The Greeks knew that important chemical changes took place during the fermentation of foods and named this change ''alchemy.''
Obviously we have known all along that fermented foods are highly nutritious and health giving and have always appreciated the rich, tangy and smooth flavours that come from the transforming power of bacteria and fungi.
A few of the more familiar foods we have fermented are coffee, wine, cheese, miso and the two that I have fermented and enjoyed - yoghurt and sauerkraut.
The fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruits by lacto fermenting them has numerous advantages beyond that of simply preserving them.
The proliferation of lactobacilli enhances digestion, increases vitamin levels and produces enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti carcinogenic substances.
These foods are loaded with the same friendly bacteria that line your digestive tract. This bacteria is known as intestinal flora or probiotics.
These ''live'' foods are directly supplying your digestive tract with living cultures that are responsible for breaking down food and assimilating nutrients.
Let's take a look at my favourite fermented food sauerkraut.
Records of Sauerkraut go back as far as 6000 years ago in China. Captain Cook loaded 60 barrels of Sauerkraut on to his ship when he went on his second around the world voyage.
After nearly 28 months at sea he opened his last barrel and gave some to several Portuguese noblemen who had came on board. After tasting the Kraut they carried that last barrel away with them to share with their friends.
Even after all of that time at sea, in spite of the constant rocking of the ship and the different climate changes the Sauerkraut was perfectly preserved.
It had provided the whole crew with sufficient vitamin C to prevent them from getting scurvy and not a single case was recorded on Cook's ship at a time when scurvy was decimating crews on voyages of that length.
Regular consumption of these cultured vegetables or lactic acid-fermented foods also provides the body with hydrochloric acid and enzymes.
That's some list of health giving benefits like that and it costs pennies to make a huge batch that will last months.
Here is a sauerkraut recipe. Try this delicious super food out - you'd pay a fortune for a supplement that gives you these benefits.
1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded
1 tablespoon of caraway seeds
1 tablespoon of celtic sea salt
4 tablespoons of whey (If not available use 1 extra tablespoon of salt)
In a bowl, mix cabbage with caraway seeds, sea salt and whey. Pound with a wooden or meat hammer for about 10 minutes to release juices. Place in a quart sized, wide mouthed Mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. The sauerkraut maybe eaten immediately but it improves with age.
From the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
The book Wild Fermentation is a great recipe resource for fermented foods - click here to go back to the 10 healthiest foods.