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Fermentation, Self Reliance in Food Preparation

by Rosemary Tayler

On September 17, 2017  Earth Haven Farm and Learning Centre hosted a hands-on workshop on fermentation basics presented by Lorraine Schmid. With a background in nutrition, Lorraine owns and operates Thyme Again Gardens, an organic farm and Bed and Breakfast in Prince Edward County. For the past several years she has been experimenting with ferments made from all sorts of veggies.

She began her talk with an introduction to the health benefits of ferments. Not only do probiotics found in fermented vegetables help with digestion in the gut, they also contribute to overall bowel health, increase levels of certain B vitamins and vitamin K and assist in the detoxification of unwanted substances. Those people who eat well balanced meals including daily doses of ferments tend to be less depressed and more mentally alert. She pointed out that pickling veggies in vinegar does not have the same benefits as fermentation.

Lorraine then outlined several key factors one needs to follow when making ferments:

  1. No oxygen. Fermentation takes place in an anaerobic environment. One must press out all the air in the glass container and keep the veggies under the brine.

  2. Prepare the veggies as soon as possible after harvest. This way they have more moisture content than if they were stored for several days after being harvested.

  3. The brine must be at room temperature. The cooler the temperature, the slower the fermentation process.

  4. Tasting the ferment throughout the process helps determine when it is complete. The more sour the better.

  5. Reverse osmosis or filtered water makes a better ferment. Chlorinated water kills the probiotics.

  6. Unrefined sea salt is recommended as it is full of minerals and supports probiotic bacteria.

  7. Organic or biodynamic produce is preferred. Herbicides kill the good bacteria that contribute to the fermentation process. Thin skinned carrots do not need to be peeled.

  8. When fermenting veggies, keep them out of direct sunlight.

After this brief introduction, we then proceeded into the kitchen and started chopping up veggies and placing them (“massaging”) in a room temperature brine at the work stations. This practical hand-on session gave participants the confidence and knowledge needed to make their own ferments at home. Lorraine also demonstrated how to make Kombucha from a starter ferment called “Scoby” and Earl Grey black tea. The word scoby is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.

From a biodynamic perspective, Lorraine Schmid shared how it is better to make ferments when the moon is waning and in a fire sign, both of which occurred on that particular day. She always notes this lunar information on her labels together with the list of ingredients so she can better track the outcomes.  Another suggestion she shared is to undertake fermentation tasks with a happy disposition and not be in a rush. “Putting lots of love in what you do every day helps set the intention for a positive outcome,” she added."

For more information contact Thyme Again Gardens at www.thymeagain.com

 

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Review of Titia Posthuma's Talk on the Essence of Nutrition in Agriculture

by Rosemary Tayler, March 20, 2017

On Sunday, March 19, Titia Posthuma, a dedicated biodynamic farmer and teacher in Eastern Ontario, shared her insights and understanding on the connections between nutrition and agriculture at the Earth Haven Learning Centre in Thomasburg, Ontario. Ms Posthuma looked at this subject from several perspectives including human, animal, plant and soil nutrition.

In my opinion, one of the most interesting references made during the workshop was the TED Talk by Rob Knight called “How our microbes make us who we are.” During his talk, Knight emphasizes that microbes in and on human beings affect behaviour, health and well being.

I was reminded about how similar the beneficial relationship between humans and microbes is to how plants rely on microbes in the soil for nutrients. In fact this plant/microbe relationship is also mutually beneficial. The plant produces sugars made through photosynthesis in the leaves; these sugars are transported down the stem and into the fine root hairs where the microbes can access them. In exchange, these microbes provide nitrogen-rich organic nutrients which the plant needs for building proteins and other substances. And again I heard that the nitrogen supplied by fertilizers does not have the same biological qualities as nitrogen supplied by these microbes.

Another point I noted in the workshop was the observation that animals such as cows have a cognitive ability to be selective in what they choose to eat. For example, cows can select higher quality grain over lower quality grain. Humans need to be more discerning in their choice of foods.

Ms. Posthuma shared that Rudolf Steiner, who introduced the basic philosophical and practical methods for biodynamic agriculture in the 1920s, claimed that complete digestion includes the full breakdown of ingested foods and the full rebuilding of essential nutrients.

This digestive process in humans is somewhat similar to the annual decomposing and rebuilding processes that go on in topsoil. In summer and fall, the leaves start to decompose and form a nutrient and microbial rich layer called humus. Plants with deeper roots, such as trees, bring minerals up from the subsoil and over time these minerals make their way into the stable humus layer and are passed on into the microbes and surrounding plants, and ultimately into animals and humans.

The workshop closed with this emphasis on building stable humus with lots of organic matter. This stable humus is a way of building microbial housing so to speak and must include a balance of both bacteria and fungi. One of the key messages I took away from this talk was that as farmers and gardeners we need to is grow more soil. The quality and health of our soils and its microbes is directly linked to our own health and well being.

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