Pickled vs Fermented

When I teach fermentation classes, invariably someone will ask me what the difference is between Picking and Fermenting. This will be a super short post to explain the difference, just for funsies.


When we ferment our foods, we are adding or creating a salt brine to our container of veggies in order to favor lactic-acid producing bacteria while holding back putrifying bacteria. Lacto-fermentation is a great way to preserve foods, AND they contain probiotic bacteria which are necessary for healthy gut function, immune function and brain health.


When you ‘pickle’ something, you are adding a vinegar solution for the purpose of preserving. In pickled foods, there are no probiotic bacteria….but vinegar is a PRE-biotic, which is something that the probiotic bacteria feed on, so it’s still good for you.

I use both methods to preserve wild foods that I harvest. Some things I like better fermented, and some I like better pickled. Here are links to a couple recipes you might enjoy:

Pickled Fiddleheads

Fermented Cattail Shoots

Experiment and enjoy!!


Tangents and Rabbit Holes

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Diving deep into Wild Food culture can land you in some really interesting places.  What started off for me as a cool way to get free food (foraging beats the pants off of Ultra-Couponing) has led me into some other very satisfying and creative endeavors. Here are some of my favorite tangents that foraging has led me to……

Botany: Well, you can hardly study Wild Foods without acknowledging some Botany, right? Knowing characteristics of Plant Families helps to narrow down the possibilities so we can more easily get to a positive ID.  A walk in the woods with my field guide has me looking up any interesting-looking plant these days.

Fermenting, Wine making, Cheese making: Successful foraging means you’ve got a bounty of wild foods, maybe even more than you can eat up.  You *could* share it with friends, but they *might* not appreciate it as much as you do…..so in comes Wine Making and Fermentation.  I could freeze those berries to make smoothies, but I prefer a nice bottle of blackberry wine, lol!  I can freeze or can fiddleheads and wild leeks, but lacto-fermenting them makes them SO delicious and even more healthy than they already are.  Cheese-making isn’t exactly a Wild Food thing, but once you start making wine and fermenting vegetables, it’s just going to happen…

Conservation: More and more I am finding myself talking and teaching about protecting plant and animal habitats.  We can’t very well forage or hunt if we destroy these things in the process, or allow others to destroy them with harmful practices.

Primitive Skills: Cordage and Willow Weaving are two new skills I’ve learned recently.  Eventually I want to try my hand at birch bark basket making, primitive fire starting, and gosh just all kinds of stuff……..

Outdoor fitness: Kinda comes with the territory, right? There’s a lot of hiking involved when we go looking for mushrooms, ramps, fiddleheads and berries!  Kayaking and canoeing are the methods we use to get Lotus Heads and Wild Rice.  And while we are spending all that time outside on trails and such, let’s try a little Geocaching, just for funsies……

Personal health: “Food is medicine”.  “You are what you eat”.  The more I learn about the foods I eat – not just the Wild Food – the more I feel empowered to keep myself healthy.

Chicory….it’s just so darn pretty.