Some of the reasons that I ferment food:
- Preserving the harvest for long term storage. Catching the energy at it’s highest peak and storing it for later use. Sauerkraut will keep for months in the right conditions. It creates it’s own brine, and by a succession of species (or guilds of species) it creates a lactic acid environment. Each one paves the way for the next, creating a selective environment, and gradually lowers pH.
- Convenience. On the one hand traditionally fermented foods are slow food. They require patience and a good dose of tender loving care, but on the other hand they’re fast food. Within 2 minutes of realising you’re hungry you can go to the kitchen and grab some tasty treats. I’ve been known to get a little grumpy when i’m hungry, and have in the past resorted to eating whatever is lying around to satisfy the raging monster inside me, including pappy white bread. Well, no more. I’ve felt my moods stabilise a lot since i’ve been eating like this. I’m very rarely tempted to eat the things I know I have trouble digesting, or that send my blood sugar spiking (then crashing). I’ll throw together some cashew cheese, sauerkraut, a fried egg and all’s peaceful again.
- Preservation of vitamin content. Sauerkraut was used to conquer scurvy on the high seas, preserving the vitamin C content of the cabbage. Captain James Cook is credited with that discovery. http://www.plantexplorers.com/explorers/biographies/captain/captain-james-cook.htm
- Preservation of the enzyme content. When the natural enzymes of a food are kept intact they boost the ability of the body to digest food.
- Pre-digestion/External stomach. I like to visualise the lengthening of the digestive process, that i’m getting the use of another stomach, or a longer intestinal tract. I appreciate the idea that there are micro-herds busily getting my food ready while I get on with the important stuff, like sleeping, thinking and reading.
- Flavour. Many of our favourite foods are fermented. Think sourdough breads, stinky cheeses, deep-flavoured wines, rich chocolates, aromatic coffees, tangy brine pickles. And here goes, insert tongue in cheek, “Fermentation is all around us!”