The Dirt

The Art and Health of Fermented Foods

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Where have all the fermented foods gone? Our grandparents knew well the benefits of naturally-fermented foods. In a world without refrigeration, fermentation served to preserve food for eating later, and at the same time serendipitously created some of the world’s greatest culinary treasures: beer, wine, cheese, sauerkraut, chocolate, coffee, miso, yogurt, pickles. Fermented foods have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, B vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Fermentation is magic, a kind of culinary alchemy in which we create nutrients and flavors that didn't exist before, using what's in the air around us. The microbes at work are different from place to place and create unique flavors that speak of this time, this place: a “microbial terroir,” if you will. In his introduction to Sandor Katz's seminal book The Art of Fermentation, food writer Michael Pollan says we've been living in a sanitized age of Purell. He calls fermentation "an eloquent protest against the homogenization of flavors and food now rolling like a great, undifferentiated lawn across the globe." SFC Farmers’ Market growers and food producers agree, and you’ll find many delicious fermented foods at our markets. So, for your health and for flavor, feel the magic, and make love—not war—on the beneficial bacteria around us.




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