For five years Roma’s been taking a 30ml shot of Katerina’s Gut Tonic every single day and she hasn’t had one gut issue. She’s at the stall now (previously Suria), chatting to the tonic’s creator as I approach, eyes sparkling, raving about the fermented vegetables gleaming, pretty pastel colours, in their glass jars. ‘I could eat the whole jar,’ she tells me enthusiastically.
Katerina Lazareva has been dispensing her ferments – unique source of natural probiotics and longevity – for those five years at the farmers markets. Russian-born, she tells me they are ‘the flavour of my childhood’. Her grandparents fermented foods for preservation but she herself has taken the process several steps further in a bid to eliminate food waste as far as possible (‘and change the world to a better place!’).
With the influence of her cultural heritage and a background in cheffing – she trained at both Quay and Rockpool in Sydney – she set about creating a palatable range of fermented foods, then, over time, more products utilising the waste from those. ‘It’s a closed-loop system,’ she tells me. ‘Every single thing is used, reused, and used again.’ What starts out as one by-product turns into two – her beetroot sauerkraut yields peels and cabbage leaves which she then transforms into her popular Gut Tonic – which then becomes three as she strains the fermented peels (‘loose ends’, she calls them), dehydrates them and makes a powder: a sauerkraut seasoning. Genius. This is what she is currently working on, along with a range of miso pastes, based on vegetables rather than soybeans. Her excitement is palpable and she hopes to have them ready to sell in a few weeks.
We’re interrupted by another customer, a woman picking up a jar of fermented vegetables she eats religiously with poached eggs, lemon, and dill; another fan of a sort of miracle food – both good for humans and better for the planet.
Byron Fermentary can be found every Tuesday at New Brighton Farmers Market 8–11am and every Friday at Mullum Farmers Market 7–11am.