If you’ve been to Mexico, your taste buds have likely never forgotten Mexican fare. And maybe from time to time, your taste buds coerce you into trying to recreate the unique Mexican flavour combinations in your kitchen.
And, if you’re like me, sometimes you succeed and your taste buds flare with delight. Other times, they wither in scorn.
But a zippy li’l salsa made here on Salt Spring Island recently revamped my―let’s be honest―dull version of huevos rancheros.
I was buying the Culturalive’s mild kimchi, a staple in my house, at Country Grocer when I noticed Culturalive’s latest product, red pepper salsa. It had been a long time since I had eaten Mexican, and my taste buds encouraged me: “¡Orale!”
In that jar, I found my ferment fortune. It is an extraordinary salsa that literally brings Mexican dishes to life. The chipotle smokiness and the peppery sweetness interact like mariachi music and zapateado dance, and the coriander and cumin add flavour intensity. The fermentation takes the entire fusion to another level of vitality.
I’ve relished fermented foods from several countries. During 3 years in Korea, which is traditionally a “culture culture,” I ate at least 40 different varieties kimchi―from wasabi daikon to fermented fish, from seasoned seaweed to delicate green onions. Food preservation at its finest.
And yet here on Salt Spring Island, I am certain that we couldn’t be luckier. The care that Melanie Furman, founder of Culturalive, brings to the fermentation process is evident not only in the quality of her products but also in her words.
Her impetus to ferment was initially personal and health related. As someone who likes to get to the root of things, she wanted to know more than what food to eat; she wanted to know how to prepare it―from soil, to seed, to ferment. Her passion is to make food medicine again and to create healing products.
Feel a cold coming on? Melanie’s ruby immunity sauerkraut is particularly beneficial. It contains herbs from Chinese medicine, such as astragalus, codonopsis, and eluthero root, which is Siberian ginseng. When fermented, they’re potent! This is also true for the turmeric and burdock in her radiant roots sauerkraut. Bacteria break down the herbs so that the nutrients are more bioavailable to us when we digest them.
Melanie uses wild bacteria, rather than a culture, for the fermentation process. As with her teacher, Sandor Katz, she believes that if we consume sauerkraut with wild probiotics we become more resilient.
Now that Melanie processes about 300 to 400 pounds of veggies a week, she buys most of her produce locally, particularly Knoth Farm, but she welcomes extras from other local farmers with bumper crops.
All of this intention and care goes into each jar with its brightly coloured, cabbage-printed label. She sells seven different products, all vegan, at the Country Grocer. But as an experimenter at heart, Melanie offers smaller batch ferments, such as eggplant, at the market or Christmas Craft Fair.