Fermenting Foods in Spring – A Seasonal Pickle

I’ve been visiting my hometown of New York City for the past few weeks, sightseeing, and reminiscing as the cooler weather of Autumn and the change of the leaves makes itself known. It brought back memories of watching my father when I was growing up in the 60s fermenting foods in Spring.

Through spring and towards the end of summer my father would buy pickling cucumbers, sterilize any old jars that he had saved from other produce, fill the harvest of cucumbers in jars with garlic and dill or other herbs. He would put the lid on loosely, place them on the window sill where the sun came for some of the day and it was warmer; and wait till he saw bubbles, plus the color changing to a different shade of green and the taste was sour. When they were ready, he would seal the lid more tightly and put them in the fridge.

These were my favourite summer pickles. He instilled in me my love for the taste, and the process of watching the change through time and patience. He told me that it was good for my body to eat a pickle with my food, and although he could not tell me why, this custom has been handed down for generations in my family.

I took myself to one of the many Greenmarkets across NYC; which is a program that promotes regional agriculture and ensures a continuing supply of fresh, local produce. It has organized open air farmers markets since 1976. It also supports farmers and preserves farmland for the future. I scooped up some beautiful organic cabbages, carrots and radishes and set up some jars of cabbage, carrots and radishes for my son and his partner to enjoy in a few weeks time when they ferment.

Fermenting Foods in Spring - Organic purple radishes from the Williamsburg Greenmarket in Brooklyn

Organic purple radishes from the Williamsburg Greenmarket in Brooklyn

I’ve been playing around for a number of years, making sauerkraut, with all sorts of different vegetables with the cabbage, different herbs, pickled daikon, beetroots, rhubarb, and the most lush beetroot relish. I eat a tablespoon or two with as many meals as I can and I’ve noticed that my digestion improved. I’ve had no more wind, bloating and pain after a few weeks.

Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and yogurt are helpful sources of probiotics. Researchers are unclear about whether these have any lasting effect on the composition of our microbiome; which is the genetic material of all the microbes – bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses that live on and inside the human body. At the University of Washington in the USA, researchers have started the Human Microbiome Project, “The bacteria in the microbiome help digest our food, regulate our immune system, protect against other bacteria that cause disease, and produce vitamins including B vitamins B 12, thiamine and riboflavin and Vitamin K.”

Fermenting Foods in Spring - Radish Kimchi

Radish Kimchi made with organic radishes from the Williamsburg Greenmarket in Brooklyn

In Australia, the variety of currently seasonal vegetables, such as asparagus, capsicum, celery, chillies, eggplant, mushrooms, peas, and zucchini are so abundant and perfect for fermenting foods in spring. It’s a great time to learn that just about any seasonal vegetable can be pickled and probiotic. Contact me now to secure your place at my upcoming November cooking class, Fermenting Your Own Food At Home – 2015.