Wild Fermentation – Preserving Food for Good Health and Survival

This week DestinySurvival Radio revisited the topic of cultured food or food fermentation. Only this time the emphasis was on wild fermentation. As you may know, this is a way of preserving food for good health and survival.

Previously I featured a conversation with Kathy Strahan of KathyStrahan.com to talk about fermenting food using cultures. View the post about that visit and see helpful resources here. Kathy was my cohost as we engaged in a chat with Sandor Katz of WildFermentation.com.

In a nutshell, wild fermentation doesn’t depend on starter cultures, but makes use of bacteria in the natural environment.

But before I go further, I should let you know who Sandor is, which will explain why Kathy and I sought him out for DestinySurvival Radio.

Fermentation’s Wild Method Revivalist

Sandor Katz also goes by the nickname Sandorkraut. The short bio on his Amazon.com author page is as follows:

“Sandor Ellix Katz is a self-taught fermentation experimentalist. He wrote Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods (Chelsea Green, 2003)–which Newsweek called “the fermenting bible”–in order to share the fermentation wisdom he had learned, and demystify home fermentation. Since the book’s publication, Katz has taught hundreds of fermentation workshops across North America and beyond, taking on a role he describes as a “fermentation revivalist.” Now, in The Art of Fermentation, with a decade more experience behind him, the unique opportunity to hear countless stories about fermentation practices, and answering thousands of troubleshooting questions, he’s sharing a more in-depth exploration of the topic. Katz is also the author of The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements (Chelsea Green, 2006).”

Sandor is originally a native of New York City, a graduate of Brown University, and he describes himself on his Web site as a retired policy wonk. In 1993 he moved to rural Tennessee.

His fermentation experience grew from his overlapping interests in cooking, nutrition and gardening. He discovered the need to preserve an abundance of cabbage from the garden. The solution? Sauerkraut. One thing led to another, culminating in authorship of three books to date as well as the numerous workshops he’s done in the U.S., Canada and several countries overseas.

Fermentation’s Basics and Benefits

Wild fermentation can take advantage of the multitude of microorganisms all around us and on the plants and animals that we use for food. It simply requires harnessing the friendly bacteria which help preserve food. Vegetables submerged in brine are protected from the bad guys.

Sandor ferments a variety of foods, not just sauerkraut. It’s a mainstay in his life, and he heartily recommends the rest of us practice food fermentation, starting with wild fermentation of vegetables.

Fermentation supports good health. Fermented foods are probiotic, which is helpful for good digestion, among other things. You can preserve produce from your garden or the farmers market by using fermentation. Plus, it’s safe and easy to do.

Specialized equipment isn’t required for wild fermentation of vegetables, unlike making cheese or fermented meats. In our conversation, Sandor described how simple it is to make up a batch of fermented veggies in a quart jar. When it comes to keeping fermented foods for a long period of time, salty, acidic foods which are kept cool can last for years. This makes the case for a root cellar in the absence of regular refrigeration.

A key benefit of wild fermentation for you and me as preppers is that it can be done without the use of starter cultures, which means it can be done at any time, wherever your survival kitchen may be. While you need a starter culture for something like yogurt, it’s not necessary for vegetables.

Fermentation’s Power Source

It’s the good bacteria that make fermented food what it is. It may sound unappealing at first, but the work they do partially digests the vegetables or other foods and puts them into simpler forms to make it easier for our bodies to use it. Because you and I will get benefits from eating fermented foods, we should incorporate them into our eating habits.

Nutritional bioavailability is improved through fermentation. In other words, our bodies can more easily take in and use the nutrition from cultured foods. Also, the level of some vitamins and micronutrients is amped up through the fermentation process.

Sandor says we need to diversify and replenish our gut bacteria if we want to function well. A testimonial to this is that he lives with HIV/AIDS and takes drugs for it as a result. Fermented foods have helped him maintain good health. However, he’s not claiming these foods are a cure-all. Improved digestion and immune function can benefit each of us though, no matter what our health situation.

The many discoveries in recent hears concerning the benefits and importance of friendly bacteria have helped spark a growing interest in fermenting foods. There may be other causes for this revival, too, such as the interest preppers and others have shown throughout the past few years in living a simpler, more healthful way of life.

Find Out More

It’s at this point where I remind you that there’s more to the conversation Kathy Strahan and I had with Sandor than I can possibly share here. Hear the whole thing by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for June 26, 2014. (Right click to download.) Find out more about wild fermentation from Sandor’s site at http://www.wildfermentation.com. Click on the title of his books linked in this post to get more info and order any you’d like.

Get more ideas on wild fermentation from the July/August 2015 “Backwoods Home Magazine” in an article called Preserve the Harvest Naturally Through Wild Fermentation.


Author: John Wesley Smith

John Wesley Smith writes and podcasts from his home in Central Missouri. His goal is to help preppers as he continues along his own preparedness journey.