Twice as Tasty

Making Friends with Ferments

Beyond eating well, this year’s Free the Seeds workshops cover many topics key in growing and raising your own food

By Julie Laing
Photo by Julie Laing

Six years ago, I taught my first workshop at Free the Seeds, a free event organized by annually Land to Hand MT. Every spring since, I’ve looked forward to picking up seed packets, learning from local experts about everything from starting seeds to raising bees and chickens – and sharing my love of eating well year-round. After two years of virtual workshops, I’m excited to be back teaching and attending the event in person March 4 at Flathead Valley Community College.

Now that I’ve spent several years playing with all sorts of ferments in my kitchen – and creating numerous fermentation recipes for my cookbook, The Complete Guide to Pickling – I feel ready to take on a broad fermentation workshop. I’ll be talking about fermentation across five basic food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and proteins. Come prepared to learn about how fermentation works in general and about specific ingredients, tools and techniques for food in each category. I’ll also discuss some of my favorite ferments from each food group, many of which are easy to make at home even if you’re new to fermenting food.

Some ferments are ideal for sharing with a wider community, as demonstrated in January’s 6th Annual Sourdough Giveaway. I sent out 274 packets of my personal sourdough starter, blowing right past my previous record in the first week. That success has me thinking about ways to connect people who keep active cultures that readily self-generate, like sourdough starter and kombucha SCOBY, with those ready to take their first steps into fermentation. During my Free the Seeds workshop, I hope I can both answer questions about fermenting and brainstorm ideas for a local fermentation network.

My presentation won’t be the only food topic this year at Free the Seeds. Fermentation in particular will be well represented: Mariah Blake will be teaching a workshop focused on two ferments – kimchi and kefir. Megan Leach of Dragon’s Breath Farm will be talking about how to identify and prepare edible garden weeds. Even kids can get in on the food fun with a cooking lesson, making chickpea salad with Emily Bonenfant, a farm to school educator with the Whitefish School District.

Beyond eating well, this year’s Free the Seeds workshops cover many topics key in growing and raising your own food. We’re lucky to have a community of experts ready to share what they know about building healthy soil, planning food gardens, raising backyard farm animals and saving seeds. Even more local experts will be on hand as you pick out free seed packets and browse the dozens of booths. I hope to see you there: March 4, 9 am to 3 pm in the FVCC Arts & Technology Building. Get more details at landtohandmt.org.