Having fallen into oblivion, lacto-fermented vegetables want to find a place on the plates

Unless you’re a sauerkraut lover, you may have never eaten lacto-fermented vegetables. Because if this conservation process is as old as the world, it fell into oblivion in France with the arrival of sterilization. Quite the opposite of certain countries in Asia or Eastern Europe where the fermentation of plants is still very developed. Supported by scientists, some producers or processors are still trying to bring lacto-fermentation up to date.

This nascent sector had also met on Thursday at the Hôtel Pasteur in Rennes for the first edition of the plant fermentation festival, co-organized by the Vegepolys Valley competitiveness cluster and the National Research Institute for agriculture, food and the environment (Inrae). The opportunity to make the public rediscover this ancestral technique which “is meeting growing enthusiasm in the age of home-made dishes and the greening of plates”, underlines Florence Valence-Bertel, director of the biological resource center for bacteria of food interest. at Inrae.

“Fresh vegetables, salt, water and time”

If you want to get into lacto-fermentation, know that the process is quite simple and does not require expensive equipment. “Only fresh vegetables, salt, water and time,” says Marie-Pierre Cassagnes of Vegepolys Valley, in charge of the Phlegme project (vegetable fermentation), carried out since 2019 in the Brittany and Pays-de- the Loire. Once your carrots, cabbage, radishes or cucumbers have been peeled, simply put them in a jar and add a little salt and water before letting everything macerate.

Lacto-fermented vegetables are packed with vitamins. – J. Gicquel / 20 Minutes

The lactic acid bacteria naturally present in the vegetables will then act and transform them by bringing it other flavors. However, you have to be patient and let the vegetables ferment for at least two weeks before eating them. “We can then keep them for at least four years,” says Florence Valence-Bertel.

A touch of acidity and full of vitamins

But what is the end point of lacto-fermentation? The nutritional aspect first. “There are no added additives or preservatives,” says Jessie Bruel, who has been marketing lacto-fermented vegetables under her JiBio brand for seven years. The taste of vegetables also changes, bringing new flavors to the mouth. “The vegetables will be acidic but you shouldn’t be afraid of this acidity,” says Jessie Bruel. You have to learn how to use these lacto-fermented vegetables in recipes, such as mixed salads or on toast. »

The process also makes it possible to consume vegetables that are no longer in season all year round and thus avoid food waste. “And it’s also much less energy-intensive than freezing,” adds Florence Valence-Bertel. A gesture far from neutral in the age of sobriety.

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