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Wild fermentation

Lacto-fermentation is a biological process that occurs when sugars and starches in vegetables and fruit are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-bacteria. These lactobacilli are literally everywhere and especially numerous on leaves and roots of plants growing on or near the ground.

A little help from my friends...

The term “lacto-fermentation” refers to a specific process that occurs when the predominant bacteria lactobacilli digest sugars to produce lactic acid. When we use this term, it specifies that lactobacilli are responsible for the process; but in reality the term 'wild fermentation' is more accurate because there are billions of tiny helpers working synergistically to preserve the food and make it more nutritious. (1)

How does it work?

Without getting bogged down in chemistry, the fermentation process involves beneficial bacteria such as lactobacilli. Beneficial bacteria employ enzymes to break down glucose (C6H12O6) in the food in order to harness its chemical potential energy, and thus converting each molecule of glucose into two molecules of lactic acid (C3H6O3). Through this process, food becomes more tasty, naturally probiotic & acidic, and therefore more naturally preserved.

Beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacilli, are naturally present in the environment, on the skin of fruits and vegetables, and on our hands. It can be encouraged to flourish in an anaerobic environment to aid in the preservation of food by discouraging the growth of undesirable bacteria through the process of fermentation using salt, water, and a little time.

Advantages of fermented vegetables. Beyond simple preservation:
  • Enhances digestibility

  • Increases vitamin levels

  • Produces numerous helpful enzymes

  • Produces antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances

  • Prevents the growth of harmful microorganisms and acts as a perfect natural preservative

  • Promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the gut and intestine

Anything with sugar can be lacto-fermented - a world of potential!

From traditional ingredients such as cucumbers, beets, turnips, cabbage, carrots…

To lesser known ferments such as citrus, herbs and leaves, green tomatoes, peppers, berries… even bananas!

Try adding wild harvested greens for added minerals and antioxidants. (2)

Types of lactic acid
  • Citric acid is found in citrus fruits but also other fruits and berries and can result in a tart-tasting product.

  • Malic acid is found in grapes and apples and yields a much rounder and mouthwatering flavor.

  • Ascorbic acid is found in tropical fruits, from bananas to guavas, and is sharp and direct flavor.

The process for lacto-fermentation is simple:
  1. Weigh your ingredients.

  2. Determine desired salinity for ferment. Try 2-3% for dry-salted vegetables. Try 5% if you are making a brine.

  3. Calculate amount of salt needed for dry-rub method:

(weight of ingredients) x (desired salinity) = amount of salt

For example to make lacto-fermented sauerkraut at 2% salinity you will need:

(1000g of cabbage and spices) x (0.02 salinity) = 20g salt

  1. Coat vegetables with salt and let sit covered for a few hours or overnight.

  2. Squeeze liquid from vegetables.

  3. Stuff vegetables into a fermentation vessel.

  4. Submerge vegetables under brine.

  5. Alternatively to make a brine, calculate salinity of the weight of the volume of liquid needed.

  6. A liter of water weighs 1kg. So you would need about 50g/1.6oz/3tbsp of salt for a liter of brine at 5% salinity.

  7. Wait. How many days depends on desired flavor you want the final product to embody. Taste after a few days. Once you are happy with the flavor, refrigerate vegetables to slow the fermentation process.


  1. Katz, Sendor Ellix. The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World. Chelsea Green Publishing Co, 2013.


  3. Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions: the Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. NewTrends Publishing, Inc., 2005.

  4. Redzepi René, and David Zilber. The Noma Guide to Fermentation: Foundations of Flavor. Artisan, 2018.

  5. Savage, Sunny.Wild Food Plants of Hawai`i. Maui, Hi, 2015.

  6. Powell, Bronwen, Patrick Maundu, Harriet V. Kuhnlein, and Timothy Johns. 2013. “Wild foods from Farm and Forest in the East Usambara Mountains, Tanzania.” Ecology of Food and Nutrition 52 (6).

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