Flame Tree’s, Fabulous Ferments and Foods That Heal

Its hard not to feel amazing this time if year…just look up. The flame trees have exploded into a magnificent vibrant red. Their bell-shaped flowers litter the floor, inviting visitors like honoured guests as they roll out the red carpet. Its such a treat to stand under their limbs, especially with a clear, blue backdrop and sparkling sunshine. I’m excited not only because of the sunshine and blooming flame trees but because today I’m going to visit a special friend.

“Where’s Carla’s house?” I asked, clutching a handwoven scarf I had bought as a gift. Uncannily it was a beautiful lady I had met 14 years ago in Sydney at a small meditation gathering. Small world.

“Oh, you’ve never been here before…?” she said with a cheeky sideways smile that made me feel like I was in for a special treat.

“Just go down there, under the flowering Jacarander’s, past the Balinese flags, through the communal kitchen, follow a red dirt road past the chickens, the pigs and orange trees…from there you will simply know where to find her”.

I hoped so, I’d been lost (for want of a better word) down a long winding gravel road that led me through Night Cap National Park for nearly an hour. Finally, having found this small community right on the edge of the park I hoped to find her soon. The afternoon was getting on and today is produce day…I really didn’t want to miss it.

Starting along the path I realised I was definately in for a treat…the path was lined with purple and yellow flowers falling from the trees, wild, happy, half naked children ran past me and people gathered, their hands covered in soil, around beautiful vege garden beds and banana trees.

Determined not to get distracted I marched down the red dirt road, past the orange trees, the chickens, past the pigs…ohhhh the pigs!!!! Six piglets and a big fat mumma!!!! No. No distractions. And there, right ahead of me I suddenly knew I was very close. Either side of the path stretch hundreds, possibly thousands of cabbages. Three rows of them. All varieties. Plus onions, garlic, beetroot and radishes. Sure enough, the cabbages led me right to Carla’s doorstep.

Carla makes sauerkraut. Infact, its quite possible she is the queen of kraut and all things ferment…miso, kombucha, sourdough and kefir cultures. So when she invited me to her house a few weeks ago I took her up on it immediately (infact, the truth may be that I pretty much invited myself).

It came as a surprise that Carla lived here…I wasn’t at all expecting to come across this incredible and hard-working community of people all dedicated to sustainable living, permaculture and organic farming.¬†Sitting on her lovely, sunfilled verandah we talked and laughed and tried to stay on track…I wanted to find out as much as possible about ferments and cultures (something I know very little about) but the waterhole, pig pen, aquaponics system, expansive gardens and lovely communal buildings were very tempting.”We make enough to sell at the local markets and to feed the entire community”. Carla told me while she brushed the dirt off a small radish. “And that’s pretty amazing”.

As we started back towards the kitchen I wished I hadn’t left Bhumi at home…she would have loved the many children’s play spaces and climbing frames…being without her also made my time short. “You can come out for a weekend and bring the family next time if you like”. Said Carla. I couldn’t have thought of a better idea.

On the way to Carla’s work space we stopped for a cup of Kombucha. Kombucha an ancient medicinal beverage made with black tea and sugar that ferments into an ocean of health giving enzymes and healthy bacteria’s. When I asked Carla if she could tell me some of it’s benefits her eyes lifted and smiled from behind her red-rimmed glasses. “Hmmm…where would I even start?”.

As she passionately began to tell me how Kombucha is made and its endless health properties I tried hopelessly to scribble something down in my notebook. But after only a couple of minutes I realised that to give Kombucha true justice I’ll need to write a whole post on this miraculous tea alone…and it will need to be a big one.

After tea I finally got to see the kitchen where all of the incredible fermented vege’s I’ve been eating over the last months have been lovingly grated, salted, spiced, pounded and fermented. It’s a surprisingly simple set-up, softly lit by the afternoon sun. Carla doesn’t use any electrically powered appliance or food processors in the production of her Sauerkraut’s but instead hand grates everything on a traditional wooden grater from Germany. Her entirely traditional methods give her produce a most incredible, alive flavour that make you feel clean and energised from your teeth to your tummy and beyond.

“Cabbage has as much vitamin C as citrus”. She tells me. “And once its fermented it becomes more bio-available to the body”. Its also full of antioxidants, minerals and pro-biotic bacteria’s that become an absolute super-wonderous-amazing-all-health-delivering food when fermented into sauerkraut. It very naturally¬†provides a high density source of a wide range of beneficial live bacteria (as much as the expensive, contrived versions available in the stores) which assist in the digestive process, balancing the secretions of the stomach and strengthening the function of the pancreas. Sauerkraut also helps to maintain the acid-alkaline balance of the body and is renowned for all varieties of illness prevention, strengthening the nerves, the immune system and stimulating blood formation. AND!!!! It’s just so incredible delicious.

I’m sure there must be some addictive quality to those darling little enzymes and bacteria’s…once you start its difficult to stop. But, a little word of warning: as difficult as it may be start small (a tablespoon or two at each meal) its best to gradually introduce these new bacteria’s into the body and build up slowly to avoid gas and bloating.

Most of the krautes available from stores are mass-produced and have lost many of their micro-bacterial organisms so its important to buy them made freshly and with traditional methods (proudly honoured within all Carla’s small-scale production methods)…alternatively you can make them yourself.

Ingredients:

For German Sauerkraut…

  • 1 large cabbage or two medium…you can use purple, white or both because both function the same in fermentation.
  • 1 Tbsp high quality and pure salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 Tsp caraway seeds

For French Sauerkraut…

  • 1 large cabbage or two medium…you can use purple, white or both because both function the same in fermentation.
  • 1 Tbsp high quality and pure salt
  • 1 Beetroot
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
Method…
  • Ensure all of your utensils and surfaces are very clean. An easy way to sterilise is to pour boiling water over everything you will be using and wash your hands to avoid any unwanted bacteria.
  • Finely chop or grate all the vegetables by hand, adding the salt in small parts as you go for even coverage.
  • Add all remaining herbs and combine well.
  • Using a blunt instrument (a pestle, meat cleaver or rolling pin) pound all of the ingredients until they soften and release their juices.
  • Press the mixture into a suitable sized jar with a little space left over at the top (for expansion). Press it very firmly into the jar so that all of the ingredients become completely submerged in the juices. If its possible, place a weight on top (a smaller jar filled with water will do the trick). Cover the jar firmly with a lid.
  • Place your new jar of soon-to-be-sauerkraut in a cool place away from direct sunlight and leave it there for two weeks. Once its well-fermented place the jar in the fridge and it should keep for at least three months.

Carla’s little business is suitably called ‘Foods That Heal’ and you can buy her most amazing Sauerkraut, miso, ghee and live cultures fresh from the Mullumbimby Farmer’s Market or the Lismore Growers Market.

She also runs classes and workshops in traditional food methods. To contact Carla in person send an email to carla@fermenters.org. She is simply beautiful, bursting with passion for this delicious healing craft and so happy to share or answer any questions. A MASSIVE thankyou to my dear friend Carla…I hope we will see more of you in following posts, your an absolute treasure chest!

The Lungs of the Earth

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