Video Interview: Willow Talks Pickles

Check out co-founder Willow King as she gives us the inside scoop on pickles at Zuke!

Fermented food make a comeback!

Fermented food makes a big bubble on DIY scene, store shelves
Posted:   07/14/2012 01:00:00 AM MDT

By Douglas Brown
The Denver Post

Still life with fermented food, like ruby kraut , and simple sauerkraut and pickles as Willow King and Mara King business partners for Esoteric Food Company in Boulder demo a couple of their kraut recipes at Willow King’s home on Friday, June 1, 2012. Fermented foods are gaining popularity. Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post (THE DENVER POST | Cyrus McCrimmon)

What will Denver bed-and-breakfast owner Milan Doshi do with the 1,500 pounds of Thai peppers growing in the garden across from his old house? The rows of oregano? The purple carrots?

He will force them to funk.

He will clean and cut the vegetables, stick them in drums, add salt. He will prod them toward a certain helpful decay by simply waiting until it’s time to pack them in jars. He’ll slap Five Points Fermentation Co. labels on them, and put the food — kimchi and curtido

Blog: Colorado Table

Denver Post reporters and editors offer news, analysis and commentary on the latest food, drink and restaurant trends in Colorado.

(an El Salvadoran kraut) — up for sale.

Doshi, a self-described fermentation freak, is not alone. In locations from Denver home kitchens to farmhouse barns to industrial warehouses, people are taking cucumbers, watermelon, milk, wheat, tea, pork shoulders — and a whole lot of other foodstuffs — and letting bacteria do their thing to them.

Bacteria have gotten a bad rap for years, because this group of living things includes nasties like e.coli and listeria, things that kill people. But bacteria is also key for food digestion. And it nurtures a unique flavor — yes, a funk — that just doesn’t come from a mere sprinkling of herbs or a splash of lemon.

“Lactic acid is a gift from God,” said Doshi. “We need to embrace it. When we use bacteria to help us, that’s when we are at our healthiest.”

Who’s got your fizz?

Doshi is so taken with the process he plans to open a fermentation cafe in the Five Points neighborhood, a space for classes on the topic and fermentation-celebration feasts. At his family’s business, the Queen Anne Bed and Breakfast in Denver, he uses fermented batter for the

Willow King, right, packs chopped red cabbage into its juice in a Mason jar as she and Esoteric Food Co. partner Mara King demonstrate a couple of their kraut recipes at King’s home in Boulder. They made ruby kraut with red cabbage, salt and leeks and a simple sauerkraut with green cabbage and salt. The cabbage will ferment for a few days in the jars. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

crepes and rye pancakes, serves his company’s krauts and even piles plates with uttapams, traditional Indian pancakes made from fermented beans and rice. He is expanding his line of krauts, and in the fall will start making tempeh — a fermented bean product often used in lieu of meat — from Western Slope pinto beans.

He began experimenting with fermentation about a decade ago, inspired in part by his grandmother’s kitchen in India, with its wall of leftover farm vegetables turned into a cornucopia of pickles: mangos, limes, tomatoes, okra. He also studied under Sandor Katz, the author of the just-published “The Art of Fermentation,” as well as the classic “Wild Fermentation.” Katz is recognized as a national leader on the topic.

“I think our connection to fermentation is innate,” said Doshi. “It’s the second-oldest human tradition. After we built tools, we cured food.”

Without fermentation, Colorado’s ocean of beer wouldn’t make a single wave. No Haystack Mountain goat cheese. No High Country Kombucha, Il Mondo Vecchio beef bresaola, Infinite Monkey Theorem syrah, Trompeau Bakery baguettes, or Zuke dill, caraway and cabbage sauerkraut. And none of the unheralded home-made goodness happening all over the state.

That goodness is so important that Colorado State University this fall, for the first time, is offering a for-credit class on the topic, called “The Science of Food Fermentation,” with sections on meat, dairy, soy, vegetables and grains, which covers bread and beer.

But the university is in the planning stages for an entire major: Fermentation Science and Technology.

“We have created nine new classes, all starting over the next couple of years,” said Laura Bauer, a Ph.D. student in the department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Bauer will co-teach this fall’s fermentation class. She said the department introduced a brewing science course a few years ago that has been extremely successful. That course’s triumph, combined with the pop-culture trend toward fermented foods, persuaded CSU officials to begin delving more deeply into the age-old craft.

The craft can be exquisitely simple — classic sauerkraut is just shredded cabbage submerged in a brine — and somewhat tricky. Fermented dairy, for example, demands exacting temperatures.

