03 January 2019

Intro to the World of Fermentation

An Intro to the Micro-World of Fermentation

by Mallory Ginis, MScN

Traditional lacto-fermented pickled vegetables, not treated with heat, are very different from the pickles you would find on a supermarket shelf. They are not pickled with vinegar but undergo a natural process, producing healthy probiotics and a delicious taste. 

photo by Alan Weiner

What is Fermentation?

Fermentation is an anaerobic process, meaning absence of oxygen, where microorganisms convert natural sugars to acids and or alcohols creating a distinct, tangy taste. Lactic acid fermentation is the most common type of fermentation found in the farmers market. In this process, the formation of lactic acid creates an ideal, acidic environment for those probiotics (beneficial bacteria) you’re always hearing about. These beneficial bacteria are able to thrive within the food, returning balance to the microbiome found in your gut.

Sounds kind of tricky, right? It’s actually an easy, simple process! The bacteria and their colonies use the raw materials in vegetables or dairy as a foundation to build health promoting products for your body. They are the busy workers while you get to sit back and relax.

Anyone can make fermented foods, humans have been doing it for centuries!

History of Fermentation

Traditionally, fermentation was used to preserve abundant crops like cabbage or root vegetables and placed in root cellars for storage. We see this practice done by cultures all over the world. In Chinese medicine, fermented foods have a warming quality and are sour and salty. Because of these unique qualities, fermented foods were used as medicine to increase the digestive fire and help bring the body to balance. Even better, seasonal vegetables are used (which add their own amazing benefit) and paired with anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, black pepper and cumin.

Today, people everywhere are celebrating fermentation products by placing a spoonful of kimchi on their morning toast or adding a splash of apple cider vinegar to their water.

As I walked around the PSU Portland Farmers Market one Saturday, I saw fermented products everywhere I turned. The first fermented food that pops into my mind is sauerkraut because this was a traditional food in my family growing up. Let me tell you, there are so many more probiotic-filled and tasty ferments right at your hands!

Top Ten Fermented Foods you can find at the Winter PSU Portland Farmers Market:

  1. Sauerkraut
  2. Kimchi
  3. Hot Sauce
  4. Unpasteurized cheeses (Goat milk cheese, Fermented/aged cheese)
  5. Kombucha
  6. Tempeh
  7. Lacto-fermented pickled vegetables (Cucumbers, root vegetables)
  8. Beer and Wine
  9. Vinegar
  10. Sourdough bread

Here’s a  list of some of the Vendors who sell Fermented Foods at the Portland Farmers Market:


Now that you know more about some of the fermented products offered at the Portland Farmers Market we hope to see you there! The market is open all winter, 9 am to 2 pm, on the campus of Portland State University