Fermented Foods, a very brief outline

Fermenting jars

What are fermented foods?

Fermented foods began as a way of preserving produce when there was an abundance available. In the days before refrigeration, most houses had a cold storage area sometimes under the house or a cool dark pantry where produce could be bottled and kept for later use. Over time, by trial and error, techniques were developed for the best way to keep foods so they wouldn’t spoil.

Preserving techniques have become a signature of culture as different ethnic groups use produce which is available in their region and adapt to the local climatic conditions. 
An example of adapting ferments can be seen even between Vietnam and Korea. Vegetable ferments in Vietnam use a little sugar because sugar cane is grown and plentiful in that country whereas Koreans traditionally use apple or pear which is more readily available to them for the sweetness. 

History of fermented foods.

In cold regions of Europe, produce such as beets are pickled and fermented because this is the type of vegetable that will grow in cold regions. In Arab and African villages all sorts of fermented milks are produced from either camel, sheep, goat or cow because they have no other choice for keeping excess milk and so a healthy beneficial food source is created. Survival is often a source of invention.

Why ferments are beneficial to have in our diet today?

Pickled Rhubarb

Ferments have no chemical preservatives but do have Healthy Probiotics. Because traditional ferments are preserved using mainly salt and the juices pressed out of the actual product, they are full of the vitamins and minerals from the original foods. Beneficial bacteria feed off the natural sugars in the product and create a naturally acidic environment in which harmful bacteria are unable to survive. We need good bacteria in our bodies to help our system fight disease, fermented foods can give us our daily dose. Think about the example of yoghurt and the multiplying of acidophilus which turns milk sour but not off. How amazing is this group of good guys? Live good probiotic bacteria such as these are hugely beneficial to our gastrointestinal system and digestive function.

Great for your digestion

Easier digestion of food is another big thumbs up for enjoying ferments in your daily menu. The human digestive system needs a healthy number of digestive enzymes to help our stomach break down the foods we eat for our bodies to extract the goodness from food. When foods are fermented, a breakdown of the cellulose in vegetables also begins which enable our system to absorb more nutrients, a little like pre-soaking hard grains before you cook them.

In short, ferments are a fun and tasty way to preserve abundant produce and your health all in one. So, have some fun and give it a go.

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