This is my favorite time of year.

The harvests are in, and whether you garden or purchase from local farms, this is when you can preserve a nourishing, tasty abundance of food for the winter.There are many ways to do this — drying, freezing, and fermenting retains the most nutrients. Canning preserves minerals, but most vitamins and enzymes are lost during intensive heating.Peek in my kitchen today and you’ll see the method I favour — crocks, bowls, jars, and bottles contain various ferments; they bubble and brew with transformative power.

This is food-as-medicine in its glory.The microorganisms involved in fermentation provide seven functions in preserving and transforming our foods.1. Microorganisms produce alcohol, lactic acid, and acetic acid; the acids act as “bio-preservatives”, and retain nutrients and prevent spoilage.2. Fermentation breaks down food into easily digestible forms and improves bioavailability of minerals.3. Fermentation enriches our food. Microbial cultures create new nutrients such as B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, superoxide dismutase, chromium and detoxifying compounds like glutathione, phospholipids, digestive enzymes, and beta 1,3 glucans. Some ferments even function as antioxidants, scavenging cancer precursors known as free radicals from the cells of your body.4. If untreated by heat, fermented foods are natural pro-biotics, which bodies  need to communicate with the intestinal environment, and to transfer energy and nutrients throughout the body. They help assimilate proteins and fats, ward off pathogens and parasites, and are critically involved in immune support.5. Fermentation reduces or removes toxins from food, like phytic acid in grains that block absorption of some minerals.6. Regular consumption of fermented products increases longevity. Studies show societies associated with health and long lives, like the Abkhazians on the Black Sea and the Hunzans in Pakistan, have at least one fermented food at the core of their diet.7. Fermentation improves taste and texture. Just think of some of your favourite treats: coffee, chocolate, cheese, beer, wine, sourdough, pickles,

sauerkraut, and kimchi.So, fermentation is about more than just preservation. It is about increasing the value of our food.Likewise, the act of fermenting at the close of summer is symbolic of surrendering our accomplishments to an organized intelligence in order to be transformed into something greater.If you’ve never fermented before, try starting with sauerkraut — a great intestinal healer. All you need is cabbage, salt, and a jar. Nature does the rest. A good website to browse for instructions and recipes is www.culturesforhealth.com.You can also call Barbara Drury at Circle-D Ranch for information on upcoming workshops, or to sign up for my upcoming course: “It’s not what you eat, but how do you digest”, through the City of Whitehorse.