Which characteristic do cheese, bread, beer, wine and salami share in common?
The answer is easy: all of these products have experienced a fermentation process. Some microorganisms such as bacteria or yeast have transformed their basic material into nutritional and organoleptic features.
The vegetables group is missing from the list. In Asia or East Europe, fermented plants are much appreciated. In France however, they are less popular, except for sauerkraut and olives, which is unfortunate. Fermented vegetables represent a fresh source of flavors, recipes and a new consumption mode. In terms of nutrition, they are also very interesting. Indeed, fermentation can enrich plants with B vitamins and degrade most or part of anti-nutritive elements. If their consumption were to increase fermented foods could contribute to reduce food waste as well as becoming a new opportunity for vegetables producers and artisans.
Launched in 2020, the FLEGME project is a participative science project that supports more sustainable vegetables conservation methods and fosters the diversification of vegetables consumption mode. France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE) is contributing to FLEGME through the study and promotion of lacto fermented plants production and consumption. To do so, researchers have partnered with various actors such as small-size companies from the canned goods industry, top chefs and local producers. Together, they are exploring the potential of this unknown sector.
FLEGME also involves 250 citizens who are familiar with the domestic production of fermented foods, from carrots, eggplants, chards, to tomatoes and zucchinis. These citizens will share knowledge and practices with the researchers for the next three years. They will provide them with samples and together, citizens and scientists will discuss various research topics, ranging from the bacterial environment of fermented vegetables, to food safety concerns around the potential presence of pathogens. They will also work on the identification of micronutrients to assess the health score of fermented foods. This way, the scientists will understand the microbial richness of the fermented samples and share their discoveries with the citizens involved. Eventually, FLEGME could trigger momentum for a mild food revolution in France.