Q&A with Kelli From Forage + Ferment

I'm a little obsessed with ferments, and aim to have some with every lunch and dinner.

Gut health is one of my big interests, and my fave ferment brand, Forage and Ferment make it so much easier to get the good stuff in.

When I first met the clever brains behind the brand, Kelli, she oozed passion and authenticity. Qualities I love in the health industry, as there's so many that jump into it with more care of profits over passion.

PLUS! My divine friend Hannah Jensen did the stunning illustrations on the labels, what's not to love?!

Enjoy our Q&A and have a wonderful weekend!

Can you tell us a little bit about how the start Forage + Ferment came about?

Forage & Ferment was born out of a love of foraging, an obsession with fermenting, and a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) from Auckland Permaculture Workshop. In late 2017, as part of my PDC I took a small range of fermented products (all incorporating wild edibles from my garden) to the Clevedon Farmers Market. At that time, experiments were taking over my kitchen and no-one could eat enough to keep up with my insatiable need to ferment everything! I posted a few product shots on Instagram and there was a flash flood of enquires from retailers around NZ for our Wild Kraut and Wild Kimchi. Next minute my life-partner Simon Allen and I were deep on a wild journey into a food manufacturing… foraging, fermenting and balancing the demands of a new business with farm life and kids (we have three boys 3, 6 & 9 and live on a farm in Clevedon).

And what is your process of fermentation? What makes Forage and Ferment different?

All our products are produced using traditional, natural and sustainable ‘wild fermentation’ which means we don’t use a packet starter culture (bacteria isolated and grown in a laboratory). As well as being natural and gentle on the environment, wild fermentation can provide up to 40 different strains of bacteria so offers greater bacterial diversity. It’s this complex community of bacteria (probiotics) that helps us digest our food, assimilate nutrients, stimulate immune responses; and bring the wild back into our body - interconnecting us with the lifeforces of the natural world around us. Add to that the fact we infuse all our ferments with wild edibles / weeds like nasturtium, dandelion, stinging nettle and marigold which are nutritional powerhouses… and you get why we call them Wild Kraut and Wild Kimchi!

I guess what makes us different – in addition to the wild foraging and wild fermenting! - is how we’ve woven the ethics of permaculture run into our business culture, with earth care, people care and fair share at the heart of everything we do. We feel our purpose is to help restore, revive and rekindle a love for one of our oldest forms of food preservation; reconnect with the lifeforces of the natural world; and inspire more conscious action with a deeper shade of green. We believe wild fermentation is a powerful way to address some of the concerns with our current food system and help build more sustainable and resilient communities.

We are hearing so much about gut health and micro biome these days, can you break it down into simple terms why this should be top priority of our health list?

Yes, they are buzz words right now because scientists are just starting to understand how vital our gut is to our health and wellbeing. It is estimated that 100 trillion bacteria live in and around the human body outnumbering our human cells 10:1 – that makes us more bacteria than human! And advances in microbiology are proving many of these microbes are essential for us to function, fight illness and prevent disease. Modern processed food; antibacterial cleaning and healthcare products; and even some medicines are killing essential bacteria and creating deficiencies in our microbiome leaving our inner ecology out of balance – contributing to health issues around the world. Microbiologists, nutritionists and medical professionals all agree this inner ecosystem functions most effectively when populated by healthy and diverse microorganisms as they contribute in ways we are only just beginning to understand. An amazing Kiwi working in this field and Professor at the University of California, Rob Knight says “the three pounds of microbes you carry around with you might be more important than every single gene you carry around in your genome”. Amazing hey?!

How do you come to decide on new flavours?

We aspire to revive, restore and rekindle a love for one of our oldest forms of food preservation through new, innovative and delicious ferments! We are passionate about making age-old fermented food relevant for today’s modern gut; and fusing ingredients that offer amazing health benefits. All our ingredients are selected for their flavor, nutrient profile AND the important role they play in our wider ecosystem – did you know stinging nettle for instance (in our Wild Kimchi) is a breeding ground and larvae food source for our native NZ Admiral butterflies which are sadly in decline? If we’re going to make fermented food, we figure why not try and do as much good for the planet in the process!

Our newest flavour, Mexi Kraut (cabbage, jalapeno, carrot, oregano and lemon verbena) is our response to the growing demand for Mexican food. It’s designed to give all the Mexican favourites – nachos, tacos, quesadillas, mexi slaw, enchiladas etc - a powerful probiotic boost. We chose oregano and lemon verbena for their lovely flavour, healing nature AND because they are wonderful companion plants in the garden and an important food for bees and butterflies – which is important when you are a Fermentary that grows many of your own herbs!

What’s next for the brand?

We see cultured foods playing a critical role in our NZ culture as well as the survival of our species. So we are all about bringing more innovative wild fermented products to the local food scene! And because we are passionate about encouraging others to join us on this wild, effervescent path of discovery watch out for few workshops on the horizon too…

How do you juggle work/family life with running this growing empire?

Fermenting is my passion and gives my life so much purpose, which makes the juggle easier! I am also incredibly fortunate to have an amazing life and business partner in Simon who is as involved as I am with the kids – sometimes more! ‘Keep it real’ has also been our mantra since we moved to Clevedon to live in harmony with the land, grow more of our own food, remove chemicals from our home, reduce our waste and teach our kids a more resilient way to live. It also reminds us to not sweat the small stuff! This year, my word is ‘balance’, but I’m still working on that!

Where can we find Forage and Ferment?

You can always find us at the Clevedon Farmers Market on Sunday 8.30 – 1pm. We’re also in Ceres Wholefoods in Ellerslie, all the Farro stores in Auckland, Moore Wilson’s in Wellington and announcing a stockist in Christchurch soon – as well as a heap of other amazing artisan stores around NZ which are listed on our website. If you can’t find us, just ask your local to start stocking us, it really is the fastest way to make it happen – or email me!

And lastly, what would be your dream place to be stocked in?

Our dream is to see fermented foods in every food store, every school and on every dining table! And to be a part of rewilding and building diversity in gut microbiomes around NZ through the most delicious and unique NZ ferments…

Thanks Kelli! I wish you and the team every success! I'm excited to see your beautiful products go from strength to strength! For a list of stockists where you can get your hands on some of this magic, click here.

For recipe ideas, and ways to include more ferments into your meals, check out my recipe posts, as well as my Instagram - @sarahtannernz.

Have a gorgeous weekend everyone! S x



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