Either way, fermentation is the art of using good bacteria to eat carbohydrates and create lactic acid, which keeps away pathogenic bacteria. The good bacteria can be said to do some of the digestion-work for the eater before the food plummets into the stomach. Once there, those helpful bacteria keep up the good work.

“When you can something, you heat it up and kill everything, and the one bug that can survive is botulism,” said Mara King, one of the owners of Boulder kraut maker Esoteric Food Company. “But with pickling (fermentation), you invite everybody in and create an environment where the good bugs beat the bad bugs. It’s a different approach.”

But how does it taste?

Those nice bugs taste yummy.

A kraut of seaweed, beets and kale? You betcha. Esoteric Food Company’s is ambrosial on eggs.

Taste helps explain why the Boulder restaurant Shine relies so heavily on fermentation. Even the restaurant’s salsa is fermented. But health is key, too.

“To me, the foundation of nutrition is fermentation and probiotics,” said Jessica Emich, head chef and one of the triplets who launched the restaurant last year. “If your body can’t digest food, it doesn’t matter. We like to nurture people from the inside.”

The restaurant even relies on an “alchemist” to create Shine’s fermented beverages. Beer? Sure. But the menu also includes a variety of “tonics” and “elixirs,” fermented beverages similar to kombucha but using honey, herbs, and flowers.

Kombucha — a fermented blend of tea and sugar — has taken off along the Front Range, with bottles of the stuff for sale everywhere from Sprouts markets to Whole Foods (which now has kombucha on tap).

For Edward Rothbauer, the president and chief executive officer of High Country Kombucha in Eagle, kombucha is a livelihood. He started making his own after a fall paralyzed him. All that sitting in a wheelchair upended his digestion. He said that soon after he started drinking kombucha, his digestion improved dramatically.

Now he walks with a cane. He doesn’t credit a fermented drink with his recovery, but he believes it helped.

“People drink it, and get a little education,” he said. “It might be a shock to their taste buds, but in 15 minutes they might say how good they feel.”

Douglas Brown: 303-954-1395 or

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Elephant Journal- DIY Fermentation

on May 11, 2012

Create Your Own Culture. ~ Willow King


The Power of Fermented Foods.

About a year ago my partner Mara and I started a company that makes cultured vegetables. No, not beets and carrots that regularly attend the opera, but live, raw, probiotic, naturally fermented veggies.

We started out just making these goodies for our families and friends and nobody could get enough. It turns out that many people crave the zingy buzz of live food and that lacto-fermented foods, that used to be staple in many places in the world, are making a comeback.

Fermenting is an age-old way to preserve food.

It was a way to use all the access produce from the summer and keep eating it all year round. This in itself is a great process to connect to us to seasonality and keep the strength of the food intact.

Fermentation also makes food easier to digest, and creates new nutrients such as B vitamins—folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and biotin.

Some ferments have antioxidants principles and also create omega-3 fatty acids- which we know are key to a healthy immune system.

Basically, fermented foods help supply your digestive tract with cultures that are necessary to break down and assimilate nutrients. These cultures, lactobacilli chief among them, are like little invisible friends that help us stay healthy and happy through the ups and downs of the year.

If you are interested in experimenting we recommend starting with simple sauerkraut and then expand from there.

This is great activity to do with kids (or your dog) as it is a bit of funky food science experiment.

To begin you will need a ball jar, one medium cabbage, sea salt, and a starter like whey, or for a vegan option you can use kombucha.Each starter produces different results and flavors, so you can try a few and find the one you like best.Core and shred the cabbage and then spread on a tray or work surface. Add the sea salt—a good ratio is generally one or two  tablespoons salt to one three lb cabbage. Then pound the cabbage and salt with a wooden hammer (or a rolling pin can work) until the juices start to release and the cabbage softens. You can add a bit of starter at this point, or you can just do the cabbage juice and salt, which usually makes a fine ferment.Place the cabbage shreds into a wide mouth ball jar and press down with a fist (you can use a cabbage leaf as a top and the press on that) until the vegetable is submerged in liquid.

Cover this combination and leave it in a cool but not cold space (ideally 65 to 70 degrees) for about 3 days. You may like it stronger, in which case you could let it go for a few more days.

When you are satisfied with the taste, transfer to cold storage, where it will last for up to 6 months.

Now you can enjoy the benefits of your own homemade culture—monocle and all.


Daily Camera- Farmers Market Celebrates 25 years

This was a great piece about the BCFM and it’s history- we are so happy to be a part of it! For a link to the article or to see the video they did at our kitchen:

Boulder County Farmers’ Market celebrates 25 years as a growers-only marketplace

This year’s season kicks of Saturday in Boulder and Longmont
Posted:   03/31/2012 02:38:14 PM MDT
Updated:   04/01/2012 01:24:56 PM MDT


In the fall of 1986, a half-dozen Boulder County farmers came together around a vision: to create a market for farmers — run by farmers — where vendors could sell what they’d grown directly to the local community.

