I thought I'd made it through the winter without getting sick but this week I've been fighting off a cold. I've done all the usual things; honey, lemon and ginger drinks, getting plenty of sleep, taking a foul tasting Chinese herbal remedy I found at the back of the cupboard that my wife may have used during pregnancy.
The other day when I was snuffling around at the warehouse I walked past the fermented veg shelf; without thinking I grabbed a bottle of Fermentary kimchi. Three days later I've almost finished the jar. Now normally I love this kimchi but while I've been sick I've been craving it; eating it out of the jar by the forkful (I'm having some as I write this - God, ouch, I just wiped some in my eye!). It's hot but not mind-blowingly hot and it certainly does something to my head (I just looked up the physiological effects of chillis and apparently your brain releases endorphins to counter the pain of hot chillis).
Today I'm feeling better - now I'm not saying the kimchi healed me - for all I know it could have been the sleep or the Chinese pregnancy herbs but it got me thinking about why I've been downing this stuff like there's no tomorrow? Maybe it's the garlic, ginger, anchovy sauce and Korean chilli all wild fermented together. I searched further and discovered that kimchi maker Sharon Flynn's fermenting story also started with sickness albeit a much more serious sickness than mine.
Sharon had always been into pickling cucumbers, tofu and cheese making but her fermenting story really started when her 5 year old daughter, Lucia, got sick, really sick. The doctors couldn't diagnose the illness so Lucia was treated over several months with a plethora of antibiotics. After the treatment Sharon describes Lucia as being left a shell of a kid too weak to walk up a set of stairs.
A friend tipped Sharon off that replacing the gut bacteria that had been wiped out by the antibiotics might help Lucia recover. After feeling helpless for so long, Sharon, who had always been a keen fermenter, jumped on the idea as something she could actually do to help her daughter. It wasn't instant but slowly Lucia got better and went from craving plain pastas and white bread to waking Sharon up early for a kefir fix or to polish off a jar of sauerkraut - downing the juice and all.
The business part of all this sort of happened by accident - Sharon had always given her friends sauerkraut and kefir but after an ABC Four Corners program on the brain/gut connection people suddenly got really keen. In a matter of a few weeks Sharon went from making 6 bottles a week in her kitchen to 80 and her friends started offering to pay her.
Because she'd run out of fridge space Sharon was using the fridges at her local health food shop, Nature's Garden, to store the extra jars. Without her knowing Nature's Garden started in to sell them and Sharon was all of a sudden getting orders from down the road at The Lake House in Daylesford to as far afield as a restaurant in Sydney. A year or so later The Fermentary's products have become fixtures in shops and cafes across Victoria.
And as much as she sees the health value of ferments Sharon likes to see them as they do in traditional food cultures where people eat ferments with every meal because they're really good food as opposed to eating them because they're just good for you.
If you're hungry, feeling poorly or want to trigger some endorphins you can find Sharon's kimchi here.
Just thought I'd share a picture from Joe's Garden on the Merri Creek bike path in Coburg. This week the Farmer Incubator crew, who are borrowing a couple of our garden rows, are doing some thinning out. If you bunch the thinnings you get a kind of beautifully garlicky spring onions. We're selling a few bunches in our webshop this week.
Also a reminder that farmer Emily (that's her hand) is also running her pop-up shop at Joe's garden every Saturday morning - where you can buy her and Vince's greens and herbs and also say hi while you're walking down the bike path.
Have a great week
CERES Fair Food's weekly update with stories from our farmers and producers, Food Hosts, the Fair Food warehouse and theworld at large.