Lacto-fermentation is a way of preserving vegetables, fruit and herbs. Find out how it works in this easy lacto-fermentation guide for edible gardeners.
One of the benefits of growing your own food is stepping into the garden and ‘shopping’ from a constant supply of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit. But about when the garden is being over productive and there is a surplus of produce?
There are many ways to save our harvest such as pickling, dehydrating and freezing. Another way of preserving our edibles is by an easy process called lacto-fermentation.
What is Lacto-Fermentation
Lacto-Fermentation is the process whereby yeasts and bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid. This takes place in a salty and anaerobic (without oxygen) environment which prohibits the growth of undesirable microbes.
The word “lacto” is short for lactobacillus, a type of bacteria that is found everywhere, in the air, on our skin, in our gut and on the surface of plants and edibles. The bacteria strain was first studied in milk ferments and as such, ‘lacto’ refers to milk though there is no dairy in the lacto-fermentation process.
When lactobacillus eats sugar and turns it into lactic acid, it acts as a natural preservative by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria and ensuring that fermented food and drinks don’t spoil.
The Role of Salt in Lacto-Fermentation
Salt is a key ingredient in lacto-fermentation. It stops the food from spoiling, adds flavour and crunch to vegetables and preserves the nutrients.
How to Add Salt to a Ferment
Salt can be used in lacto-ferments in two ways.
- Salt can be rubbed all over the fruit or vegetable where it draws out water and creates a brine where fermentation takes place. An example of this method is in this article for making lacto-fermented mandarin liqueur.
- Another way is to make a brine by dissolving salt in water and submerging the edibles during the fermentation process. It’s very important to keep the vegetables submerged to prevent mould. The simplest way is to use a ceramic plate with a large clean pebble on top or use fermentation weights which are usually made of glass or ceramic.
Important Note: Always use non-iodised salt with no additives as iodine tends to inhibit beneficial bacteria growth.
How Much Salt Should I Use for My Fermentation
As a guideline, most ferments require a salinity of 2% to 3%. Any less and there is a risk of having a failed ferment.
If you’re lacto-fermenting by rubbing salt into the fruit or vegetables, for every kilo of edibles use 20g to 30g of non-iodised salt. If you’re making a brine, use 20g to 30g of salt per litre of water. Some vegetables which hold a lot of water such as cucumbers would benefit from a higher salt ratio (5%) to prevent dilution.
Fermented foods can last weeks if not months in the fridge. In the next article, I’ll be sharing my step by step recipe for making lacto-fermented pigface, an Australia native edible previously featured on this website.
Next… Recipe: Lacto-Fermented Pigface