Though just recently reemerging to stink up the food scene in the best way possible, fermented foods are truly nothing new. From German sauerkraut to Koreans kimchi, cultures worldwide have been practicing fermentation for centuries, preserving the nutrients in food and breaking them down to a more digestible form.
Fermented foods are those that have been through lacto fermentation, a process in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food, creating probiotics crucial to digestion. Not only does this preserve the food for longer periods of time, but from kombucha to pickles, the benefits of fermentation have been linked to improved digestion, mental health, and even weight loss.
For Texas native Tara Whitsitt, the return to the age-old practice of fermentation grew out of a dream and into a converted school bus. Housing a fully equipped kitchen and workshop space, Whitsitt’s rolling organization, Fermentation on Wheels, travels cross-country to harvest fermentable produce alongside small-scale farmers, and hold workshops on the importance of fermentation and micro-agriculture.
By taking her operation on the road, Whitsitt is able to bring facts on fermentation to communities that wouldn’t otherwise have access. “Having grown up in Texas and spent five years in the Northeast, I saw a need to leave my comfort zone and be part of the catalyst for nation-wide change.” Often stopping at small, rural farms, Whitsitt takes the produce on hand and uses it as inspiration for on-site fermentation classes, touting not only the digestive benefits of the process but also the low-cost and ease.
“I began this journey to bridge communities and restore a genuine fascination and interest in local, traditionally preserved foods,” says Whitsitt. “I wanted an effective tool that would inspire people to live more simply and sustainably as well as ferment in their own kitchens.”