The History of Fermentation

Fermenting food is something that had been done for centuries and is something that is still prevalent in our culture. Whether it is sauerkraut, yogurt, or beer, you are most likely consuming fermented food without even realizing it. People first started fermenting as a way of preserving foods that would go bad quickly, like dairy. Originally, the fermentation happened by chance and not choice, as a combination of the bacteria in the milk and the warm climate naturally fermented the dairy. This resulted in the first yoghurt, which was made in North Africa around 10,000 BCE. For a long time, people didn’t know the science behind fermentation, but that didn’t stop them from doing it. Around 7,000 BCE, cheese started being produced, and in 6,000 BCE, wine started being produced. A few thousand years after these developments (in 4,000 BCE), the Egyptians started figuring out that yeast was able to change the flavour and shape of certain foods, which is when they started incorporating it into bread and wine making. In 1,750 BCE, it was discovered that fermented barley could turn into a drink, which is when beer was invented. From that time until the 1800s, many regions around the world kept experimenting with fermentation. For example, the Chinese began fermenting vegetables in order to preserve them for a longer time, and also used fermented soybeans as an antibiotic. In 1856 was when the scientific breakthrough behind fermentation happened. A French scientist by the name of Louis Pasteur, the same scientist who invented pasteurization, discovered the connection between yeast and fermentation and was able to produce the ideal environment to ferment something, making it easier to do so in a controlled situation. In 1910, consuming fermented foods, specifically milks, became very popular because the health benefits were being realized by scientists. Since then, fermented foods have become extremely popular. Most fermented foods are rich in healthy bacteria, making them probiotics. With the popularization of probiotics, fermented foods such as yogurts and kombucha can be found almost everywhere. Other less-healthy fermented things, such as beer, are also consumed in large quantities around the world. Fermentation it a practice that both knowingly and unknowingly has been practiced for the thousands of years and continues to give us new and innovative food products to improve our health!