There is a new focus on food that is bubbling up to the surface, and that is the contribution of fermented foods to health, both of individuals and the planet. Fermented foods are alive with beneficial bacteria, needed in our guts, and enzymes released from food when it is broken down through fermentation.
Our guts are often compromised by antibiotic overuse, in our bodies when taken as medication and from food where animals have been given antibiotics and plants have been sprayed by them.
Of course because of our reliance on refrigeration as a method of prolonging the ‘freshness’ of food, we forget that fermenting food used to be the primary source of food preservation, and still is in those cultures without access to refrigeration. So herders on the move ferment sheep, goats or cows milk into cheese, or kefir, or yogurt, or fermented butter. Once innoculated with friendly bacteria, who have by the way seen off the other kind, these foods withstand heat and become not just safe foods, but also healthy ones.
Where to start with ferments? One of the easiest ways to start is with beetroot kvass. All you need is a very large jar into which you pour 2 litres of filtered water. Add three medium sized organic beetroot, peeled and chopped, together with 2 teaspoons of sea salt, and a ¼ cup of whey. To make this recipe dairy/casein free, omit the whey and double the salt. Leave out for two to three days. Transfer the strained liquid to the fridge, and top up the beetroot with more water for one more ferment, leaving behind some of the original kvass as a starter culture. Start each day with a 4 oz glass. This recipe comes from a recipe book you should all invest in: Sally Fallon Morell’s Nourishing Traditions, New Trends Publishing. Dr Thomas Cowan adds one tablespoon of flax seeds, having ground them first in a mini grinder, leaving them to soak for five minutes before drinking. He explains that this is an excellent source of fibre, enzymes and special fatty acids. When I am organised I love to start the day this way. I already know that beetroot is a wonderful stimulant to my gut. Taking it this way as a fermented food enhances its action, and increases the number of beneficial bacteria available to balance the dance of life that goes on 24/7.