FermentingHealth & DiseaseProcessing & Food PreservationRecipes

Bacteria – an Endangered Species!

3 types of lactic ferment

The world is full of bacteria but there are certain bacteria that are fast becoming an endangered species. The bacteria that live in the gut of homo sapiens, particularly those of Caucasian origin, are fast disappearing. These particular bacteria comprise of the good bowel flora that is needed to create vitamins, break down undigested food particles and generally be a dominating presence within the nether regions. The importance of these bacteria cannot be overestimated as more and more victims can attest to the symptoms that a lack of these organisms will create.

Another class of endangered species is food enzymes. These enzymes are needed for the optimum digestion of food. The body’s own supply is diminishing day by day by eating mostly cooked food, and these enzymes are not being replenished through our modern diets.

Food allergies, candida, irritable bowel syndrome and even cancer, are all symptoms of a lack of friendly bacteria and enzymes in the gut. It has been noted that no cancer patient has healthy bowel flora. That speaks volumes doesn’t it? The balance needs to be put back so that the pathogens don’t gain a foothold. We need to put back those organisms that are disappearing from our health and well being.

So what can be done about re-instating these important organisms?

There are plenty of supplements on the market that will help to put back those missing enzymes and bacteria, but this is not the real solution. I don’t believe that we can have the good health as nature intended us to have if we pop pills instead of having all our nutritional needs met through our food. It’s a well known fact these days that we are short-changed by the quality of the food we buy. Food grown with chemical input is not adequate to meet our mineral and vitamin needs. If our food isn’t grown in healthy, living soil then we won’t have all our nutritional needs met.

We must insist on having access to organic food and nothing else will do! Buying organic food is out of the reach of many people as it is more expensive. If you are able to grow some of your own fruit and vegetables then consider yourself privileged as growing your own food has so many benefits. When you have access to fresh organic produce then we can go to the next step of creating the life we need to put back into our daily diet.

Make your own living food — living food that is raw and fermented

You might be familiar with sauerkraut, a ferment made from cabbage. The cabbage is rich with lactic bacteria that will readily ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut. Eating some sauerkraut with your cooked meals will add health giving lactic bacteria and digestive enzymes, thus helping your digestion and the assimilation of nutrients. Another example is making your own yoghurt. Yoghurt is full of friendly bacteria needed for your gut flora and when you have the right bacterial strains these will help put back those missing bacteria into your lower bowel. Acidophilus and bifidus are the two bacteria strains that we are born with and having these in great numbers will keep us healthy on the inside. We are often lacking in these two bacteria strains due to our modern lifestyles and a regular intake of fresh yoghurt will go a long way to giving us robust good health. Making your own yoghurt with a yoghurt culture will be the most beneficial, as this yoghurt will have not have mere millions, but billions of these bacteria in it. It’s all about numbers.

These are about the only examples of ferments that we still include in our western diet. Unfortunately the sauerkraut you buy will most likely be pasteurized and so won’t give you those much valued enzymes and those beneficial bacteria. The yoghurt you buy is likely to be pasteurized and sweetened, and has very little value in adding the life you need for your inner health. These fermented foods need to be raw, that is, alive, to be of benefit for your health.

Fortunately we can easily ferment our food so we can add these living organisms in our daily diet. When fermenting any food, it is wise to look for the best quality ingredients. The produce needs to be organic and nutrient dense for the enzymes to do their job to their full capacity. The water used needs to be pure and the addition of some sea salt and whey is also essential. The whey must be naturally soured to be effective, as it is the lactic bacteria that we need from the whey to inoculate a new ferment with. If you make your own yoghurt and find that there is a layer of whey on top, then pour that off and add this into your new ferment.

All vegetables, fruit, grain, nuts and seeds can be fermented and these will add a tasty and vital addition to the daily diet. You will find that every traditional culture will have some fermented food with their meal. Beet kvass, butter milk, kefir, yoghurt, amazaki, kombucha tea are but some examples of drinks that we can have with our meals. Sauerkraut, kimchi, traditional lactic bread and butter cucumbers and other lactic fermented vegetables are all enzyme rich additions to help us to digest and assimilate our food. Grains are also fermented in many cultures and sourdough is making a come back again as more people recognize the benefits of this type of bread. In traditional cultures all grains and most starches are fermented first before cooking them. These are all ancient practices that we have forgotten about since the advent of the industrial age and our modern day food processing methods. We have suffered ill health long enough as a society and we need to take serious steps in getting back to home food production and the fermentation of our food.

Once you discover the taste of fermented food and see how easy it is to make, you’ll wonder how you got on in life without it. You will find that you will feel lighter after meals and have more vitality and resistance to disease as your inner health has been re-vitalised with healthy gut flora.

Kimchi Recipe:

  • Take a wongbok cabbage and shred it coarsely and pound to break down the cellulose
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 3-4 red hot chillies, finely chopped
  • fresh grated ginger
  • sea salt
  • some naturally sourced whey

Mix a brine of about ½ litre of water and enough salt so that the water tastes a bit salty. Add a couple of tablespoons of whey.

Add all the other ingredients into the brine including the kimchi base if you are using this.

Place a plate on top with a weight on it to keep the vegetables submerged.

Keep on a bench for five days, and pack the contents into jars and place in the fridge. Press most of the liquid out so the mix won’t go too sour.

