“Moving forward to the past” describes many of the hottest trends in food today. More than just a yearning for simpler times, this concept involves exploring and incorporating the kind of food people ate before the advent of the industrial food system.
There was a time when many of our modern diseases — such as Type II diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses — were nearly nonexistent. In fact, preindustrial societies around the world today with their traditional diets rarely suffer from such ailments. It was only when people began to eat what Weston Price, an early researcher on the subject, termed “the displacing foods of commerce” such as refined sugar, refined oils, white flour and white rice, that they started to experience these common ailments.
As research and consumer awareness increase, we are being bombarded with ways to include preindustrial food in our daily diets. For some, this means eating like a caveman by avoiding foods that weren’t available before the rise of agriculture; sugars, salts, legumes and grains. For others it’s raw food that runs the gamut from dehydrated to fermented.
Throughout history people have used fermentation to preserve food, improve its taste and nutritional value, and to make it more digestible. Chocolate, for example, would not be possible without first fermenting the cacao bean. Traditional breadmaking allows a proper length of time for fermentation, a process necessary for the conversion of glutens, starches and malts to a digestible form. Wine is the product of fermented grapes and yogurt is a fermented milk product.
There is a local farm presently using the traditional fermentation process to produce outstanding raw organic krauts and kimchi. Midori Farm in Port Townsend is owned and operated by Hanako Myers and Marko Colby, local pioneers in the traditional fermentation movement. Unlike most modern versions of sauerkraut — shredded cabbage brined in vinegar and heat processed, thereby killing the live nutrients — the methods these peninsula residents use allow their product to ferment in the old-fashioned way.
Their process begins by shredding and chopping locally grown organic vegetables and mixing them with sea salt. Next, the mixture is packed into large ceramic crocks and topped with weighted ceramic plates to press out any oxygen. Marko explains, “This method creates a safe anaerobic environment for the bacteria that are naturally present on the vegetables to proliferate. These bacteria change the pH level, creating a more and more acidic environment which changes the flavor profile and preserves the vegetables.”
The magic happens during a two- to three-week fermentation time and the end result is an extremely healthy food product. You’ve probably seen ads for products with probiotic bacteria and enzymes, those special little organisms that are being added to industrially prepared foods for your digestive benefit. The “friendly” bacteria everyone is talking about exist in spades and are naturally present in the krauts prepared at Midori Farm.
A healthy intestinal tract efficiently eliminates toxins and digests food to help with the assimilation of nutrients. Adding these krauts to your diet will improve your digestive health, but according to Marko, the primary benefit of these traditionally prepared krauts is simply that “they taste delicious!” That great taste is one of the reasons that Marko and Hanako are working so hard to figure out how to meet the rapidly increasing demand for their product while maintaining its quality and integrity. They hope to buy the land they are leasing and invest in the infrastructure necessary to increase efficiency and production.
What Hanako and Marko are trying to accomplish is not easy. They are endeavoring to figure out how to produce preindustrial food in a postindustrial economy, a process that takes more time, more resources and more labor than producing food conventionally. On the other hand, those who have discovered their product are hungry for more! Our best wishes for the successful, steady growth of Midori Farm — it surely will mean more great things to come.
Mark Ozias and Lisa Boulware own The Red Rooster Grocery. Reach them at columnists@