Sometime last fall I picked up a jar of pickles from Central Oregon Locavore. My mom's homemade pickle supply had run dry and I was interested in trying a new brand—and the fact that this jar was made locally made it all the more enticing.
I've been dreaming of those pickles ever since.
Not only did they have a crunch that far exceeded the homemade ones (sorry Mom), but they were perfectly flavored and had the added benefit of being lacto-fermented, meaning they packed a probiotic punch. They were just one of the creations by Super Belly Ferments, a Bend-based company on a mission to infuse more common foods with the benefits of probiotics. Turns out, the pickles are, at present, only available seasonally, so both you and I will have to wait until cucumbers are ripe in Central Oregon before we can taste Super Belly Ferments' pickles once again. Knowing that it comes from Super Belly's ethos of using as much local produce as possible, it's worth the wait.
Until then, Super Belly Ferments offers a host of other products, including salad dressings such as Ranch, Chipotle Ranch, Caesar, Goddess and Beet Balsamic. There are also varieties of kvass—a probiotic drink that comes in flavors including Turmeric & Ginger, Lime, Beet and Pomegranate, and a Fire Cider aimed at boosting immunity. Condiments include the Aju Rico Hot Sauce, Ketchup and BBQ Sauce. All the products are fermented, with the promise of improving your gut's microbiome by infusing it with "healthy" bacteria.
“I consider our Ranch to be the secret weapon to get kids to eat almost anything.”—Paul Trendlertweet this
"The bacteria living in and on us are not invaders but beneficial colonizers," describes the Center for Ecogenetics & Environmental Health at the University of Washington. "The bacteria in the microbiome help digest our food, regulate our immune system, protect against other bacteria that cause disease, and produce vitamins including B vitamins B12, thiamine and riboflavin, and Vitamin K, which is needed for blood coagulation." The study of the microbiome is relatively recent; the existence of the microbiome was not even recognized until the late 1990s, according to the Center.
"I consider our Ranch to be the secret weapon to get kids to eat almost anything," said Super Belly Co-owner Paul Trendler. "The gut is an often-overlooked aspect of development. We really want to make probiotic foods that are at once delicious and enjoyable for as soon as people can eat solid foods—we're talking toddlers that are just starting to eat finger foods. We want Super Belly to be on that, because that's going to develop that microbiome, which gets its largest growth and development in the first three years."
Trendler and his wife Sarah Frost-McKee, also founders of the wild-fermented sauerkraut company, Local Culture, say their experience as teachers in the Bend-La Pine Schools district helped foster in them a desire to develop and support the local community.
"I kind of got the entrepreneurial bug from starting new schools and opening new schools in the district," Trendler told the Source. "And while we were doing that we just really continued to dive into nutrition and wellness and fermentation–wild fermentation and the mind-gut connection are what really drew us into these passion projects that became an earnest desire to have as many people see the benefit of eating as many probiotic foods as possible."
Super Belly Ferments is gaining some support in spreading its mission further, too. Just last week, the company was the winner in a food industry pitch competition through the Northwest Food Ecosystem, put on by the Seattle Angel Fund. It landed them a cash prize and the opportunity to work with the Local Food Trust in raising funds that help scale the company's growth.
"We're really excited to do some work with them to not only scale our business but also in turn support the Bend community, support the farming community in that process," Trendler said.
Super Belly Ferments products are available locally at Market of Choice, Whole Foods Market, Natural Grocers and Central Oregon Locavore, with larger chains including Safeway being added to the list soon.
And in case anyone's curious, Trendler let me in on the secret to keeping pickles crunchy: Grape leaves. Can you get them where you live, Mom?
Super Belly Ferments