Blending ancestral kitchen traditions and new scientific research will allow fermentation to change our diet — and our planet.
In a TEDx Talk, Mara King, co-founder of fermented food store Ozukè, shares why she is proudly releasing trillions of good bacteria into the population. Her food philosophy rubs against everything the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments practice. While government agencies enforce strict sanitation standards in the name of protecting American’s food, King preaches that it’s wiping out good bacteria and dumping more toxins into the environment.
When King and co-founder Willow King (no relation) opened their Colorado-based food business, a food scientist from the Denver office of the Health & Human Services Department performed a safety inspection. The food expert was confused by Ozukè’s live, fermented pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi. King: “He said ‘Your product is so weird. We follow all these FDA guidelines in food manufacturing in order to diminish bacteria and here you are making it on purpose.’”
“The food we make is actually super, super, super safe, unlike mots processed packaged fresh foods,” King says. “The reason this food is so safe is not because I’m better at this antimicrobial Macarena than anybody else. It’s because the bacteria are doing the work of making the fermented foods pretty much bomb proof.”
Though numerous cultures have been fermenting for generations (“It’s how humans have been eating raw, crunchy vegetables all through hard winters.”), King notes it’s only in the last 10 years that scientists have been able to map the complex fermentation process. By letting bacteria thrive in its own ecosystem, it “creates a food that’s no longer harmful to humans” and makes a more nutritious product.
“Nature does not operate in a vacuum and neither should we,” King says. “We need to understand the complexity of the world in which we live, then we can start to come up with solutions that do honor our heritage.”
King, who great up in Hong Kong, says older Chinese women store an impressive knowledge of food and medicine. Merging ancient tradition with new science is what will create the living solutions needed to continue living on our planet.
“In fermentation, we have a little trick that we use which is called using a started culture or a mother. I believe that our starter culture…is our human cultural history,” King says. “Once we start tapping this information…we’ll start to come up with amazing solutions, solutions that grow, solutions that rot, solutions that breath.”
Today Ozuke (which means “the best pickled things” in Japanese) still makes pickled veggies, but also teaches fermentation workshops. For more information, visit their webpage.
Fermentation is dominating 2019 food prediction lists. The New York Times says fermented foods and fermented drinks will rule in 2019. The year’s flavor profile will be “Sour and funky, with shades of heat,” melding fermented ingredients with millennial taste buds. Probiotics and prebiotics will continue to reign as consumers focus on gut health. “As the obsession with digestive health dovetails with the fascination for fermenting, kimchi, sauerkraut and pickled things will work their way into new territory. Smoothies with kefir will be popular, and kombucha will show up in unexpected places like salad dressings,” the article continues. What will you be eating in 2019?
Read more (New York Times)
America could be facing a pickle shortage. Since the mid-2000s, a mildew has been destroying cucumber crops. Fewer farmers are growing cucumbers now because of the high amount of failed harvests. USDA records show pickling cucumber acreage has declined 25 percent between 2004 and 2015. Lina Quesada-Ocampo, vegetable pathologist at North Carolina State University told NPR: “This is the number one threat to the pickle industry.” Thankfully, vegetable breeder Michael Mazourek, a professor at Cornell University, is developing a cucumber variety resistant to mildew.
Read more (NPR)
Business advice from the No. 2 pickle brand in the nation: hire the right high-level people, use creative marketing and sell a fresh product rather than one packed with preservatives. Grillo’s Pickles owner Travis Grillo talked with Yahoo Finance about growing his business from humble beginnings as a pickle street cart in Boston to a brand now sold in Whole Foods and Target, netting $25 million in sales a year. Travis said some of the most well-known pickle brands are made with chemicals for a long shelf life. But Grillo’s is made fresh with an all-natural, fourth-generation family recipe.
Read more (Yahoo Finance) (Photo: Grillo’s Pickles)
It’s National Pickle Day — Forbes explains why pickles are not a fading trend, but a growing food culture with staying power. The pickle market is growing, reaching a value of $12.74 billion by 2020 (half of that – $6.70 billion – is just in the U.S.). Pickles curb dehydration, are packed with antioxidants like vitamin C and E and the fermented vinegar in the juice is good for your gut. Today, pickle concoctions can be found on most aisles of a grocery store, from sports drinks to popcorn to popsicles.
Read more (Forbes)
In an effort to attract more health-conscious diners, McDonald’s is removing artificial ingredients from its menu. Ironically, one item will remain the same: the pickle. Arguably the easiest item to remain naturally clean and fermented, McDonald’s will continue to use pickles with artificial preservatives. Their buns, cheese, sauce and patties will now no longer include artificial preservatives, flavors or coloring.
Read more (CNN Money) (Photo: McDonald’s)
Food scientists from the University of Massachusetts Amherst found vegetables are the main source of fermentation-related microbes. Many in the fermentation field commonly think food handlers, food prep surfaces, production environment or other environmental sources effect the bacteria in fermented vegetables. Testing was done as Mass.-based Real Pickles, and the company founder said he was fascinated to learn how fresh, organic vegetables play a key part in a diverse microbial environment for fermentation.
Snacks are one of the fastest growing food and beverage products, increasing 11.6% in sales for $5.4 billion in annual sales. Interesting ingredients are driving innovation, like probiotic-packed protein bars and turmeric-flavored chips. Fermented food products are becoming a snack regular on grocery store shelves, like OH SNAP pickled vegetables.
Read more (Supermarket News) (Photo: OH SNAP)
Food venture centers are proving a valuable resource for fermented food startups. The Cornell Food Venture Center is helping aspiring food entrepreneurs in the Northeast with business development, product safety and commercialization. New York-based Perfectly Pickled Products (P3) shares their experience going from an idea to an agribusiness with the food venture center. They sell pickled eggs, sausage, beans and, of course, pickles. Many customers are drawn to the nostalgia, remembering eating these fermented favorites at their grandparents table.
Read more (Cornell Chronicle)
The Pickle Juice received its USDA organic certification, big news for the only trademarked pickle juice sports beverage. The bottled drink also recently earned its OU Kosher Certification. A healthier alternative than traditional sports drinks, The Pickle Juice has no artificial flavoring or preservatives, and contains 14 times the electrolytes found in an average sports drink. Perfect for athletes, scientific research shows that pickle juice relieves muscle cramps in 60 seconds.
Read more (BevNet)