can also search on line for stores that carry them or in some cases, buy them direct from the producer.
- Visit local farmer’s markets and natural health food stores for more resources and producers of traditionally fermented foods.
- To purchase starter cultures consider Mercola Kinetic Culture, Body Ecology’s Culture Starter or Caldwell’s Vegetable Starter Culture.
At a minimum, buy a culture and try fermenting some of your store bought options. You can’t beat fermented foods as a source for your favorable gut bacteria. Many respected sources claim that several ounces of fermented vegetables consumed each day contain as many beneficial bacteria as a full bottle of a probiotic supplement! It is time to build your military force and protect Your Body Nation.