Growing the Culture

When I was a kid, my Irish-American father complained about the smell of kimchi permeating our house whenever someone opened the refrigerator door. The combination of Napa cabbage, ginger, garlic and red chili powder gochugaru created a pungent aroma that seeped through the lids of the gallon-sized glass jars housing Korea’s most popular foodstuff. It’s a well-known fact these days that my Korean mother’s creations were filled with probiotics, but back in the 1980s, my father had no idea the gently bubbling condiments with a unique odor were packed with nutrition.

Across our nation, fermented foods are becoming more popular than ever. Foodies and people interested in wellness and nutrition have found fermented products offer health benefits as well as great taste. Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years, serving as a means of preservation before there was refrigeration. And though safeguarding food from spoilage might have been the primary reason for fermenting food, people soon realized the process in which bacteria and yeasts feed on the natural sugars in food, creating the lactic acid that preserves it, also made their food more flavorful and easier to digest.

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