We are surrounded.
Completely and utterly.
In our home, in our backyard, in our kitchen, on our food, in our bodies...they're, they're.....
Bacteria of all sorts
Now we know abit about the dangerous kind, like E. Coli and Salmonella. But there are countless bacteria that are harmless, thank G-d. And there are even bacteria that we WANT!!!
If you've heard of fermentation, specifically lactofermentation, Lactobacilli are folks you've got to meet. You can find them hanging out on plants, and it doesn't take a lot of fanfare to get them going. Simply submerge a plant/vegetable in salty water and the bacteria will move into action. As substances get broken down,lactic acid get formed (and friends). It's a process that has been and is still valued in many parts of the world because 1), of it's health benefits and 2)the preservation of food for long periods.
Fermentation promotes the growth of healthy, immune strenthening bacteria in our intenstines. This is vital as our immunity DEPENDS on our digestion! It enhances the digestability of food and increases vitamin levels and produces helpful enzymes and anti-biotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Science News* reports that the low rates of breast cancer among Polish women is b/c of their daily consumption of sauerkraut.
In Europe saukerkraut (pickled cabbage) is quite popular. In Korea a combination of cabbage, red chilli peppers and a few other veggies are fermented to make kimchi. Pickled umeboshi plums hail from Japan. There's also fermented drinks...
And never mind the harmful preservatives of today, with fermentation food can be stored for long periods of time. That is how food was stored in pre-fridge times! We're talking months!!
So, how exactly does lactofermentation occur?
It's simple: Veggies are submerged in liquid, usu. salty water called brine. (or vinegar)
Let's say there's cabbage submerged in brine in a container. Lactobacilli begins to flourish. Uh-oh, but so can many other bacteria! This is where the handy-dandy salt comes in. Aside from pulling water from the vegetables, salt hardens the pectin in the vegetables, making them crunchier and very importantly discourages the growth of other bacteria other than our lactic acid-producing friends. Without other bacteria, the starches and sugars get borken down, and our little cabbage can happily ferment into a sauerkraut.
We don't have to limit ourselves to cabbage. We have LOTS to play with: Carrots, garlic, eggplant, peppers, celery, seaweed, and even fruits. (People even ferment meat! Oye.) We have to bear in mind that fermented foods have traditionally been used as condiments-not staples. It's a side-dish, not the main dish!
Now there is a controversy with fermentation b/c along with lactic acid, monosodium glutamate is also produced. You know, MSG. How can it be that in this healthy and simple process, the dreaded and poisonous MSG be involved? Today, we know MSG as an additive in foods which, unfortunately, is not people friendly, causing Parkinson's and Alzheimer's in adults and neuro-damage to children.
And although the greedy food industry dare call MSG "naturally occuring," their version of MSG is NOT natural, but manufactured, according to Fallon in Nourishing Traditions. It is an isomer-a left-handed copy of a right-hand...
However, other sources insist that the MSG in fermented foods is just as dangerous, so those who are especially sensitive to MSG should take care even with that. And like I said, fermented foods is a condiment, not to be consumed in large quantities.
With the explosive goodness bursting forth from fermented foods, this is something we should tap into. People all over the world are already benefiting. So, get a jar, salt some water, pick a veggie or two, get a recipe, and you're on your way to fermentation....and beyond!
Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions