Fermenting vegetables is a process that produces delicious food such as sauerkraut and kimchi. I'm so excited about fermenting vegetables for quite a few reasons. As a grower of vegetables it's a wonderful way to keep my greens edible during winter and hungry gaps of the year. Unlike some other methods of preserving foods such as jams and chutneys it does not involve cooking the food so the nutrient availability is not only preserved by fermenting, it is actually enhanced. We don't need to add pounds of sugar either to keep the contents of the jar fresh, nature does that job for us instead.
So how does the fermenting work? We have been brainwashed to think that all bacteria are bad, this is not true, we need a symbiotic relationship with bacteria to survive healthily! During fermentation naturally occuring bacteria and yeasts that live on plants begin to break down the components of the vegetables. This means several things for us humans. First of all the plant material is transformed into a much easier to digest form and that means our digestive systems need to work less in order to obtain more benefit from what we eat. The bacteria and yeasts that are thriving on the fermenting vegetables are also themselves extremely beneficial to our bodies. If we buy bioyogurt or sauerkraut in shops these products have been pasteurised to kill bad but unfortunately the good bacteria too. These good bacteria occur naturally within healthy guts where they work as a carefully balanced ecosystem with a high biodiversity containing many strains of bacteria and yeasts that we require in order to digest food properly. These are what many of us familiarly know as 'probiotics'. So by eating the fermented vegetables we are ensuring that we have these probiotics within us doing their work that we rely upon for digestion. It is extremely important that our guts (small intestines) are working properly as many health practitioners believe that our entire immune system relies on a healthy gut as its foundation block.
Many of us need to repopulate our guts with probiotics as we continually destroy and undermine this ecosystem by taking antibiotics, thrush treatments and drinking chlorinated tap water. These chemicals save lives by killing harmful bacteria but they also cause us harm by killing off our necessary friendly bacteria and yeasts, leaving an open playing field for imbalances to arise and cause a cycle of health problems. I've recently read a book that even links these imbalances which can lead to leaky gut syndrome as a cause of ADHD, ADD, IBS, depression, mental illness and autism.
I'm not a health practitioner or nutrionist, I'm just somebody who is interested in living naturally and healthily, so I'm experimenting with making sauerkraut and I can tell you that it tastes delicious. I've bought the ingrediants for kimchi and I can't wait to start that later today.
If you'd like to try too watch this inspirational clip by Sandor Ellix Katz aka Sandorkraut, author of Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. He'll tell you everything you need to know.