Have you ever had a hunk of good sourdough bread with a slab of cheese, some real saurkraut, pickles and washed it all down with some homemade beer? These are just a few of the foods which have historically been fermented. These days, just about the only food Americans typically eat live bacteria in is yogurt. A sad testament to our industrialized food system, which prizes antibacterialism. Good bacteria are not only good for us, but necessary for life on earth.
Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation bubbles over with delicious history and recipes for wild fermentation. Wild fermentation is the process of encouraging wild bacteria, yeasts and fungi, already present on our foods, to transform our foods into something more digestible and nutritious for our bodies. Let alone the fact that cultures around the world have used fermentation for thousands of years to perserve food, without the use of refrigeration. The jist of fermentation is that it predigests the food, making many minerals and some vitamins more bioavailable. It also decreases many of the natural toxins found in food and is therapeutic to both our immune systems and digestive tracts. This subject is a bit hard for most people to wrap their heads around. Click here to listen to an interview with Sandor, which will give you an idea of what this dwindling food preservation technique is all about.
I have been experimenting with fermentation for a short while. One of my favorites is fermenting wild grape leaves to roll my own dolmas/stuffed grape leaves. With an abundance of curly dock (Rumex crispus) leaves popping up in my yard this year, I thought they might make for an interesting leaf fermentation. I have not tasted this recipe yet, but this gives you a general idea and starting point to begin your own fermentation experiments.
Fermented Curly Dock Leaves
2 large handfuls of young curly dock leaves
1 T salt
1 clean quart-sized mason jar
Wash your curly dock leaves well. Take a clean quart-sized canning jar and place rolled leaves into jar. Add salt to roughly 3 cups of water and pour over curly dock leaves, leaving at least 1 inch of headspace in the jar. Push leaves down to the bottom of the jar, and if they float to the top you will need to weight them down. I have done so here in the photo using a seashell. All leaves need to be submerged below liquids, otherwise mold will form! Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days, then transfer to cold storage (refrigerator or root cellar).