What is fermentation and is it really good for us? Find out more about this ancient way of preserving food.
If you are growing your own vegetables at home and find yourself with a surplus, don’t just let it go to waste. If it can’t be saved you can always use it in your composting bin to work back in your soil for next time you plant, or you can try your hand at fermentation!
But what is fermentation?
Fermentation is a natural anaerobic (without oxygen) process in which microorganisms like yeast and bacteria break down sugars and starches and turns them into acids or alcohol. This gives the fermented foods their distinct sour taste.
- Lactic Acid fermentation – where the sugars and starches from vegetables are converted into lactic acid which acts as a natural preservative.
- Ethanol fermentation – which is the breakdown of sugars by yeasts to produce wine, beer and bread.
Which vegetables can be fermented?
Most vegetables can be fermented but some of our favourites are cabbage, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, radishes, cauliflower, beetroot, courgette and even garlic!
The rate of fermentation can be influenced by the temperature, the warmer the temperature, the faster the fermentation process will take place. Usually, it can take between 1 – 3 weeks but you will start to see bubbles appear when the process is underway and you can decide when it’s ready, depending on how sour you like the taste to be.
Benefits of fermentation
Fermented products have many benefits but here are a few of our top ones:
- By preserving excess vegetables you prevent unnecessary food waste.
- You save money by spending less at the supermarket.
- You lower your carbon-footprint – especially if the produce was grown in your garden and fermented by you. No factory was involved and no travel miles.
- Fermented food is easier to digest as it helps break down the nutrients in food.
- It is good for your immune system as it contains probiotics. A good immune system is also linked to overall wellbeing.
- You learn a new skill – apart from all the different types of vegetables you can ferment, you can also experiment with making cider, wine, kombucha, sourdough bread, yogurt, kimchi, and much more!
- It makes you feel good – you can give your fermented items away as gifts to friends, neighbours and colleagues. After all, what is nicer than to do a good deed?
- No preservatives or other nasty’s – if made by yourself you can guarantee what ingredients you add, the quality of the produce, and make sure it is organic and in season.
- It tastes good – we all love the taste of fermented foods and it always tastes better if we’ve made it ourselves.
- It is very easy to ferment vegetables – do we need a better reason?