Da­rina Allen

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Inside - Da­rina Allen

IT’S un­be­liev­able how quickly fer­men­ta­tion and pick­ling have be­come main­stream. I At a din­ner re­cently I was sit­ting be­side a teacher from a lo­cal school who was wax­ing lyri­cal about his jars of sauer­kraut and kim­chi and the health ben­e­fits. Read­ers will know I’m not a fan of sell by dates and best be­fore dates for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, not least the fact that they have in­ad­ver­tently served to dis­em­power us, as more and more shop­pers have come to rely on them rather than their com­mon sense to judge whether food is safe to eat. My ad­vice used to be, ex­am­ine it, smell it, taste it but if you can hear it — throw it out — no longer the case now as our bot­tles and jars of fer­mented food bub­ble away in the pantry and Bub­ble Shed.

A few week­ends ago our fer­ment­ing team in­clud­ing my daugh­ter-in-law Penny Allen, our dairy queen Maria Walsh and some friends, drove all the way to Ross­in­ver in lovely Co Leitrim to at­tend a fer­men­ta­tion course. They are all fer­ment­ing nerds with quite a bit of prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence un­der their belts but they re­turned on a bub­ble of ex­cite­ment hav­ing spent the week­end at a bril­liantly run and deeply in­for­ma­tive event, a ‘Week­end of Fer­men­ta­tion Mad­ness’. A Fer­men­ta­tion Din­ner at Sweet Beat in Sligo kicked off the event or­gan­ised by Gaby and Hans Wieland from the Or­ganic Cen­tre.

There is un­usual agree­ment that our mod­ern diet is caus­ing many chal­lenges not least the gut prob­lems that so many peo­ple are trou­bled with these days, partly as a re­sult of eat­ing a cock­tail of highly pro­cessed foods. Ted Dinan, pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try and a prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor in the APC Mi­cro­biome In­sti­tute at Univer­sity Col­lege Cork, has done very in­ter­est­ing re­search on the con­nec­tion be­tween the gut biome and our men­tal health.

More re­cently, Dan Sal­adino of the BBC 4 Food

Pro­gramme did two seg­ments on the indige­nous Hadza tribe who live in re­motest Tan­za­nia. They are vir­tu­ally the last re­main­ing hunter-gath­er­ers on Earth. They live on sea­sonal berries, roots, wild honey and the oc­ca­sional feast of roast por­cu­pine. In­ter­est­ingly their gut biome on av­er­age is 40% richer than any of the rest of us. They grow no food, raise no live­stock and live with­out cal­en­dars or rules. Their rich store of gut bac­te­ria is of huge in­ter­est to the world of sci­ence and medicine. We can’t eas­ily achieve that com­plex­ity on mod­ern di­ets but we cer­tainly can en­hance our gut flora by chang­ing our diet to pre­dom­i­nately fresh nat­u­rally pro­duced real food and in­clude some fer­mented foods on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Sauer­kraut is su­per easy to make as is this quick kim­chi recipe given to me by David Ta­nis. There are sev­eral books to start you on your jour­ney and watch out, you can get prop­erly hooked on the “bub­ble thing”. Look out for Fer­mented by Charlotte Pike and more re­cently Fer­ment,

Pickle, Dry by Si­mon Pof­fley and Gaba Smolin­ska-Pof­fley which teaches you how to pre­serve foods us­ing an­cient meth­ods of fer­ment­ing, pick­ling, dry­ing and recipes to en­joy them in.

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