For fermentation guru, it's just natural

Jennifer Harris always seems to show up with a bottle or jar with something curious inside. Sometimes fizzing, maybe a little slimy or with an earthy funk, but delicious.

A self-described fermentation addict, Harris is pied piper of one of the most ancient forms of preservation known to mankind. Smart as a whip, the bubbly blonde can break down the science behind lacto-fermentation and explain the difference between various probiotic bacteria quicker than you can say pickle.

She's also the organizer of the first Farm to Fermentation Festival, held Sunday at Tara Firma Farms in Petaluma.

So why all the hubub about SCOBYs (symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast) and kefirs? Harris and others advocate the health benefits of probiotics found in many fermented foods.

Science and food manufacturers seem to be catching up, offering more and more probiotic choices on grocery shelves.

But at-home fermentation is one of the oldest, most traditional ways of preserving food; it's just that many of us have forgotten how.

Between brinings, she answered a few questions about how she got started in the fermentation game.

Q. What are fermented foods?

A. Everything from pickles, cheese, sourdough starter, kimchee and chocolate to kombucha, water kefir, Japanese natto and even salami.

Q. How did you start fermenting?

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