While it’s true that the likes of koji and kefir, kimchi and kombucha are frequently current favourites in the concoctions of hipster chefs, there’s actually nothing new about these fermented foods at all. Fermenting foods is an ancient food processing method, and just about every culture around the globe has examples of fermented foods as part of their typical diets.
Millennia ago, fermentation most often arose out of the need to preserve foods. In some cases, such as the West African ferment garri, fermentation was essential to transform cyanide-laced cassava into a safe food. It is thanks to fermentation that we have bread and cheese, amasi and yoghurt, as well as vinegar, beer and wine. Asian cultures have a particularly long history of fermenting food and drinks, and they are notable also for their wide variety, from tea to fish, and from cabbage and beans to seafood.
As founder of Faithful to Nature, Robyn Smith points out, “What is new about fermented foods is just that globalisation has enabled us to learn more easily about the fermented foods made in other cultures. Fermented foods that were once out of our reach, out of our universe really, are now available locally and can also now be made at home to become part of our family healthy eating plan. There’s enough choice and diversity to meet the sensitivities of different palates. If you don’t like sauerkraut, you can try miso instead. If you really have to take a course of antibiotics, yoghurt is no longer your only food-based way of helping to restore your gut flora.”
The beauty of fermentation is that it is really easy, as all the hard work of transforming the food is done by the microbial cultures. A few minutes of preparation and some patience is all it takes. Faithful to Nature makes a range of fermentation kits available so that you can produce foods such as kefir, kombucha and kimchi from scratch in your own kitchen. Here’s an easy recipe for Kimchi, the traditional Korean condiment typically made from cabbage which will give your family’s health a notable boost.
Interestingly, the idea that naturally fermented foods are especially health-giving is not new either. From the long history of fermented foods being used as medicine in the East through to Ancient Rome, and then the development of Bulgarian yoghurt in the West, an innate knowledge of fermented foods as ‘good for you’ has been transforming, and conforming to meet science’s demand for peer-reviewed, journaled evidence.
The process of fermentation involves a transformation brought about by naturally-occurring bacteria. Broadly referred to as probiotics, these micro-organisms are the same as what we know as the ‘good’ bacteria that populate our digestive systems. Fermented foods, such as yoghurt or kimchi are laden with probiotics. When we eat these foods we boost the microbial population we need for a healthy gut. We are also increasingly understanding that a healthy gut doesn’t stand alone. It impacts on the immunity of our whole body, and latest research shows it also has a major impact on our brain and emotional state.
Visit www.faithful-to-nature.co.za for a wide range of fermented products and fermentation kits.