Healing is a journey. As you get ready to embark on your way to better health, you arm yourself with as much information as you can and stock up on food staples that will nourish you. When you begin down the path, the adventures are full of new discoveries and beautiful scenery. But, things are not easy on this trail. You might experience a setback when you realized you went down the wrong route and you have to start over. Or, the process might take longer than you expected. Hopefully, you meet many others on the way who are also taking this journey that will give you support. This journey to heal will change you.
The process of making a documentary is another kind of journey. We have met some amazing people along the way who are healing themselves and working to heal their communities. We have put together a team to carry the message over the distance. At this point in our process, we need your support to get us there.
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Thus far our film journey has led us to many different food movements. One of these is the bubbling interest in lacto-fermentation (pun intended). We have some experience as we are both avid home yogurters, but we thought it would be fun to try fermenting in one of its other forms. While fermenting beer would be fun, we decided fermented vegetables were probably a little more appropriate to our mission. When I saw all of our mason jars laid out and ready for the veggies I was a little intimidated with thoughts of the thorough sanitizing and precision required in canning. But, this was so easy! The whole point of fermentation is allowing the bacteria to grow so being ultra sanitary is not required. We scoured blogs for the best recipe and ended up taking advice from several. Some of those that we consulted were Daily Bites and Economies of Kale.
The basic process entails choosing some fresh organic vegetables, cleaning some mason jars and lids and getting a hold of some sea salt. After rinsing and chopping the vegetables we then scooped 1 tablespoon of sea salt into each jar and mixed it with ½ cup of filtered water. Next, we loaded up the jars with the vegetables and then filled them with more water to completely cover the vegetables. You can also at this point add other flavorings such as fresh herbs and garlic. Finally we took a cabbage leaf and completely tucked it around the top of the vegetables as a type of lid. This cabbage topper should also be submerged by water. Some of the blogs we found talked about using a weight to keep the vegetables submerged, but using a cabbage leaf seemed the most simple to us. The jars will now sit for 5-7 days with both their cabbage and tin lids screwed on tightly in a dark and dry place.
The idea behind fermentation is that there are bacteria that occur naturally on the surface of the vegetables. By letting them sit in this salty brine for several days we allow the “good” bacteria to proliferate and also limit the growth of the organisms that would be less desirable to eat. This is also why it is vital that all vegetable matter is fully submersed in the brine. As the bacteria proliferate and digest some of the vegetable matter they produce gases. Thus, we hope to see some bubbling in our jars and will need to “burp” the jars once daily by briefly opening the lid to let the gas out. Some recipes we found suggest supplementing the naturally occurring bacteria by adding yogurt whey or kefir grains to the brine but we decided to keep it as simple as possible for our maiden voyage into the world of vegetable fermentation. If all goes well it will be fun to experiment with different cultures and flavor additions in the future.
So why ferment your foods? Lacto-fermentation, while newly reinvigorated, is something that has taken place in many cultures for a long time, for example in the form of kombucha, kimchi or sauerkraut. There are many benefits to eating fermented foods and they are something that we don’t eat much of in our modern, germaphobic culture. Not only do fermented foods provide lots of probiotics to keep our microbiome healthy (see my previous post for more on the importance of this) but they also help to break down and make the foods we are eating more easily digestible and the nutrients more readily available.
I have really been enjoying listening to the Evolution of Medicine Summit that I posted about last week, and hope you have been too! One theme that seemed to be repeated throughout every talk that I listened to was this of the microbiome. This is a relatively new term used to describe the complex community of microorganisms that live in and on us. Until recently “germ” or “bacteria” were always something to kill, but we are only now starting to realize the symbiotic and critical relationship that we actually have with all these microorganisms. In fact our own cells are outnumbered 10:1 by microorganisms in our own bodies. We really are just a vessel for this micro-ecology.
Scientists are finding that changes and disruptions to this microbiome are related to many aspects of our health from diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disease to anxiety. Much of our modern lifestyle is affecting this ecology including the way we are born, antibiotics we take to treat illness and feed our livestock and the way we are feeding ourselves. For example, studies have found that being born by Cesarean section, which 1/3 of Americans are, profoundly affects the types of bacteria that we are colonized with since we are not exposed to those in our mother’s birth canal. This difference in colonization is proving to have vast influences on our lifelong health. Some of the good news is that we can alter this microbiome also for the better just by changing what we eat. One recent study found that after only one day of a different diet the microbiome of the research subjects had changed. I love when I find great examples of food as medicine! I am sure we will be seeing much more on this research to come. Some predict that really understanding this microbiome in all its diversity and genetic makeup is the next frontier for human exploration.