Drink + Eat Like a Modern Day Wildwoman: Probiotic Superbrews + Eats

This Modern Day Wildwoman gets her buzz on via fermented beverages.

Of the probiotic and cultured type, naturally.

These probiotic powerhouses burst forth a wealth of health benefits such as aiding detoxification, tipping our bodies towards acid/alkaline balance, and containing beneficial bacteria which our enhance our digestion and increase general feelings of well-being.

You may have heard of probiotic brews. Kombucha and kefir drinks are standard at health food stores around the Unites States, abroad, and now even at certain chain grocers (at least here in progressive California). If you haven’t noticed a special brew in the cold case, you’ve certainly tried, and undoubtedly benefitted from, a probiotic beverage or food unknowingly while dining. Perhaps a Japanese Miso soup, or Korean Kimchi has touched your lips?

You could say my fermentation exploration started in college when I used ‘mealpoints’ at UC San Diego’s Earl’s Place, the on-campus co-op, to buy my first kombucha. To my co-ed delight, ‘bucha left me slightly buzzed in between cram sessions at Geisel Library

English: Geisel Library, UCSD

Geisel Library, UCSD
Named after a writer named Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss!
(Wikipedia)

But really, this ride began with kimchi, the fermented spicy cabbage dish for which South Korea is famous.

Indeed it did…and in the land of Kimchi, nonetheless.

Kimchi

Kimchi (korea.net)

In 2010, I embarked on a one-year journey to South Korea, adding ‘English as a Second Language Kindergarten Teacher’ to my already…um…varied? exciting? ADD?… resume.

Admin at a Malibu holistic wellness center, beach camp counselor, editorial, PR, television, and talent agency intern, model, actor, fine dining hostess…preschool teacher to cute Korean kiddos all before the age of 24? Okay!

I’d never felt so healthy as I did that year. On top of daily kimchi-munching, I began brewing kombucha, a fermented tea, nurturing my first batches from my lil’ apartment with no windows (aka the Yoga Cocoon). The brewlove was inspired by Aimee, a free-spirit and dear friend who now organizes Project Hope Art in Haiti.

One sticky July afternoon, a special circle of chingus, or friends in Korean, gathered at Aimee’s community garden spot at the edge of Seoul for her going-away party.

The Garden Party July 2010

The Garden Party
July 2010

‘Who’s to be handed down the brew?’ was a hot question on our well-stocked table full of every vegetable you could think of: lettuce leaves, radishes, cabbage, seaweed, fresh and kimchi’d alike, and magguli (rice wine, another fermentation) -filled table. (Thank you, Seoul Community Garden ajjimas and ajjashis, or Korean elder folk, for providing such abundance in our chingu’s honor).

‘Not too fret’, answered Aimee. One chingu would receive the master brew and mushroom. From that master mushroom, if we kept it well fed with black tea and sugar, top layers may be ripped off and shared with friends who could then start their own brew. The rest of the afternoon is a bit blurry with much soju, magguli, and ukulele sing-alongs flowing. A few days later, Aimee sent us future brewmasters a link via facebook with precise brewing instructions. Although Aimee left only a month later, her legacy lived on as the rest of us chingus who were sticking around for a while carried on the kombucha batch and delved deeper into additional fermentation methods.

We got so into the craft of fermentation that we held fermentation tasting parties with blind-taste contests. Only a week after my own departure, a “Fermentation Celebration” was held, organized by the aforementioned chingus, where all thing fermented were celebrated by us foreigners…yogurt, kefir, kombucha, Caucasian attempts at alcohol and kimchi-making, cheese, you name it.

In my humble, but well-read and personally tested, Beach Girl Abroad and Modern Day Wildwoman opinion, fermented foods and drinks absolutely contribute to a healthy body and a happy state of mind. Did you know most of our serotonin, the body’s ‘happy hormone’, is produced in our gut, not our brain? With the help of beneficial bacteria in our tummies, our bodies produce a healthy dose of serotonin.

 

Peace, love, namaste, happiness!

Beach Girl Abroad 

Deep Thought of the Day

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.

― Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

 

Deep Thought of the Day

Plumeria Haad Tien Beach  Koh Phangan Beach Jungle Thailand

Plumeria
Haad Tien Beach
Koh Phangan Beach Jungle
Thailand

We can stop harming others and ourselves in our efforts to escape the alternation of pleasure and pain.
We can relax and be fully present for our lives….. now and
in every moment to come.

Pema Chodron

Aquaponics: capturing the power of the natural world in your own backyard

Aquaponics: capturing the power of the natural world in your own backyard

 A Guest Post by Andrew D Berner

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I reached one of those “ah-ha” moments several years back.

I was thinking about the theory that says, Mother Nature is the world’s best engineer.  The idea that the natural world, operating at the microscopic level and trickling up through to the greater ecosystems of the planet, appears to calibrate, cooperate, orchestrate, and synthesize in perfect harmony.

Think about it. The world is not a static place, it’s a dynamic and messy collection of interests and competition that has billions of moving parts; trying to manage it as a single shareholder is unimaginable.  Some how, the world keeps turning and life continues.  This theory does not suggest that there are no struggles, but within the greater perspective of the operational guide to the natural world, things continue to hum along and when they break, the natural world adapts.

This is not a new concept.  Many native cultures have been in tune to this idea since the age of the hunter-gatherer.  Listening to the natural world and paying attention to the subtle changes within the surrounding environment increased survival potential and grounded cultural views.  The concept is simple; why fight your environment when you can embrace it, channel its energy, use it to your advantage.

In modern day applications, this field has expanded throughout the science and engineering communities.  Applications of ‘biomimicry’, ‘bionics’, and bio-everything seep into our daily lives with little to no acknowledgement. From solar panels to wind turbines to compostable coffee cups to highly efficient structures and building materials, everything we categorize as “sustainable” has its’ origin in efficiencies already built into natural processes.

Enter my ‘ah-ha’ moment. Aquaponics: a closed, recirculating system, that under the right conditions produces food with little inputs and zero waste. Sounds too good to be true? In some ways it is because aquaponics is not a perfect system but it has proven it self over thousands of years of application. The beauty is that it harnesses the power of a natural system and only requires intervention when that system becomes disrupted.

After some free time (read: an uncomfortable stretch of unemployment), research, and a little extra money and ambition, I built my own aquaponic garden, housed in a greenhouse in my backyard.

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Andrew’s Backyard Greenhouse
Ventura, California

So what is aquaponics? Simply, it is a method of food production that cultivates fish and plants together in a fabricated, recirculating ecosystem, utilizing natural bacteria cycles to convert fish waste to plant nutrients. It captures all of the wonderful parts of hydroponics (the raising of plants in a water-based medium) and aquaculture (the raising of fish for harvest) and tosses away many of the pitfalls (waste, artificial inputs, space).   By doing so, it serves as a model of sustainable food production by following these simple principles:

  • The waste products of one biological system serve as nutrients for a second biological system.
  • The integration of fish and plants results in a polyculture that increases diversity and yields multiple products.
  • Water is re-used through biological filtration and recirculation.
  • Local food production provides access to healthy food and enhances the local economy.
A peek inside: basil, greens, eggplant, tomatoes, and more...

A peek inside:
basil, greens, eggplant, tomatoes, and tilapia (in basins behind plants)…

Furthermore, aquaponics uses less physical space than conventional agriculture, uses less water and energy and produces less waste than conventional terrestrial-based aquaculture, and uses no chemical inputs while turning yields over faster with a higher nutritional content compared to modern agriculture.

By no means a ‘silver bullet’ solution to our modern food dilemma, aquaponics does achieve more bounty with less resources by harvesting fish and vegetables together.  As a result (and despite the fact that you probably haven’t even heard the term ‘aquaponic’ before), this method food production will likely become a crucial piece in feeding the worlds growing population all by replicating what nature already does.

Basil Bounty

Basil Bounty

In the year and half that I have been actively raising fish and vegetables in my own fabricated gardens, I’ve harvested 30 pounds of fish and well over 250 pounds of vegetables.  It has taught me to cherish the food I grow, think about my food selection choices, and value local produce, It has taught me botany, biology, chemistry, and ecology.  And it has taught me how to grow my own food with no prior knowledge upon how to do so…. all by letting nature be the engineer.