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A food blog from NHPR news, digital, & programming staff, exploring food & food culture around the state & the New England region. On-air features air Thursdays on All Things Considered and Saturdays during Weekend Edition.

Foodstuffs: N.H. Sauerkraut Maker Rides the Microbiome Wave Into Tom Brady's Pantry (Maybe)

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Sam Evans-Brown
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NHPR
Stephanie Zydenbos with her various "vessels" full of fermenting vegetables.

When Stephanie Zydenbos started Micro Mama’s – a company based in an old farm-house in Weare which makes sauerkraut and kimchi – she says she made “like 500 bucks” in sales and “that was huge.”

She says year two the company grew “I don’t know, 5,000 percent” and the following year processed 20,000 pounds of vegetables. Next year, she estimates they will be up to nearly 100,000 pounds of artisanally lacto-fermented products.

“It’s my workout plan. I lift cabbage,” she jokes, “Did you see my pecs?”

Unlike states like California or Florida where fresh vegetables are abundant year-round, in New Hampshire there is a long winter when pickings are scarce. Those looking for local vegetables may find themselves turning to dishes that aren't a really standard fare in the American diet.

That's just one of the reasons why business is booming at Micro Mama’s. Zydenbos – with her line of smartly branded snappy sauerkrauts and kimchis – is riding the wave of at least three trends: local foods, general foody adventurousness, and most recently the developing science of the micro-biome.

“There are more nerve endings in your digestive tract than there are in your spine,” Zydenbos explains, “Our second brain is our gut.”

Fermented foods are in the spotlight because of the supposed benefits to your gut of eating beneficial bacteria. So for those paying attention to the trend, Micro Mama’s is particularly well situated.

“We’re also a wild fermenter, which basically means we’re not adding a starter culture. So lactobacillus, lactic acid bacteria, is actually what’s preserving the food. It’s the oldest form of preservation, dating back over 7,000 years.”

And to demonstrate the degree to which sauerkraut is on-trend right now, Zydenbos tells me a story. She has this joke, which tells you something about her ambition for her company. She likes to say that fermented foods are “about four years from being in a super-bowl commercial.”

She told this joke to a client – a Swede living in Chicago – who replied that it might not even take four years. She recalls he told her, “Well this summer I was vacationing in Cape Cod and I happened to stop by Tom and Giselle Brady’s house. And he said would you like to try the world’s best sauerkraut and they were carrying your sauerkraut.”

We reached out to the Patriots, but as of our deadline we had not heard back as to whether or how much Tom Brady does or doesn’t love wild-fermented, locally grown, pickled cabbage. (Though it would seem he pays very close attention to the acidity of the foods he’s eating)

I will say that for my part, I found Micro Mama’s products to be delightful.

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Credit Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR
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NHPR
Micro Mama's has nine products, with more on the way.

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. He shifted gears in 2016 and began producing Outside/In, a podcast and radio show about “the natural world and how we use it.” His work has won him several awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow awards, one national Murrow, and the Overseas Press Club of America's award for best environmental reporting in any medium. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.

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