Benefits of Fermenting Vegetables

Discover how fermentation boosts the flavor and health properties of raw vegetables.

| July 2016

Ferment Your Vegetables (Quarto Publishing Group USA, 2015) by Amanda Feifer introduces vegetable enthusiasts to the art of fermentation. Filled with beautiful color photographs and delicious recipes, this introductory guide teaches readers how to preserve raw vegetables year-round. Troubleshooting tips, equipment information, and step-by-step instructions make fermenting vegetables easy and enjoyable.

You can purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: Ferment Your Vegetables.

What Is Fermentation?

Vegetable fermentation is the transformation of a raw vegetable into something infinitely healthier and more delicious. Lactic acid fermentation, the primary fermentation process covered in this book, transforms vegetables into pickles without even a drop of added vinegar.

This transformation owes everything to the microbes in the soil and sugars naturally present in the vegetables. The soil is rich with bacteria. When vegetablesare harvested, they come out of the ground covered in bacteria, including asmall population of lactic acid bacteria (LAB, frequently referred to as probiotic bacteria) on their skins and peels. These bacteria, given the right conditions, will kickstart fermentation by feasting on a vegetable’s natural sugars and converting them into a variety of things, including lactic acid, carbon dioxide (CO2), and even a very small amount of alcohol.

The right conditions for lacto-fermentation are quite simple to provide: an environment with little or no oxygen and sufficient time at room temperature (roughly between 64 and 75°F [17.8 and 23.9°C] usually makes them happiest, although both lower and higher temperatures are sometimes used). Unlike some of their dangerous, pathogenic bacterial brethren, lactic acid bacteria do fine in the presence of salt, even in relatively high concentrations, so most vegetable fermentation also involves salting the vegetables.

Your job as a fermenter is simply to give those good microbes what they need and then get out of the way while they do their work. Once you understand the basic, practical principles, it’s easy to see that fermentation is a process nature intended and one that you can nurture in a very hands-off way.

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