The latest food trend to hit the foodie world has big fans in St. Petersburg, Florida. We look at the city’s many fermented food artisans and what their products – everything from pickled veggies to kombucha – bring to the table.
In 2018, fermented foods – a category that encompasses everything from yogurt to the pickled-veggie dish kimchee – was cited as the number one superfood of the year according to a national survey that polled 2,000 registered dietitians, beating out avocados, green tea, ancient grains, and kale. And it seems that St. Petersburg is in on the trend, home to a handful of fermentation food and beverage companies, specializing in kimchi, kraut, kombucha and more.
So what exactly is fermentation and why is it on the rise? While long a staple in our diet in the form of cheese, yogurt, wine, and beer, fermentation is simply adding a microorganism like yeast or bacteria (the good, gut-friendly kind) to break down the sugars in food to create either alcohols or acids. It’s the process that makes wine dry and sourdough sour, but it’s not just for the taste. Fermenting makes foods easier to digest, meaning the nutrients are easier for your body to absorb. The live bacteria in these foods also have amazing health benefits like combatting liver disease and some cancers. Intrigued? Here’s a look at a few of the fermentation food artisans in St. Petersburg to seek out during your next visit.
Urban Canning Co.
Founder and Owner Illene Sofranko says that her love of canning blends the long-held traditions of her family – coal miners from West Virginia – with modern tastes and trends. Her products are created in small batches, so she can make use of the seasonal produce coming out of Florida Farms. Her jams and ferments can be found online, at Urban Canning’s booth at the Saturday Morning Market, and a handful of specialty shops across St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
What They Offer
Along with a constantly changing (and delicious) array of jams, Sofranko makes a line of flavorful pickled vegetables. There aren’t your grandma’s pickled beets, though. Her pickles are made with the kind of flavors her diverse audience are clamoring for like chili Brussel sprouts and sriracha okra.
The fermentation of these pickles makes them great probiotics. Like Jamie Lee Curtis has been telling us for years, probiotics improve gastrointestinal health leading to a decrease in inflammation and more control over appetite and weight gain.
St. Pete Ferments
St Pete Ferments is the brainchild of Sarah Arrazola. She was the first to bring “wild fermentation” – which relies on the bacteria and yeast found naturally in food rather than adding cultures – to the area. Relying only on the foods natural ability to ferment means that the finished product has a stronger flavor that is distinct to itself. These ferments can be found in specialty stores around the area or at their brick and mortar building on 8th Ave S. in Gulfport, where Arrazola also conducts workshops to teach others the simple art of wild fermentation.
What They Offer
Along with pickled vegetables, you’ll find the shelves of St. Pete Ferments lined with sauerkraut and the national food of South Korea, kimchi. The biggest surprise will be their beet kvass, a medieval Slavic drink made by fermenting beet juice. The outcome is a sour and savory low sugar drink, unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
Kvass is a probiotic, but it is also full of healthy, natural electrolytes. To make the drink, salt and sugar are added to the beet juice. The sugars are broken down, but the salt remains. Combined with the health benefits of beets – fiber, folate, and vitamin c to name a few – kvass is the perfect post-workout replenisher.
Kombucha has been a hot ticket item this past year. Most likely you’ve seen national brands Health-Ade and GT’s Living Foods while scrolling your Insta feed. Mother Kombucha has taken this trend and created an organic, wholesome product, essentially what kombucha is meant to be. Their drinks are entirely organic and available both in bottle and on tap at over 50 locations in the Clearwater/St. Pete area.
What They Offer
Kombucha, obviously. Their blends start with organic fair-trade green tea that are fermented with active cultures which gives it a pleasant effervescent mouthfeel. Once the tea has been fermented, they add natural flavors and spices to create flavors like Hopped Passionfruit, Blood Orange Ginger, and Lavender Mojito.
On top of the benefits of green tea, like boosting your metabolism and lowering cholesterol levels, Kombucha may help manage type 2 diabetes. Along with being a low-to-no-sugar option, tests done on lab rats show that kombucha helps slow the digestion of carbs allowing them to enter the bloodstream slower, making them easier for the body to process.