Marc Williams leads Wild Ferment-Nation Workshop
By Jake Fraser
“Animals are something invented by plants to move seeds around.”-Terence Mckenna.
2007 Warren Wilson alumnus Marc Williams recently led a group of knowledge hungry students on a first-hand guided journey that involved five exciting hours of discovering the often overlooked edible weeds that blanket our campus, followed by a crash course on glorious fermented foods, and concluded with a variety of delicious, peculiar, and nutritious fermented eats and drinks.
This strangely hot day in December set a carefree summer-fun spooky global warming stinky person, kind of tone: right up Warren Wilson alley. We started the workshop with a stroll through campus identifying numerous edible plants along the way. From sassafras to creasy greens, our bio-diverse region houses a multitude of edible and medicinal plants. Our walk outlined some basic plant classification, field identification, culinary applications, and health benefits of plants we found along the way, some plants found include: Burdock, yellow dock, Ale hoof, sassafras, chickweed, nettles, wild onions, mint, wild carrots and their parsley-like greens, dandelion, fennel, yarrow, absinthe and mugwort.
After the information packed walk through campus, we gathered on the couches of lower fellowship, for an hour lecture on the products, history, and benefits of fermentation. All over the world, for thousands of years fermentation has been used to preserve foods like Sauerkraut, Kimchee, vinegar, yogurt, kefir, cheese, sourdough breads,pickles, soy sauce, coffee, tea, liquor, wine, mead,beer, and cider. These foods are rich in probiotics—which help improve digestion and general immune system warding off disease. Enzymes that breakdown complex proteins into simpler amino acids and B vitamins are also created through fermentation. Plus, the lactose in milk is converted to lactic acid. Besides the health benefits, fermented foods add variety in flavor and texture.
We ended the day learning how to make some fermented foods including Sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, hummus, dosas, and kombucha. After an informative hands-on cooking session we gathered around to try our dishes as well as the diverse selection of fermented products Williams brought to share. To name a few, we made an arugula and fennel yogurt dip, hummus, and dosas, using some of the wild plants we picked earlier, and tried almost ten different kombuchas, water and milk kefir, jun, beet kvass, yogurt, sauerkraut and ginger brew of William’s. The group left the five hour workshop smiling with stomachs full and eyebrows raised.
“If I can make it, why not?” said Marc Williams.
Marc Williams has studied plants intensively for food, medicine, and beauty. His training includes; a bachelor’s degree concentrating in Sustainable Agriculture from Warren Wilson College, over a decade working at a multitude of restaurants, various farms, and the pursuit of botanical exploration throughout North/Central America and Western Europe. He is currently studying to get a master’s degree concentrating in Sustainable Development from Appalachian State University. (botanyeverday.com)
“If you come to one of my workshops, you’re gonna learn something.” said Williams.
Some handy highlights from the work shop:
Fresh Mint Tea
- Mint, the biggest spice family provides basil, thyme, oregano, Marjoram, and of course mints. Warren Wilson’s usual suspects: Spearmint, winter mint, mountain mint, bee balm, Heal all and lemon balm, all easily recognized by their square stems and symmetrically opposing leaves and can be mixed into water on the way to class to make a delicious bourgeois drink.
- There are tons of wild green onions on campus, that can be safely identified by their distinct onion smell; Onions make a lot of food taste better.
Heat up a half a gallon milk to at least 115 degrees F, add two spoonfuls of store bought yogurt, and wrap it up in a sleeping bag or cuddle with it for eight hours and BAM. To make Greek yogurt: place any yogurt in a strainer or colander, atop of a bowl in the fridge, until enough liquid has drained and a desired consistency is reached.
- Sauerkraut/ Kimchee: Just combine three tablespoons of salt with about five pounds of sliced vegetables, pressed tightly in a glass or ceramic container. Make sure water rises above the vegetables within a couple days, or add a cup of water and a tablespoon of salt. Let sit for 10 days.