What is fermentation?

“Fermentation is one of the oldest means of food preservation known to humanity, perhaps surpassed in age only by dehydration. The underlying idea of using fermentation to preserve food is straightforward: Some element of food that would ordinarily support rotting is converted into something that retards rotting” (Markham, 3-4).

According to The Noma Guide to Fermentation, fermentation is “the transformation of food by microorganisms whether bacteria, yeasts, or molds” (Redzepi, 26).

Similarly, Living Bread describes fermentations as “…the term for the breakdown of compound molecules in organic substances by yeast, mold, and bacteria” (Leader, 173).

In other words, fermentation occurs when bacteria forms and transforms a substance into a new substance. For example, “when yeast and bacteria get to work on milk, they transform it to cheese, yeast and bacteria turn grape juice into wine. Sourdough is another type of fermentation” (Leader, 173).

Fermentation processes are an investment in time. However, with patience, the rewards can be remarkable.

What are the Benefits of Consuming Fermented Foods?

According to Fermentation for Dummies, there are several major benefits to eating fermented foods. Some reasons to consume fermented items include:


The bacteria lactobacilli, which works by converting sugars into lactic acid, is present in many fermentations. This bacteria remains active during the fermentation process and is absorbed into the body when consumed. “Lacto-ferments help normalize your stomach’s acidity and stimulate the production of beneficial intestinal flora” (Wasserman, 292). In other words, the bacteria present in lacto-fermentations make it much easier for the body to break down foods when consumed.

Immunity Boost

The digestive system is a crucial part of the immune system. In fact, according to Wesseman, “80% of your immune system is the digestive system” (292). When the digestive system is healthy, the immune system is also healthy. This means that consuming bacteria such as lactobacilli can improve a person’s overall health.

The Slow Food Movement

The Slow Food Moment began in the 1980s with the philosophy that slow food is “good, clean, and fair food.”(Ronca). Proponents of the slow food moment believe that food should be created to be enjoyed in a clean and environmentally conscious way. These ideas perfectly encompass fermentations. As Ronca explains, Fermentations are typically produced from ingredients obtained by local farmers with little to no processing. Furthermore, fermentation processes do not require chemicals, processing, or high heat. Instead, they utilize time, yielding low and slow results.

Books to check out


  • Leader, Daniel. “Sourdough.” Living Bread: Tradition and Innovation in Artisan Bread Making, Avery, 2019, p.173.
  • Markham, B. L. (2012). Mini Farming Guide to Fermenting: Self-Sufficiency from Beer and Cheese to Wine and Vinegar (Mini Farming Guides) (1st ed.). Skyhorse.
  • Redzepi, R., & Zilber, D. (2018). The Noma Guide to Fermentation: Including koji, kombuchas, shoyus, misos, vinegars, garums, lacto-ferments, and black fruits and vegetables (Foundations of Flavor) (1st Edition). Artisan.
  • Ronca, D. (n.d.). Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Slow Food Movement. How Stuff Works. https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/slow-food-movement.htm
  • Wasserman, M., & Jeanroy, A. (2019). Fermenting For Dummies (1st ed.). For Dummies.

By: Emily Trollope