Preserving food by fermentation is nothing new.  Cheese, Sauerkraut, Kimchi, yogurt, Dairy Kefir, Sourdough bread, chocolate, coffee and drinks like Kombucha and wine have been prepared this way for thousands of years.  Research into the health benefits is ongoing but what is known is that diet is one of the main influences on the human gut microbiota and that good food-ingested bacteria can be found in large numbers in fermented foods.  It’s generally agreed that consuming a wide-range of naturally produced cultured foods is beneficial.

Fermentation is a mostly anaerobic (without oxygen) process carried out by micro-organisms.  They convert naturally occurring sugars and added sugars into compounds that produce energy to fuel their metabolism.  Bacteria and yeasts produce lactic acid fermentation and ethanol fermentation respectively, giving fermented foods their unique flavours and textures.  The live, naturally occurring cultures result in products that have flavours which are sour and tangy.  Vegetable ferments are not vinegary, in the way pickles are.  No heat is applied.  Salt and, sometimes, water is added.  Water Kefir requires a small amount of sugar which is metabolised during the fermentation process resulting in minimal sugar being left in the drink.  Science agrees that Fermentation is a safe and nutritious natural process and we are so happy to be able to bring these products to you.

Studies have shown that the nutritional value of vegetables can be enhanced by lactic acid fermentation.  This has led to a revival of interest in the benefits of fermented foods.  Studies into the ferment kimchi, for instance, suggest that lactic acid bacteria will survive in the gut if they are present in sufficient numbers in the kimchi.  The links below provide more information.

While we wait for Science to give definitive guidance on the level of their health benefits, in Eastern Europe there is a long tradition of fermenting vegetables and we know that they can form a beneficial part of a healthy diet.  On diet in general, we agree with Michael Pollan’s advice “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.” But here is a quote from Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford University who is researching the importance of our microbiome.  When asked by Pollan about the best ways of increasing our exposure to beneficial bacteria he said: “In terms of food, I think eating fermented foods is the answer …”.  

Sources of information:

*Michael Pollan is the Knight Professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author, most recently, of “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.”

Lucy Shewell, PhD, is a research scientist in the field of molecular microbiology. Her current research focuses on bacterial toxins and their interactions with host cells. Her research has been published in leading scientific journals including The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Nature Communications.    

Sandor Ellix Katz – a fermentation revivalist