Even if we don't pay enough attention, fermented foods are everywhere. From bread to wine, pickles to beer, some of our dearest foods are a product of fermentation: a process in which carbohydrates as starch and sugar suffer a breakdown due to yeasts and bacteria, and are transformed into alcohol or acids. And it needs time, care, and patience.
At the finish line, alive microorganisms end up meaning new flavors, and health benefits. Fermenting, a traditional process with thousands of years, with most likely origins in Asia, is now a trend in western countries. With the possibility to develop new and incredible flavors due to the transformation of these ingredients, what calls most people to these foods now is the health benefits linked to it — from better digestion to stronger immunity.
Mostly, fermented foods facilitate digestion, breaking down enzymes that could do us harm before hitting our guts, delivering phytochemicals of vegetables we wouldn't be able to process on our bodies. In sum, the probiotics produced during fermentation can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in your gut and may ease some digestive problems. But some products, and even some baking processes, wouldn't quite offer the probiotics (live microorganisms that are beneficial to your gut) it's marketed on labels.
So, more important than to consume all of the fermented foods available, is to choose better. Remember that not all fermented foods are produced the same way, and some industrialized products can have added sugars, salt, and fat. So, better read the ingredients list, and to know your producer. Even better, to meet good small producers, interested in making the best product possible.
As said before, to have a good final product you need time, care and patience, and who loves fermentation knows the value of time in the final product. So, this "homemade" trend of food production obviously got over fermentation, as experimentation and popular/traditional knowledge are now keys for local food producers (and yes, with safe proceedings of fabrication).
In Finland, the list of fermented foods consumed by most of the population is long and interesting, from daily staples as rye sourdough bread, to sima, a homemade drink made in May as a celebratory event. From yogurts, cheeses, sauerkraut, very basic ingredients in the Finnish diet, to novel ones like kombucha, kimchi, kefir, all of them had an increase of interest around 40 to 50%, as people from 20 to 40 years old are more open to trying new flavors, and the knowledge on their benefits get to more people each year.
As this is visible in supermarkets, organic food shops, and mostly everywhere, restaurants are too interested in this "ancient but new" trend. Producing their own sauerkraut, yogurt, pickles, buttermilk, and of course, bread, they promote a natural and healthier way to eat - as it's "homemade" and produced accordingly to the original way, the ancient way, with popular knowledge, observation, care, time.
Fermenting is a scientific but also a magical process, like in a folk tale of mixing two basic ingredients to produce a third, completely different. When drinking your next beer or wine, or eating a piece of bread, or a spoonful of yogurt, think about how magical it is to experience it. To meet a real producer, with a passion for her craft, read next the interview with Chia Nasman from Raseborgs Fermenteri.