Note: There is a Kimchi base available at Asian supermarkets and this is the genuine Korean chili taste for the kimchi. It comes in a glass bottle and costs around $10. Make sure you read the label though as some have monosodium glutamate (MSG) in it.


Come and learn with me! I’m an accredited permaculture teacher and I’m looking for one or two interns to come and stay at my farm on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. I’m on 6 acres at Black Mountain and grow and produce most of my own food. I can teach you all I know about home food production through hands on experience on the farm and also at workshops and courses that I conduct on the Sunshine Coast. I’m looking for someone who eats a general diet including meat. Most food served at meals will be organic. I would like a stay of around ten weeks or more and board and lodging will be $200 per week to help with costs incurred. I live 7 kilometres from Cooroy and a half hour drive from Noosa. Please check out the post written by Carly Gilham on the PRI website to give you a bit of an idea of what my place is like, and you can also check out my website to see what areas of food production I cover. I look forward to hearing from anyone that might be interested. Contact: info (at) permacultureproduce.com.au


  1. Hi Elisabeth
    I am very interested in learning to make these recipes and I was wondering where do you source the natural whey? What form is it….powder, liquid etc

  2. Elisabeth you are the genuine article, as they say! I am going to start fermenting soon when my local cow has her calf, hopefully this week. Note that most yogourt at the shop is no longer fermented. I think they inject “active bacterial culture” into it but it tastes like pudding not yogourt.

  3. Jude and I have been puzzled on our first tour in Japan, by the relatively small portions of fresh vegetables making it to our host table. Even natural farmers had small quantities of fresh vegetables but they all had a wide range of all sorts of ferments including the nato, nuka zuke, skemono, plum with shizo leaves, and other with floating small radishes in salt water, lots of different sea vegetables and more I could not name and far too many to ask about each of them.
    So in fact we ate plenty of vegetables but delicately prepared and full of life.
    Thank for the sharing Elisabeh you are always generous and so productive.

  4. Natural whey is obtained by the separation of dairy products into curds and whey. The fastest way to obtain whey for a needed recipe is to pour good quality yogurt into a fine strainer or sieve. What’s left in the strainer is the curds and can be used to make something like cream cheese. The liquid below the strainer is whey…the real deal…not the so common dehydrated protein powder ingredient.

    Also, raw milk products left in the refrig for long time, or on the counter for a few days, will separate too. I find the whey can be stored in the refrig for about two months and still be usable.

    I don’t use whey in sauerkraut as cabbage already naturally has lacto bacillus on it.

  5. Looks like I will need to check on this article to reply to comments: Soured whey is a great source of concentrated lactic bacteria that will introduce a shot of the right bacteria to start a ferment. Powdered whey cannot possibly have any microbrobes left in it unless perhaps it is freeze dried. Sour whey comes from milk that has been left to curdle and then strained out through a cloth. With the cow’s milk comment I would recommend that you wait until the milk composition has settled from colostrum to milk before you start using it for making dairy products. Milk for cheese making from a freshly calved cow will be OK to use a week after birth. Yes, cabbage leaves have a rich host of Lactobacillus plantarium bacteria to create the lactic acid that ferments the cabbage into sauerkraut. Fermented food has many times more food value than raw fruits and vegetables so only small amounts are needed to keep up with optimum health. I love employing my billions of little friends to do the work for me and hope that others will catch on too.

  6. Thanks for this article. We were throwing away the whey because we read somewhere that it has ‘dangerous bacteria’. Also I had developed digestion problems. Now we are again eating it in the buttermilk (In India almost everyone eats buttermilk made from curd everyday).

  7. Guess what I’m eating now – Kimchee. From the Japanese store in Sydney city. When I first bought it, it was unexciting.
    I patiently waited a week, and now it tasted just like a cross between salt-and-vinegar chips and fruit tingles lollies.
    A most important function of Kimche, apart from making you happy, its that it makes your skin beautiful. I usually work out if an Asian girl is Korean by looking for that satiny, silken-tofu-like complexion.
    They eat it three times a day.

    Millions are spend by women each year on the lotion and potion industry, when an old cabbage does a much better job.

    Ovid,thanks for posting those articles.
    Im just realizing, I have no idea how much digestion is done my my own ‘juices’, and how much Im just hosting a compost bin inside myself.
    How big is the role microbes play in there? 10 % ? 90 %

    Amazing I don’t know something this intimate and basic.

    Elizabeth, I hope you get a great intern. I think fiding ways to share is the most high-value permacutlure there is. I’d love to hear how it goes, as I teach permaculture house-sharing, and always need case studies.


  8. Celia, You’ve certainly raised the issue of fear concerning the fermentation of food. It’s so misguided as the average westener has very little idea about the role microbes have on our overall good health. There are different kinds of ferment but lactic fermentation is the dominant type and has a very important role to play in our everyday food consumption. As you said, food tastes so much better when it’s been fermented. Interesting about the silky smooth skin of the Korean eating kimchi three times a day. And I thought my complexion came about from the pig fat, bees wax and comfrey root lotion that I smear on my face everyday!
    The intern at my place is like an angel sent from heaven. I am really enjoying the one to one teaching and companionship.

  9. Thank YOU for sharing your wisdom here ~ constant reminders and new insights are always SO welcome :) I’m off to make some fresh yoghurt this very minute ~~~ Blessings to YOU :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button