With the support of Boulder County, the city of Boulder, some students at the University of Colorado and a lot of volunteers, the Boulder County Farmers’ Market launched in 1987 with the goal of supporting local agriculture. This year, the market — which returns for the season April 7 — celebrates its 25th anniversary.

“Twenty-five years ago in Boulder County, we had some visionary individuals come together and (set up a market) before it was fashionable,” said Shanan Olson, the market’s interim executive

Sue Parsons, right, of Sweetheart Farms, unloads produce at the Boulder Farmers Market on 13th Street in June 1987. Parson still sells at the market, which is celebrating its 25 anniversary this year. ( SUE PARSONS VIA CARNEGIE LIBRARY )

director and a farmer herself. “They consciously decided they wanted to feed their neighbors and families and friends.

“There’s something pretty fabulously amazing about that.”

Over the last quarter century, the original Boulder market has grown into a touchstone of the community; a second market was set up in Longmont; the hours, the days of the week, and the length of the season for both markets have been stretched year after year; and the offerings available at the markets have diversified in creative and unexpected ways.

But one thing has not changed: Every farmer who sells at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market grows his or her own produce, setting it apart from most farmers’ markets across the state and across the country. The premise of grow-what-you-sell is woven directly into the fabric of today’s market, just as it was in 1987 when it began.

IF YOU GOWhat: Boulder Farmers’ MarketWhen: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday, April 7 through Nov. 17; 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Wednesday, May 2 through Oct. 3Where: 13th Street between Canyon Boulevard and Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder

What: Longmont Farmers’ Market

When: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday, April 7 through Nov. 3

Where: Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road, Longmont

More info:

“It’s always been run by farmers, and it always demanded that the farmer that was selling it had actually grown it,” said Bob Munson, of Munson Farms, who has been part of the farmers’ market from the beginning. “At that time, a lot of farmers’ markets started all over Colorado. (They) quickly became a place where junk produce was sold. You can get junk produce for nothing and sell it for something.”

Downtown roots

The market that began in 1987 along 13th Street between Canyon Boulevard and Arapahoe Avenue was built on the shoulders of an earlier market that grew up on the lawn of the Boulder County Courthouse in 1975, when Pearl Street was still a through-road.

That small market was organized by Richard Foy and David Bolduc through the Downtown Boulder Association as a way to attract shoppers to the area.

“They visualized that it would be a real nice draw for people to have events down there,” said Munson, who sold at that market with his two young sons. “They made a big banner — a canvas sign — and it could hang all the way across the street or it could hang all the way across trees as you enter the

Chet Anderson, background, one of the founders of the Boulder County Farmers Market, watches one of his workers potting basil plants at his grow operation in rural Boulder County. The market, with locations in Boulder and Longmont, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )


Munson remembers about five other farmers selling regularly at that first market, which ran for a couple hours on Saturday mornings from July into September.

But the market faltered after its 10-year anniversary, partly because of the limited size of its location and partly because of new competition from a short-lived produce and crafts market set up in a parking lot near the site of the current farmers’ market.

“The courthouse lawn was limited in space, and the space was not viable anymore,” said Ulla Merz, who interviewed 10 of the longtime farmers selling at the market for the Maria Rogers Oral History Program at the Boulder Public Library. Merz, co-founder of Bookcliff Vineyards, also sells Colorado

Dennis Vinh of the Esoteric Food Company works on packing some of the company’s Zuké product line of raw pickled vegetables at the company’s facility in Boulder. The company will be selling its products at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market this year. (Paul Aiken / Daily Camera)

wines at the current markets in Longmont and Boulder.

“We were looking for a place with better access — a place more convenient to people,” said Chet Anderson, who helped found the market. Anderson still sells at the market, though he has switched from offering produce to ornamental plants and cut flowers through the business he now owns, The Fresh Herb Company.

The farmers settled on a location along 13th Street for their new grower-run market.

Sustaining local ag

Moving to the new location adjacent to Central Park in 1987 for the official start of the Boulder County Farmers’ Market was made possible thanks to the support of government leaders in the city and county. In general, a groundswell of community support for making sure that agriculture remained a part of the Boulder County landscape was emerging at about the same time that the farmers selling on the courthouse lawn began to look around for a new location.

“(The Boulder County Farmers’ Market) got started as a way to preserve local agricultural land — to provide a market for agricultural products so people would keep their farms,” John McKenzie, one of the market’s founding farmers, told the Camera in May 1990.

