[Market-farming] Book Review: Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Cultured Foods
garlicgrower at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 20 17:19:44 EST 2003
Now that the garlic is planted, I have time to review books again. I
retain copywrite and if you use the review in another publication, you must
send me a copy of the publication it appears in, but otherwise, enjoy!
No one gets rich in either agriculture or book reviewing, but hey, at least
it keeps me busy! ;-D
Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Cultured Foods
by Sandor Ellix Katz, Chelsea Green Publishing Company,
2003. ISBN: 1-931498-23-7, $25.00.
One spring, not too long ago, I stepped into the cooler at Camphill Village
Kimberton Hills and was blocked by a wall of green. The entire cooler,
floor to ceiling, was jammed with flawless heads of Bok Choi. I see you
have a little bok choi problem, I mentioned to the lead CSA grower in the
main office. He shrugged. We grow it, the CSA members dont take it, the
food bank doesnt know what to do with it, it becomes compost.
Most small growers have a bok choi problem and a turnip, radish, beet,
cabbage, kale, and insect-bitten fruit problem! We grow it, the
nutritionists encourage everyone to consume it, but on market day or during
CSA pick-ups, somehow the brassicas remain alone, their stacks nearly
untouched while everyone scrambles for the last tomato or watermelon.
We feel guilty these hardy plants flourish in uncertain weather and
nourished our ancestors in both New World and Old. We page through brining
recipes in old Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks, but the details are too
sketchy to reproduce. We read the Pickles section of preservation guides
from Rodale and Farm Journal, but the contraindications lists scare us
from even trying lactofermentation.
Humans, says Katz, have been fermenting longer than weve been writing
words or cultivating the soil. Anyone can do it, anywhere, with the most
basic tools. And so Katz takes us gently by the hand and guides us through
the world of fermentation: vegetable krauts and kimchis, sourdough breads
and pancakes, miso and tempeh, yogurt and cheeses, and beers, wines, and
The strength of this book is not in completeness (there are more
comprehensive books on yogurt/cheese and beer/wine/mead) but in showing
those of us who love food that we can transform our excess into storable,
tasty and nutritious dishes to feed ourselves rather than our
compost. Katz deals upfront with our fears about food poisoning and
mistakes, then explains each technique with humor, insight and the
experience of a decade fermenting foods, then feeding them to his
compatriots at Short Mountain Sanctuary in Tennessee.
Like compost making, fermentation is both art and science. One can buy
starters (yeast for wine and bacteria for compost) to produce a standard
product, but Katz, in his quest for unique flavors and ease of preparation,
advocates going wild creating the conditions for beneficial
microorganisms to colonize, then grow in a desired medium. His bright,
informative essays on the importance of microbial biodiversity in our diet
mirror what we have learned about compost. The difference (and the joy!) of
fermentation is that this time, were using microbes to nourish us, rather
than our plants and soil.
Katzs desire to help others learn the craft of fermentation shines
throughout this book. While the techniques are straightforward and the
equipment basic, he provides an appendix listing sources for starter
cultures and equipment, endnote citations for each chapter, a bibliography
for further reading and a website,
answers fermentation questions and provides links to other fermentation
sites and discussion lists on the Web.
Cultivate community, both microbial and human, by taking this book, a few
food-grade plastic buckets, some sharp knives, salt, cabbage and your CSAs
membership to make sauerkraut. Earn the eternal goodwill of your local
farmer by buying up all of their turnips at the end of market day to make
sauerruben. Boldly make country wine from the plums the curculio found
before you did. Fermentation is transformation; from perishable abundance
to storable foodstuff that nourishes human and microorganism when they
learn to work together.
Reviewed by Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. Johns United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden
Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden
A mission of
St. John's United Church of Christ, 315 Gay Street, Phoenixville, PA 19460
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