There is no culture or nation anywhere in the world that misses the boat on fermented/cultured foods. Some use dairy in the form of yogurt, kefir, clabbered milk, butter-milk, soft and hard cheeses. Dairy products are diverse and were originally made in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
There is a tradition of using tea, herbal tissanes and mushroom as the basis for Kombucha type cultured drinks. In Africa, the villagers continue a tradition of using roots made into ‘beer’, which is strong on the alcohol but does provide bacilli too, as well as tuber mash made into soups. In the Far East every meal is augmented with cultured products. All soya used is fermented (natto, tempe, tamari, tofu, miso). In Europe, nearly all bread and short bread batters are ‘cultured’ for at least twenty-four hours to break down the gluten of the flour used. In fact, before the advent of baking soda for short breads and yeast for leavened breads, people around the world used fermented milk and sourdough fermented grain flour as leaven, as well as a wide variety of unleavened ‘breads’. This effectively eliminated the current health problems occurring with grains that today have much higher gluten and fiber content. The Far East, Middle East, Europe and South America all have varied cultured vegetable, dairy and legume recipes.
Saurkraut is familiar to many as an import from middle Europe. Kimchi and similar vegetable chutneys are served with all meals in the Middle and far Eastern parts of the world. Pickled vegetables are popular everywhere. Not only is raw natural vinegar, a fermented product of whichever vegetal source and contains all the valuable bacteria, vitamins and minerals inherent in the vegetable or fruit used, but most ‘pickles’ were originally allowed to culture on their own in a salt brine.
Today, most are merely soaked in a non-raw vinegar and marketed.
Wine is another fermented cultured product. However, in the modern world, many steps of the process are rushed through and the natural protection against spoilage is degraded. This is true of all products that were originally cultured/fermented foods. Therefore, governments may mandate, not proper processing, but rather, improper use of chemicals, additives and preservatives to replace the process of fermentation that should have been appropriately applied. In modern countries, many times either the sources of the products sold are less than pristine and/or the actual time needed for culturing is not taken. Therefore, many products that were once beneficial to the diet are now poor substitutions without the benefit of the culturing process. It is important to check that the product purchased is given the proper culturing process and to remember that; any time a product is pasteurized for prolonged shelf life, the actual cultures and enzymes inherent in the product, are killed by the high heat of pasteurization. This applies to milk and cheese, fruit juices and sauerkraut, tofu and Kombucha… any and all products that should be allowed to rely on their natural freshness or cultures to protect the product from undue spoilage. One of the problems for food producers is the distance and the time between a product being picked and processed and that product getting to the consumer. Some stores are now helping the consumer by purchasing locally grown and processed products daily or several times per week. The purchaser can then be sure of a properly cultured, fresh and locally grown product. If that is not available, or for those with an interest in maintaining a more self-sufficient food supply of the highest quality, there are online sources of assistance below.
The components of lactose, gluten, fiber and yeasts are the very things that modern people are reacting to in the food supply. Traditions around the globe recognized, that digestion is improved overall, individual foods better tolerated and meals are complete, only when complimented by one or more cultured dishes.
By culturing (allowing a fermentation process to occur) a major portion of the fiber, lactose and gluten are broken down and ‘digested’ by the bacilli that grow in the food as it processes. The variety of Bacilli in any of these many cultured products, vary widely according to the source materials, the region of the earth, the particular cultures promulgated and the length of time that the culturing process is allowed to proceed. There is no one single type or group of bacilli that have proven to be definitively better, but rather, the wider the variety found in the various options within the foods, the better the general health, longevity and robustness of the population is. In the next article, we will look at the Human Biology and how to foster a healthy variety of beneficial bacteria and flora in the body and heal the gut.
There are many sites online that can provide starter cultures, good information and equipment to get you started. www.happyherbalist.com is one that can get you started. www.tropicaltraditions.com www.vitalculturedfoods.com www.keeperofthehome.org www.therawdiet.com www.naturopath.co.nz