[Market-farming] Book Review: Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Cultured Foods

Andrews, Shirley F. SAndrews at AcademicBookServices.com
Fri Nov 21 07:29:15 EST 2003

Comment concerning sauerkraut:  I have been ordering from an organic
farm in Vermont - www.wellspringfarmvt.com
<http://www.wellspringfarmvt.com/>  for years.  Sauerkraut contains
natural probiotics needed for digestion.  Most people do not know how to
eat it.  My favorite way and it always wins them over:  I take one of my
fresh baked whole wheat sandwich rolls, slice open, top both sides with
kraut, sprinkle a small amount of organic herb Colby cheese and pop
under broiler just long enough to melt cheese (this keeps from
destroying all natural enzymes) then pour on little olive oil and enjoy.
It's a winner.
-----Original Message-----
From: market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Alliums
Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2003 5:20 PM
To: community_garden at mallorn.com
Subject: [Market-farming] Book Review: Wild Fermentation: The Flavor,
Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Cultured Foods
Hi, Folks!

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,

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
don't take it, the food bank doesn't know what to do with it, it becomes
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
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 we've 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 meads.  
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, we're using
microbes to nourish us, rather than our plants and soil.
Katz's 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,
http://www.wildfermentation.com/ which 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 CSA's 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. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden
Phoenixville, PA

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
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