Fermented Foods: What's All the Fuss About?

You may not know what I mean by fermentation, but if I were to say kimchi, kombucha or sourdough, you’d probably have a clue.  Chances are, you’ve been eating fermented foods in some form for years, without even knowing it – natural yoghurt anyone? 

Fermented foods are rumored to be this year’s hottest trend and have been bubbling under the radar for some time now.  History has a habit of repeating itself and fermentation is no exception to the rule.  Fermentation dates back to when fridges and freezers were something of dreams and people had to find other ways of preserving food.  Anything from grains, legumes and nuts to fruits and vegetables to dairy products, even meat and fish, were preserved using varying methods.  This led to the creation of foods and drinks such as wine, beer and cider, yoghurt, kefir and cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles, kombucha, shrubs and kvass, tempeh, miso and tofu.  And have you ever heard of Surströmming; the fermented herring that smells terrible but tastes great… to some.  Packed into vessels, foods would sit for months on end without spoiling.  Preserving food and drink in this way caused it to ferment in a somewhat controlled environment, which resulted in the colonisation of millions of beneficial bacteria in each batch. 

So why should you care?  Recent studies show that the gut microbiome (the community of microorganisms in your gut, bacteria included) has a bigger impact on our health than ever imagined.  Provide your gut with good bacteria (a.k.a probiotics) and keep that bacteria well fed (with prebiotics) and you’ll be taking a giant leap in the direction of improving your overall health.  Eating fermented foods is a fantastic way to do that.

Rather than paying over the top prices for jars and bottles of artisanal ferments, try making your own.  It is so easy to do and often a case of shoving some bits in a jar and leaving it to do it’s thing, but with a little more care and attention.  If you enjoyed chemistry lessons at school, then you’re likely to enjoy fermenting.  You get the same buzz from it as you do from growing your own vegetables.  It’s like the food equivalent of a Tamagotchi but less work and much less annoying.  Make something, watch it grow and become alive, literally.  No two batches are the same, each with it’s own personality.  You become extremely connected to your food in a way that is so far removed from mindlessly shoving something in your gob.  And at the end of it all, you get to eat/drink something that tastes great and is absolutely fantastic from a nutrition point of view.

So go on, give it a go!