heads up!

Fermented Food, an Introduction

In these coming winter months, we seem to be susceptible to colds, flus and coughs. Our energy is low and the short days make us want to stay inside and sleep. Sleep is a great cold fighter, however it is not the only natural remedy. We frequently forget about the good old saying ‘you are what you eat’ and often the healthy foods we eat contribute largely to how we are feeling. Simple aspirins and other over-the-counter drugs cannot help us with our inner gut flora, which can decipher how good or bad we are feeling and even how clear we are thinking and making decisions everyday.

As we are living in this antibacterial age where antibiotics are the ‘easiest’ and ‘quickest’ cure to our ails, we are mindlessly being stripped of our all gut flora. This means ‘good-bye bacteria’…. bad AND good.

So, once that infection is taken care of, we soon realize that we are bombarded with many more sicknesses or even infections and can’t seem to fight them off as easily as before. This is because our micro-biotic-defense system is gone. In order to build it up again, we need to consume billions of GOOD BACTERIA – called probiotics. These can come in expensive pill forms, or by inexpensive, natural food forms. The latter being more fun, more tasty AND 100% natural.

Naturally fermented foods have been a healthy source of probiotics in human cultures for thousands of years. In western cultures, many fermented foods have been lost, due to our unrealistic expectations of how long food can last on our shelves, our busy lifestyles, and dying tradition. But looking at every culture, we can find some kind of fermented food-staple or condiment. Kimchi in Korea, Miso in Japan, sauerkrauts, yogurts, wines, beers etc. Basically any food and every food can be fermented!

Fermenting vegetables can even make your vegetables safer to eat and more digestible than how they were raw. Some veggies have unwanted toxins and chemical compounds on them that we can just wash off. During the fermentation process, some of these compounds are broken down in the acidifying environment and making them safer for us to consume. Some veggies have tough skins and cell walls that are difficult for our guts to digest, which leave us bloated and gassy. To avoid this, try fermenting the tough veggies, such as kale, collard greens, beet leaves, or kohlrabi leaves before consuming. The fermentation process breaks these tough cell walls down and makes the nutrients available for us to absorb. Probiotic foods are great for overall health and digestion. They boost the immune system, increase nutrient absorption, and some people claim it helps them decrease bloating.

Starting fermenting can be intimidating but once you’ve taken the plunge you will realize how big of a world there is and how creative you can be! Try something easy like sauerkraut for example. Once you have your own fermented sauerkraut, keep that liquid that is left over and use it for all kinds of goodness.

(If you haven’t made your own sauerkraut before, check out this simple vegetable ferment tutorial here. The sauerkraut recipe begins at minute 14:20)

Be creative and add sauerkraut juice to salad dressings, to hummus dips, to a fancy Bloody Mary cocktail and get probiotics in delicious and creative ways!

If you want to get a bit more intense try brewing your own kombucha or water kefir (you can find the Edible Alchemy video tutorial on how to make your own kombucha here).

Basically we can see from our ancestors and by those still practicing traditional fermentation methods that by eating fermented foods, we can strengthen our immune system, absorb all those great nutrients and have a healthy gut, which means a healthy mind to make the best life choices possible!

Remember to follow your gut feeling!

Alexis Goertz

Alexis Goertz started Edible Alchemy in 2013 in Canada with and brought the business to Berlin in 2014. She is head alchemist at ediblealchemy.co, the premier online training site for DIY probiotics in the form of fermented foods and drinks. She travels the world in search of exotic bacteria cultures, gives on- and offline workshops, and loves to experiment with creative ferments. Workshops types are endless: kombucha, sauerkraut, vegan cheese, kvass, miso and more. Got any questions about fermentation? Check out her facebook group Edible Alchemy

Listen to Alexis' inspiring journey and learn more about the 'what', 'why' & 'how' behind Edible Alchemy on the GreenMe Berlin Podcast

text: Alexis Goertz

© images (from top to bottom):

Alexis Goertz

Sebastian Schaffer