Diversity of Fermented Foods
Since the evolution of humans, the gathering of edible ingredients has become necessary for our survival and to maintain our physiological functions. Various substrates for edible products have evolved along with culinary practices as a result of the traditional wisdom and empirical experiences of generations over time, based on climate change, topography, ethnic preference, societal pattern, regional economy, geopolitics, demography, ethnicity, religions, customary beliefs, and cultural practices. The preservation of perishable raw materials of plant and animal sources as foods, the diversi™cation of their products, and the innovation in food production and culinary practices have also evolved along with the development of human civilization. A variety of fermented foods and alcoholic beverages are produced naturally (by indigenous microorganisms) or by using microorganisms (starter cultures) and are consumed across the world, and every community has its fermented foods that are speci™c to it. Campbell-Platt (1994) claimed that around one-third of our food intake comprises fermented foods. Kwon (1994) estimated that around 20% of the total food consumed in the world is fermented foods. Data on the consumption and frequency of fermented foods are not widely available and are not very accurate. We conducted a survey on the consumption of fermented foods in Sikkim during 2003-2005. The data show that the per capita consumption of ethnic, fermented foods and beverages in Sikkim is 163.8 g/day, and the proportion of daily consumption of ethnic, fermented foods and beverages to the consumption of total food is 12.6% (Tamang et al. 2007a). It may be projected that 50-400 g per capita of fermented foods and alcoholic beverages are consumed daily worldwide, representing about 5%–40% of the total daily food consumption. Low-cost, high-value, and socially and culturally acceptable ethnic, fermented foods are consumed in diverse forms of cuisines such as staple diets, curries, stews, side dishes, fried foods, cooked foods, pastes, seasonings, condiments, pickles, confectionaries, salads, soups, desserts, savories, drinks, candied foods, masticators, colorants, taste makers, and as alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. In Asia and Africa, and in some countries in Europe and Latin America, ethnic women more are actively involved in the preparation of foods using their native knowledge of food fermentation technology than men and also supplement culinary practices. There are about 5000 varieties of major and minor unlisted fermented foods and beverages in the world prepared and consumed by billions of people belonging to different communities and ethnicities. However, the consumption of some less known and uncommon ethnic, fermented foods is declining due to changes in lifestyle and the shift from cultural foods to commercial foodstuffs and fast foods, and also due to climate change in some places which affects traditional culinary practices drastically. Chinese, Indians (several ethnic groups), and Africans (several tribes) have the largest varieties of ethnic, fermented foods and beverages.