Stem Kent, a founder of Alive & Healing in Windsor, started making tempeh in 2011 after eating it in college to help with his own digestive issues. Since then, it has grown into the largest tempeh producer in California.
People should eat tempeh, he said, because it’s a high-protein soybean product that is more digestible than other soybean products, due to the fermentation process.
“When it comes to beans in general, a lot of people have difficulty digesting them,” he said. “So the fact that the beans go through fermentation makes them more digestible. The beans unlock certain minerals in the food, so you’re getting more magnesium, more calcium, and more iron.”
With his tempeh, Kent estimates that people get about the same amount of protein as chicken, roughly 20 grams per four ounces. Tempeh also offers fiber from the whole beans but has no cholesterol or sodium.
Because it is made locally, Kent said his tempeh offers better flavor and texture. The Alive & Healing tempeh is sold frozen and can be defrosted in the fridge, where it stays fresh or about a week. Non-local tempeh found in the store is usually steam pasteurized or boiled, vacuum sealed, shipped a long distance, and kept in the refrigerated cooler.
“It can be very bitter, dense and dry, and you need to do a lot to actually enjoy it,” he said. “With our tempeh, it’s totally fresh. It’s tender and soft, and the texture is a lot more smooth.”
You can slice tempeh into thin strips for a sandwich, cube it and pan fry it, or marinate it, wrap it in foil and throw it on the grill.
“If you just throw it in a pan, it can get dried out,” he said. “So add enough oil, or a little water, or add a marinade to it. That’s enough to keep it juicy.”
Alive & Healing comes in two flavors. The plain tempeh has a mild, nutty flavor. The Maple-Herb comes already mixed with a marinade and is ideal for breakfast scrambles, he said.
Kent has recently expanded into a bigger facility in Windsor where he can ramp up production.
“People are calling from all over the country who are interested in this,” he said. “We have a lot of restaurants in Southern California who are interested.”
Alive & Healing tempeh can be found at Shelton’s Natural Foods Market in Healdsburg, Oliver’s Markets in Santa Rosa and Cotati, Community Markets in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, Andy’s Produce in Sebastopol and Food for Humans in Guerneville.
Restaurants that serve it include the East West Cafe in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa, Gaia’s Garden in Santa Rosa and Backyard in Forestville.