COMING WEDNESDAYLook for a calendar of Colorado crops and information on what’s new at this year’s farmers’ markets in the Camera’s Essentials section

And it worked, at least for some farmers.

“If it weren’t for the market, we wouldn’t have a farm in the city,” Chuck Rozanski, who grew herbs and vegetables on two-thirds of an acre in north Boulder, also told the Camera in 1990.

Boosted by the new location, the market caught on and grew quickly.

“It started out as something small, and it’s kind of become a summertime event in Boulder every year,” Anderson said. “I’m not sure I could have foreseen it being quite like it is today.”

At its fifth anniversary, between 75 and 100 vendors sold at the market, a 50 percent increase from the market’s first year. That year, 1992, the Wednesday market also launched. (It wasn’t successful until the hours were shifted from morning to afternoon.)

Making connections

Twenty years later, the Boulder market has about 120 vendors and the Longmont market has another 70 or so, and both markets are thriving, though neither can take on many more vendors in their current configurations.

Even so, changes are afoot.

The market has launched a new initiative to help prepared food vendors connect with local farmers to source ingredients for their products. As part of the program, the market has asked the prepared food vendors to come up with three-year plans for how they can incorporate more local ingredients.

“We’re really serious about these connections being made,” said Jenn Ross, who manages the Boulder market. “Sometimes it’s hard for a prepared food vendor to find information on some of the small farms or sometimes it’s hard for a farmer to plan and prepare to sell to these contractors because they don’t have the contact information themselves.”

The ultimate goal is to strengthen the local food economy. And it’s working, at least for one of the Boulder market’s newest vendors, Zuké Pickled Things. The company wants to pickle more local produce for its products, but as a new business, it’s been difficult to know how to reach out to farmers and how to know how much produce they’ll need.

“It’s going to help us so much the way that they’re doing it,” said Willow King, Zuké cofounder. “We say, ‘This is what we need in the upcoming months,’ and then the farmers can kind of come to us.'”

Zuké also plans to buy produce at the market, pickle it during the week, and then resell it at the following week’s market.

“It’s going to be really seasonal,” King said.

At the Longmont market — where gross sales increased 20 percent last year — the changes underway this summer likely will be more obvious.

TIMELINE1975: First Boulder market is established on the lawn of the Boulder County Courthouse, while Pearl Street was still a through-road. It lasted about 10 years, until outgrowing its location and facing competition from a very short-lived produce and crafts market on the site of the current market.1987: The current Boulder County Farmers’ Market is launched as a growers-only Saturday marketplace on 13th Street between Canyon Boulevard and Arapahoe Avenue.1990: The Longmont Farmers Market makes its debut.

1992: The Boulder market launches its Wednesday market, which isn’t successful until the hours are switched from daytime to evening.

1996: The Boulder County Farmers’ Market celebrates its 10th season with a jazz festival, bagpipe parade and what was billed as “Boulder’s largest carrot cake,” designed to feed 6,000 people.

Two years ago, the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Department, which runs the county fairgrounds where the market is located, extended the available electric service and expanded the market area to the east.

This year, the department is working to build a pavilion, where people can eat in the shade, and an arbor in the middle of the plaza to provide additional shade, according to Stan Snyder, a landscape architect for Boulder County Open Space.

The improvements are expected to help feed further growth this year, said Lisa Searchinger, the Longmont market manager. Searchinger expects another 20 percent increase in sales this season, thanks to the infrastructure, new vendors and growing community enthusiasm.

“I think people really appreciate our core value, which is we grow what we sell,” she said. “I hear that continually from customers that that’s why they like our market.”

Bridging gaps

Even with an eye toward change, as the market turns 25, leaders are looking back toward their roots.

“We’re celebrating the eaters that come and seek the growers of the food we love,” Olson said. “We’re also grounding. We’re celebrating where we’ve come from and how we got there — the vision of the people who started this as a growers-only market in the first place.”

Olson — who sells produce from her organic farm, Abbondanza, at the market — said the time is also right for the market to play a role in bringing the community together and educating the public. Interest in local agriculture has swelled over the last several years, and, recently, the Boulder County community also has been embroiled in a debate about how to best use agricultural land owned by the county’s open space department.

A central question in that debate was whether or not genetically modified organisms should be allowed on county-owned land. And while the debate highlighted the increased interest in local agriculture, the GMO issue was extremely divisive.

“I think there’s a desire to bridge some gaps,” Olson said. “The debate that happened last year around GMOs and open space — it really pitted organics against GMOs and vice versa. We’re celebrating 25 years of a growers-only market that has never discriminated against any form of agriculture. … The farmers’ market is such a great place to celebrate all that diversity and all those unique perspectives.”

