Updated: Mar 25, 2019
Fermenting my food is more than just a hobby or enjoyable pass time. The benefits go deeper.
Preserving for health
Foraging for me has very early roots. As a young child, we lived in a house where the neighbours had a glorious plum tree. In summer its heavily laden branches would bow down over the fence to entice me to partake of its juicy sweet offerings. I would stand beneath the tree with juice running down my arms to my elbows my mouth full of sun-warmed and ripened red plums. I would look out for chamomile while on walks I could take home and make tea with. I loved the idea that these things just grew and I could enjoy them simply and for free.
When my children were small I would take them out to gather blackberries for pies and elderberries for jams, returning with purple stain faces and hands all around. There is something very satisfying about gathering food “from the wild” and the ritual of preparing something from it. Each season would bring something new to look forward to. Sloe berries was also a favourite, slipping hands carefully through the thorny branches to harvest the hard and bitter berries which would then be soaked in gin to make a delicious body warming liquor for enjoying after cold winter walks.
I have recently been out collecting elderberries. It has a long history of uses Native Americans used it for infections, Egyptians to improve their complexions and heal burns and across Europe for treating colds and flu. The berries are quite tart and when eaten raw can cause stomach upsets but when cooked they have a delicious flavour and healing qualities. The berries can be cooked, the juice made into a syrup for cordial or flavouring dishes, or you can make jams, chutneys, pies, wine and cough medicine.
Each year I make a medicine I have seen to be very effective mixing the cooked juice with black tea, honey, lemon and ginger. It is high in vitamin C as well as antioxidants that aid to reduce damage from oxidative stress in the body. It is also rich in anthocyanins with anti-inflammatory effects. Studies in rodents have found that a diet containing the blackberries has helped to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure as well as helping to control blood sugar control. Other studies have shown it to be cancer inhibiting, to prohibit the growth of harmful bacterias, supports the immune system, and also antidepressant increasing mood markers in studies.
Nature is truly amazing and you never know what you may find in her larder all around us.