Fermenting to Fight Food Waste
Fermentation has always existed as not only an essential method of food preservation, but as a way of life. Historians have noted origins of fermentation dating as far back to 7,000 BCE, approximately 9,000 years ago. Traditionally, fermentation has been practiced to preserve any available resources into the most delicious foods that can be enjoyed throughout the changing seasons. A few familiar examples include curing meats, olives, cheeses, and summer winemaking with seasonal berries and grapes.
However, in today’s modern food system, assorted produce is grown year-round while the food industry intentionally overproduces to keep up with consumer’s demands and changing preferences. Food waste can occur at every stage of the production and supply chain from farming, processing, and consumption. According to the USDA, in the United States, approximately 31% (133 billion pounds) of the overall food supply goes uneaten through loss or waste. This increased waste stream not only impacts food security, but directly harms the environment by emitting harmful methane gas while left to decay in landfills. Additionally, a multitude of valuable resources such as water and labor are wasted in an effort to produce these uneaten foods.
Practicing traditional fermentation methods can be a tasty solution to help sustainably manage this growing problem in our society. Through resourcefulness and thoughtfulness, we all have the power to take the excess and create something new. Simple actions like brining excess produce at home in a jar can yield a delicious jar of sauerkraut that can be enjoyed for months to come.
Image Credit: Shared Cultures
Our fermentation journey began with simple actions like this within our own home, and our love for fungi. In 2019, Shared Culture’s co-founder Eleana Hsu developed a deep passion for fungi through foraging wild edible mushrooms in the San Francisco Bay Area. While researching techniques to preserve the bounty of nature she was introduced to the powerful world of fermentation. Eleana soon learned that her grandmother used koji to make traditional ferments in China, which inspired her to learn more about the art of fungal fermentation. Eleana has since teamed up with her partner Kevin Gondo to transform secondary local produce into new and exciting ferments that help mitigate food waste.
Image Credit: Shared Cultures
We at Shared Cultures believe in making sustainable products by transforming and preserving foods with the help of microbes and our favorite fungi - koji. Fungi are nature’s recyclers and by combining koji with our hardworking microbial friends, we are fermenting available proteins and starches into delicious food that we can share. Currently we are fermenting variations of soy sauce, misos, and koji aminos. We are working to push the boundaries of flavor as we explore the endless available byproducts we have on hand. The future is exciting and we can’t wait for you to have a taste!
Author Bio: Eleana Hsu
Eleana is a fermentress focused on transforming foods with the magic of microbes and koji. What makes her most excited is creating new food products and flavors using local produce and whole utilization techniques. Eleana has experience teaching koji workshops in the Bay Area and crafting ferments for local popup dinners and events. Currently, she is hunkered down at home working on launching unique great tasting fermented food products in the Bay Area. You can find and follow her on Instagram @SharedCultures or at www.shared-cultures.com