Curious about the art and science of fermentation, I decided to attend a class at Bi-Rite Market’s non-profit, 18 Reasons, to learn more about how I could start my own fermentation projects in my kitchen. Fermentation is a biological process that uses bacteria present in the environment to increase the nutritional value of food. It is also a way to preserve food and in many cultures it is an essential way to get nutrients such as vitamins, fiber and antioxidants during the cold and wet winter months when food is harder to grow. There are some other known benefits of fermentation:
– It decreases toxins and antinutrients such as aflatoxin, alkaloids, and nitrites
– It decreases the number of potential disease-causing bacteria
– It decreases the glycemic load which helps regulate blood sugar
– It is a source of enzymes
– Some supply probiotics (i.e. good gut microbiota). Probiotics are essential for maintaining a healthy pH and also for decreasing the growth of pathogens. It helps increase the absorption of minerals. It aids in the digestion of lactose (key for those who love dairy and are lactose sensative). It has also been proven to increase lives function, decrease anxiety, and to help regulate weight management and mood. Do you really need more reason to start incorporating these lovely bacteria into your diet?
One concern I had is about the high amount of salt in fermented products. The instructor explained that the high level of Na+ is offset by the high amount of K+ (potassium) in the food product. These two ions complement each other because they work together through Na+/K+ pumps which are the essential energy driver of all of the cells in our body.
I would say this class was a big success for me, and I left feeling inspired to preserve and enhance my own foods.
We learned how to make sauerkraut, kimchi, salsa, pesto and some fermented beverages such as beet kvass and flavored kombuchas. I even got to take home my own mason jar full of fizzing spring curtido.