Olson, who is serving as the interim executive director, said the market eventually will be looking for new leadership. But for now, the board is taking a deep breath and focusing on how to keep the market’s founding spirit alive for another quarter century.

“We want to make sure our next 25 years are about celebrating everyone who’s choosing to support the community in their backyard by going to the farmers’ market and trading and sharing and taking turns with their neighbors instead of industries and corporations,” Olson said.


Denver Post on our Pickles

Posted April 4, 2012, 11:53 am MT

Probiotic pickling comes naturally to Boulder’s Esoteric Food Company

Boulder's Esoteric Food Company has the recipe for probiotic pickles

Pretty, yes? And good. Esoteric Food Company has the recipe for great probiotic foods.

It all began, like so many things in food world, in the kitchen.

Mara King and Willow King — same last name, but they aren’t related — took one day a week to hang out together and make stuff from scratch. They tried sausage. Cheese, from raw milk. Kombucha.

But the Boulderites kept returning to pickled things – cucumbers, cabbage, beets, kale.

They dreamed of opening a restaurant or a delicatessen, but the pickles kept nudging them, whispering: Restaurant schmestaurant. So expensive! So many of them! Stick with pickles!

It turns out pickles are persuasive.


Boulder's Esoteric Food Company has the recipe for probiotic pickling.

Perfectly fried eggs on a bed of Esoteric Food Company’s pickled beets, hijiki, and kale

Instead of turning blank space into a room full of food, last May they began filling pretty jars with vegetables, herbs and spices and selling them in stores in the Boulder area. And soon their business, called Esoteric Food Company, will have a stall at the Boulder Farmer’s Market, and their products – called “Zuke,” short for Tsukemono, which means “pickled things” in Japanese – may also be on shelves at Whole Foods throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

At first, “we were giving it away and selling it at Lucky’s Market in Boulder,” said Willow. “A case here, a case there.”

Now three other people work with them, and twice a week they process 500 pounds of vegetables or more at a commercial kitchen.

They have big plans. Among other things, they want to buy different stuff at the Farmer’s Market every week, pickle it, and sell it until they run out. Each week, they hope, they will have two new pickled products – in addition to their regular line – for sale.

“We are moving away from this idea that dinner comes from a box and it’s always the same,” said Mara. “What is ready now should decide what is for dinner tonight.”

I tried the kimchi. I hadn’t tasted the stuff in maybe 20 years, since I lived in Minneapolis as a 20-something graduate student and nearly OD’d on kimchi and its punch of pungent funk.

I feared it.

But one taste of Esoteric’s version, and I fell in love with it (although later, on a picnic on Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder, my daughter Ruby could not stop talking about the aroma. She was not a fan.)

I also had bites of the beet, hijiki and kale, and the dill, caraway and cabbage. Fantastic stuff.

I know at least one of my stops at the Farmer’s Market this year

Dishwire Press Release- Zuke in Whole Foods!

January 23rd, 2012 — 8:55am

Zuké Pickled Veggies Now Available at Whole Foods Locations in Boulder



Zuké Pickled Veggies Now Available at Whole Foods Locations in Boulder

January 23, 2012-Boulder, COLORADO—Esoteric Food Company announced today their presence in Whole Foods Market at Pearl Street, Ideal Market and Base-Mar Locations. Zuké (pronounced zoo-kay) short for zukemono, the Japanese word for pickled things-offers four varieties including Cabbage-Based Korean Kim Chi, Eastern European Dill and Caraway Sauerkraut, A Citrus & Ginger blend and the cleverly combined Beets, Hijiki Seaweed and Kale. All products are raw, organic and loaded with probiotics. They retail for $8.99 and are located in the refrigerated dairy sections at Ideal Market and Base-Mar and in the raw food case at Pearl Street.

Says Co-Founder, Willow King, ” We are excited that Whole Foods picked up our product…now these life giving tasty pickles are available to a larger audience.”

John Andersen, Buyer for Whole Foods Base-Mar, said, “May their beets go on your salad cause they rock.”

About Zuké:

Founded in 2011 by the Esoteric Food Company, Zuké is a line of organic, pickled veggies that taste amazing and happen to be extra good for you. Our flavors are familiar-some might say nostalgic-and we use an all-natural fermentation process to make our food probiotic…a fancy word for natural organisms that keeps you healthy. Whether it’s the fire of our kim chi or the subtle lemon notes in our citrus & ginger cabbage, our cultured foods will engage your senses and keep you on the up and up. Yep, all this from a little jar.

For more information: