What is it that turns food into superfood? There is a way to take freshly harvested vegetables out of your garden and process them in such a way as to add a dozen different vitamins and at the same time preserve them throughout the entire winter. You don’t need to eat them right away! Sure canning them is an option, but canning does not get you the extra nutrition that you would if you were to ferment them before you canned them!
That’s right, and kudos to you if you guessed it, fermenting your foods turns them into totally different foods, full of nutrients and probiotics that they did not have before you did so. Fermenting foods is a time-tested way to preserve them, dating back to a time before people even knew how to write down the instructions.
Fermenting utilizes the powers of nature–honed by trial and error for about four billion years–to harness the bacteria living in our every day world to “pre-digest” all types of foods. I keep saying vegetables, but in reality we are eating fermented foods all the time and lots of those foods we don’t think of as fermented. Fermented milk is cheese, yogurt or kefir. Sour cream is fermented. Fermented cabbage is sauerkraut. Fermented cucumbers are pickles. Fermented syrup is beer, wine or liquor. Fermented wine or cider is vinegar. Fermented soft drinks are possible, think root beer or ginger ale–both fermented. Fermented flour makes bread dough. You can even ferment meats to store them. Pickled pigs feet come to mind, as does pastrami or pepperoni.
Learning to ferment is easy, because you learn it one time, and then the process is identical for all of the other ferments. The basic process is this….purchase fresh food for processing, clean and inspect vegetables for signs of damage and clean them up, pack them in glass jars tightly enough that they will not float, fill the jars to above the level of the food with briny salt water, cover the jar to keep insects out and wait. Obviously you do not make liquid ferments this way. For them you typically prepare the raw solution–for instance sweet tea in the case of kombucha– then you add beneficial bacteria, the mother, cover the mixture and wait. To ferment flour you add water, salt and a sourdough starter and wait.
The biggest impediments to getting real fermented foods at your local health food or grocery store are that real ferments don’t keep on the shelf forever and real ferments take time to make. For this reason in the store bought foods you will find vinegar and other preservatives as an ingredient on the label. A jar of pickles can be created by soaking a vegetable in an acidic vinegary solution. This saves the maker time, the time when he would be waiting for natural bacteria to create the acidic environment. He loses the other products of nature though. A pickled cucumber is a different food than a fermented cucumber. The fermented variety is alive and a superfood. The pickled variety is dead and is a chemically treated cucumber. Making a real sourdough bread takes time, while adding sugar and commercial quick acting yeast puffs up the bread before natural bacteria has had time to convert carbohydrates in the flour into superfoods for you. Cabbage is not the same as sauerkraut fermented at home and that is different as well from cabbage soaked in vinegar. Only one of those is a living superfood.
If you take the time to garden because you feel as though the local grocery supplier is providing less nutritious foods than you can make yourself, then you already know that time is the missing ingredient in bought foods. You owe it to yourself to learn how to share your bounty with the bacteria that live on them. You must no longer consider bacteria an adversary in your health journey, but an ally in your quest to extend the bounty of your work in the garden far into the winter. When you know how to ferment you can get more at your local farmer’s market without fearing that it will waste away before you can eat it all. With a small investment in hardware and knowledge you can begin to create nature’s superfoods in your very own home superfood laboratory.