History of Sauerkraut

•History of Sauerkraut•

Week 7

“For me, it all started with sauerkraut.”

(Wild Fermentation, Sandor Ellix Katz)

Sauerkraut, long thought to be a creation of German, or East European descent is actually theorized to be a Chinese invention. Additionally, it is actually suggested that vegetable fermentation itself started in China. This theory stems from the belief that sauerkraut was used as food for laborers of the Great Wall of China, a little over 2,000 years ago. Within the book Handbook of Fermented Functional Foods: Second Edition by Edward Farnworth, Farnworth also proposes this theory on the origins of fermented vegetables. He references the various vegetables including cabbage, radishes, turnips, cucumber and beets that were served as “rations to coolies during the construction of the Great China Wall in the third century B.C.” (Farnworth 2008,19) In addition, Farnworth speculates that cabbage was an important vegetable to both the ancient Greeks and Romans, as it grew in abundance within both civilizations’ gardens. He also suggests cabbage as being the primary ingredient in sauerkraut due to the health benefits the Greeks and Romans believed it had, and also most likely because of its aforementioned abundance in the area. “Artefacts from ancient Egypt depict use of cabbage as an offering to the gods. Greek doctors used cabbage as a general cure for illness.” (Farnworth 2008, 19)

However, as a fascinating and worthy side note, in a recent article published February of this year by Adam Boethius entitled “Something rotten in Scandinavia: The world’s earliest evidence of fermentation”, Boethius details the discovery of some of the earliest signs of fish fermentation found at the archeological site of Norje Sunnansund in Sweden. The site dates back to around 9600–8600 cal BP (calibrated years before the present) and Boethius states that “substantial quantities of fish bone were found in and around a previously unknown type of gutter feature,” and this leads him to believe this Early Mesolithic civilization were using this “gutter” to ferment the fish as a type of preservation technique utilized for survival. Boethius concludes: “The excavation and analysis of the contents of a 9200-year-old construction, combined with ethnographic analogies and modern knowledge of microbial activity, suggest that fish was fermented at the site.” (Boethius 2016, 1)

Field Study

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