A Gardener’s Diary: Sunflowers and sauerkraut

Columnist Jocelyne Sewell is learning the lacto-fermentation process of making sauerkraut.

The little amount of rain we had last Saturday night didn’t do much for the garden.

After the big wind, some of the tall sunflowers were uprooted. I tried to replant them so the birds could keep on feeding on the seeds. Some flowers ended up in the house.

They make such a nice cut flower and last at least one week. Next year, all the sunflowers will go along the stucco wire fence and can be tied up and brave any wind.

We are now eating the lacto-fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) that I made a couple weeks ago. I also made some zucchini slices and they are yummy. After one week of fermenting on the kitchen counter, the two jars are now in the fridge.

The following is taken from www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/natural-fermentation/basic-formula-fermenting-any-vegetable/: “A bacteria is responsible for lacto-fermentation. The “lacto” portion of the term refers to a specific species of bacteria, namely Lactobacillus.

“Various strains of these bacteria are present on the surface of all plants, especially those growing close to the ground, and are also common to the gastrointestinal tracts and mouths of humans and other animal species. Lactobacillus bacteria have the ability to convert sugars into lactic acid. The Lactobacillus strain is so named because it was first studied in milk ferments. These bacteria readily use lactose or other sugars and convert them quickly and easily to lactic acid. However, lacto-fermentation does not necessarily need to involve dairy products.

“Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Beyond preservation advantages, lacto-fermentation also increases or preserves the vitamin and enzyme levels, as well as digestibility, of the fermented food. In addition, lactobacillus organisms are heavily researched for substances that may contribute to good health.”

Anyone interested on the subject can find many websites with a lot of information and good recipes. The most important thing is the ratio of salt to the water used as brine. The salt best used for lacto-fermentation is sea salt as long as it has not an anti-caking agent. The water should be distilled water because the water from the tap has chlorine.

The first time I made sauerkraut, I used the water from our water purifier. It worked just fine. This time, I purchased some distilled water and used the sea salt with herbes de Provence. That gave a nice taste to the zucchini slices.

I also made kale chips and it took less than three hours to dry in the greenhouse. It was a very hot and sunny day. I stored them in a paper bag and they reabsorbed some moisture so I had to do them again for another hour.

From the Farmer’s Almanac: “Pumpkins and winter squashes are ready to harvest when their skin hardens. Press your fingernail through the flesh. If you have to work at it, the squash is ripe; if it’s very easy to pierce, the squash is immature. The skin should be full (non-glossy), firm and rich in colour without blemishes or cracks or soft spots.”

There will be more about harvesting and curing in my next column.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and member of Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.