What a Great Two Days of Wild Foods and Fermenting!

This past Wed & Thurs, August 5 & 6, we had our 2-day Wild Foods & Fermentation workshop with Sandor Katz and Frank Cook. Very inspiring and fascinating! Sandor started off by mentioning that many people have some "fear" about making themselves and others sick with food gone bad - when has food gone bad and when it is fermenting? I had the same question. Well, this workshop demystified it all. With very simple manipulation and awareness of the microbial changes going on, it's super easy to ferment. And the health benefits are huge, from making food more easily digestible and nutrients more bio-available to removing toxins and producing strong, gourmet, sought-after flavors. We started each day with wild tea made by Frank. All these plants were picked from the AVI backyard and garden. Some plants are considered weeds and grow wild, probably in your yard too, and others are medicinal and culinary plants that we've intentionally planted. I heard many participants comment that they were going to start making teas from the plants and weeds in their garden. Who needs to buy pre-packaged commercial tea when a lot of us have all the plants we need wild and free in our gardens?!?! Some class time was spent on the stone patio under the shade of the apple tree. Other times we were on plant walks with Frank and sometimes we were hands-on in the kitchen. Here, Sandor's talking about kefir, a fermented milk drink (sooo easy once you procure the starter grains), you can see a few jars on the table. We learned how to make mead (honey wine) and started a tomato mead. Yep, tomato mead. Janell, the Mead-Making Queen, had plenty of samples of various aged meads to pass around. Here's workshop participant Peggy checking one out. We learned that alcohol is the most ancient and universally practiced form of fermentation which has been used as herbal elixirs, medicinal tinctures, in ceremony, and for celebration and merriment. Tempeh was a fave. I have to admit that I've never been a fan of store-bought tempeh. But the tempeh we made was so delicious! On day one we started it and had it for lunch on day two. Tempeh is a great protein source of rice, beans and spores incubated under specific temperature and humidity conditions. Here it goes into the pan... ... it incubates over night and has formed a nutritious mold that binds it all together into a form you can cook and eat. (Looks like birthday cake with frosting, no?) We cooked it in a cast iron pan with coconut oil and Braggs. Super tasty, nice texture! It was a hit all around. I know for a lot of us in this culture, the thought of eating mold, or sometimes the taste of fermented foods, is a little strange and disagreeable at first but when we open our minds to the social and cultural forces that construct these perspectives, and we see how another cultural may view this mold as a highly valued delicacy, then we can begin to broaden our own perspective, which can create change - from improved personal health to global human and environmental respect. It really is all interconnected and it all really is revolutionary! Idli is another version of fermented beans and rice. It's mild in flavor and eaten in India with strong flavored curries and chutneys. We had it steamed (above in a special steamer one can find in Indian markets) and fried - which are called dosa. Below you can see our day-one lunch spread. In the foreground, salad with edible flowers and wild greens, then the steamed idli and dosas. Above, workshop participant Susanne Hackett of local blog Pollinating Asheville, enjoys a selection of krauts at lunch. Lunches were amazing and flavorful examples of all we were learning to make. Recipes and much of the actual cooking were prepared by Sandor and Frank, with the help of Mary Morgaine and Janell. Lunches were a highlight of the day. Both afternoons included talks and plant walks with Frank Cook. Yeah, I'm blown away by the realization that so many of the "weeds" and plants right there in the yard, on the street, in the parks, are edible! Dandelion, plantain, mugwort, lambsquarters, to name a few. And often more nutritious than the usual greens available in the store like spinach, and certainly fresher. Frank emphasized that food is medicine and that by simply eating conscientiously, hydrating, sleeping, de-stressing by having fun and receiving healing touch like massage, then we won't have the need for doctors' medicines. Frank also gave a great talk on the 5 Pillars of Abundant Living which I'm not going to give away here, you're going to have to attend one of his talks, but basically it's so simple and accessible and smart, but involves the unlearning of so much that we have been told or sold and relearning so much about how things used to be done, how peoples used to eat - from as recent as our grandparents to as long ago as ancient cultures and cross-culturally spanning those times. And then we made fermented veggies! Known as sauerkraut or kimchi, all ya do is submerge veggies in their own liquid, or water, wait a few days or a few weeks (to taste) and that's it. What could be easier? This method has been used in many cultures in the days before refrigeration for preserving food during abundant times - like spring, summer and fall - for good eatin' in the wintertime. We chopped lots of veggies - cabbage, green beans, squash, carrots... there's no veggie you can't use. You can even add potatoes but cook'em first. Then we tossed them in a large bucket to squeeze and bruise them allowing the cells to release their juices. We made kraut for 30 participants but you can make smaller portions for home use. The general rule is one pound of veggies makes a pint, 4 lbs make a quart and 8 lbs make a gallon. Each workshop participant went home with at least a pint to enjoy.


  1. seems that you had fun its really cool interesting!

  2. beautiful photos! I wish I was there!