Sandor Katz is the author of Wild Fermentation, a book that has become a cult classic of sorts among those of the do-it-yourself persuasion. Living with AIDS, nutrition is extremely important to Katz. He attributes his relative health, in no small part, to his regular consumption of fermented foods. For this reason, on his rural Tennessee homestead, he has spent years “developing a symbiotic rhythm with…tiny fermenting organisms.” In his book, Katz illustrates for readers how we must nourish these organisms so that they nourish us.
How are fermented foods nourishing? While a homemade batch of sauerkraut lacks a nutrition label, the health benefits are tangible. Fermentation preserves nutrients while breaking them down into more easily digestible forms. Take milk, for example. Lactose intolerance refers to the human difficulty in digesting the milk sugar known as lactose. Fermented dairy products such as yogurt take on lactobacilli, a bacterium that transforms lactose into easier-to-digest lactic acid. At the same time, these bacteria create omega-3 fatty acids, boosting cell membrane and immune system function. When you eat yogurt, you are also eating these living micro-organisms: live-cultures. We can now make sense of why yogurt winds up on almost every short list of beneficial foods.
It is easy to sing the praises of lacto-fermented vegetables. Katz cites a study that points to the cancer-preventing properties of sauerkraut. Cabbage is part of the Brassicaceae family--a grouping a plants that includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards and more. Raw, these vegetables are rich in anti-carcinogenic nutrients. Finnish research has found that fermentation breaks down the glucosinolates in cabbage into isothiocyanates, compounds known to fight cancer. And so, in this realm, fermented cabbage appears healthier than its raw or cooked alter egos. Good thing I have found sauerkraut to be an exceedingly versatile condiment.
Pickling can bring new life to vegetables! The mission of Dana's Pickles is to help you introduce more live-cultures into your diet.