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A Brief History of Fermented Foods


Where did these tasty fermented goodies come from?

The first form of fermented beverages was alcoholic beverages made from fruit, honey, and rice found in China. Next came the fermentation of milk such as camels, goats, sheep, and cattle. It’s likely that the fermentation occurred spontaneously, rather than intentionally. It has been suggested that the first yogurts were produced in goat bags draped over the backs of camels in the heat of North Africa.

It wasn’t until the mid 1800s that people understood what was happening to make their food ferment. In 1856, a French chemist by the name of Louis Pasteur connected yeast to the process of fermentation, making him the first zymologist – or someone who studies the science of fermentation. At this time, fermentation was still being used solely to increase the holding and storing properties of food.

It wasn’t until 1910 that fermented foods were first considered as beneficial to health. A Russian bacteriologist, Elie Metchnikoff, noted that Bulgarians had an average lifespan of 87 years, which was exceptional for the early 1900s. In inspecting aspects of the Bulgarian lifestyle that may have set them apart and contributed to the long lifespan, Metchnikoff identified a greater consumption of fermented milks than in other cultures. In 1935 it was found that certain strains of Lactobacillus acidophillus not only could survive the environment of the human gut – they were very active! And here we are today, using fermentation as a way to benefit our health!


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