Three generations back, Katerina’s ancestors were exiled from Russia to a labour camp in Kazakhstan.
“They were forced to live in a very harsh environment and to grow their own food,” she said.
“They had to rely on the soil and, gather seasonal vegetable and preserve what they could for colder seasons.”
Katerina, 33, says her fermented food project, Suria Foods, in which she grows her own vegetables, ferments them and brings them to local farmers markets, is a tribute to her ancestors, and her business slogan ‘What the Earth Gives You Today’ is inspired by their experience.
Seasonality is at the heart of Suria Foods. In the winter, for example, Katerina will have plenty of cabbage to make her sauerkraut and kimchi, but in the summer when cabbage is out of season she’ll ferment other things she’s grown.
“There is no set range,” she said
“It varies depending on what the Earth gives.”
Explaining this to customers can sometimes be a challenge, she says, because when people think of fermented foods, they think sauerkraut (fermented cabbage). However, anything with natural sugar can be fermented.
“It’s not about the cabbage, it’s about fermentation. That is what is healing for your gut.”
Mushrooms, eggplant, turnips, beetroot, cucumber, turnip and seaweed ferments are among the ever-changing range of ferments on Katerina’s farmers market stalls at including at Mullumbimby, New Brighton and Ballina, all of which contain gut-healthy bacteria, vitamins and minerals.
“The gut is a big topic (in research) at the moment, and it’s great because we’ve started to shift away from medicine to looking at what we eat,” says Katerina, a former chef.
Katerina says the aim of Suria Foods is not only to heal people, but also contribute to healing the Earth. She farms organically, and there’s no waste. Food scraps go to the chickens or the worm farm, jars are recycled, and the excess probiotic-rich excess liquids from the fermenting process are bottled for her customers as gut-healing juices.
The demands of fermenting, farming and running a business mean that Katerina works extremely hard, however her desire to give back is and do something meaningful with her life is what drives her.
I carry so much heritage and knowledge and I feel a push to educate and to give as much as I can. That’s why I do this.”