Lactofermentation is a safe way to preserve plant-based foods. It is eco and budget friendly. It allows you to make the most of all your vegetables when you have a glut of them, making them last all year round, reducing food waste. And more importantly, it maximises the nutrient availability as well as enhancing the therapeutic property of the food.
When digesting the fibre and the sugars in the foods, bacteria produce many compounds that are highly beneficial. They produce many vitamins; Vitamin B5, B6, B12, niacin,Biotin, Folate and Vitamin K. Vitamin K is particularly important in the physiology of Vitamin D. Together, these are crucial for a healthy immune system.
Bacterial fermentation also disables plant toxins known as lectins. Lectins are part of the immune system of the plant, they are poisons that are designed to deter predators. They also act as a nitrogen storage for the seed, allowing the seed to grow until roots are formed and the seed can now get its nutrition from the soil. Levels of lectins in a plant vary depending on the type of plant. Pulses are particularly high in them and food poisoning caused by poorly prepared pulses is well known. Levels also vary according to the season and how ripe the plant is. The levels will be at their lowest when the seed has just started to sprout, they then rise steadily until the next seed is ready to grow. when the seed is ready, the lectin level suddenly drops to attract predators, they eat the seed and recycle it into the ground somewhere else. The cycle can then start again. This is why it is important to eat plant seeds when they are ripe to minimise exposure to lectins. For plant foliage, the same applies, foliage will have less interfering chemicals such as Oxalic acid when the plant is young making spring an ideal time for foliage and autumn a time better for roots rather than foliage. Fermentation, soaking, sprouting and cooking all reduce lectin content.
Some plant foods contain substances called glucosinolates. All the brassicacae family is particularly rich in them. Plants from the cabbage, mustard, radish, garlic and onion family all contain lots of these compounds. Through the bacterial fermentation process, these compounds are converted into Isothiocyanates (ICT’s). ICT’s have very strong antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-fungal properties. They are also known as quorum-quenchers, they prevent pathogenic bacteria from building biofilms. It is because of these ICT’s that this family of foods is excellent at fermenting. Because of the natural antimicrobial compounds, they rarely go wrong when fermented, provided you get the temperature right at the beginning of the fermentation. They also become a useful addition to any jar of vegetables you want to ferment, particularly when fermenting sweeter vegetables such as carrots and peppers. Because of the sugar, these can sometime attract a benign yeast called Kahm yeast. The yeast is not dangerous but rather unsightly.
Bacterial also means flavour, and wild fermentation is always an adventure. You will discover new intensified flavours.
It is fun, you can eat it raw, add it to salads or cook it. The cooking process kills the bacteria but doesn’t take away any of the goodness they have produced for you.