It may seem strange to ferment food these days. Before the invention of domestic fridges, about 100 years ago, fermentation has been used to stock up for the more difficult times of the year. Nowadays, does it occur to you to think about stocking up for the winter? No, we agree. We have everything at our disposal, all year round, and the fridge has become indispensable to our lives. Could you imagine living without a fridge in your kitchen or in your shop? Life would be very different, wouldn’t it?

So, does fermentation still have its place nowadays or has the fridge really replaced this fascinating, natural process ?

The fridge and fermentation have a common goal, the preservation of food. With refrigeration, the cold reduces the development of microorganisms and products can be preserved for a few days or even weeks depending on the product. So, the fridge only creates a cold place to keep the products edible. While the function of the fridge ends there, fermentation on the other hand is the process of converting naturally occurring sugars into natural preservatives (acid, alcohol or carbon dioxide) by bacteria that are already there. For me, there is something magical about fermentation, because it transforms a naturally expiring product into a product that can be preserved for months or years by the action of microorganisms alone! But the most important benefit of this ancient method of preserving food isn’t that it’s cheap, easy and sustainable; first and foremost it’s the amazingly positive effect it has on our gut health.

Fermented food brings us plenty of important vitamins and micro-nutrients and also has a direct effect on the bacteria in our gut, making them stronger and favouring the “good” bacteria, which help us restore balance to our digestive system and our immune system. Not only that, but studies have shown that the good bacteria also seem to have a positive effect on our mood, reducing anxiety. They also seem to lower cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone, therefore contributing to improved mental health even more. Last, but not least, fermented foods seem to improve heart health by improving cholesterol levels and helping to reduce blood pressure.

Regular consumption of these powerful microorganisms in lacto-fermented vegetables is therefore an inexpensive, safe and natural way to stay healthy. The invention of the fridge has unfortunately overshadowed this natural and healthy process. Even if we no longer need to stock up on food, fermentation is much more than that and we would benefit from reintroducing it into our homes.

I invite you to try to ferment cabbage yourself by watching the video below of James Evans, the friendly and inspiring Chef at Riverford. Try it and be amazed by this incredible process. And like many things that have been forgotten nowadays, it is a re-learning of ancient processes that will amaze you with their simplicity. Choose local and organic products to ensure the best results for you and our planet!

So are you ready for the challenge?