How to get the gut health of a hunter-gatherer

Fermenting foods has finally come of age. Back in 2010, I interviewed the godfather of the modern fermentation revivalist movement Sandor Katz.

I was speaking with him because he and my plant mentor Frank Cook had both been instrumental in bringing foraging and fermentation into the mainstream.

Sadly, the interview was to cover his memories of Frank, who had died the previous year.

Back in the day, Frank would teach people to forage, and Sandor would then show them how to preserve what had been gathered using the different fermentation techniques he had been experimenting, researching and playing with.

It was the perfect combination and collaboration.

In that spirit of collaboration, I first ran a wild food wild fermentation workshop with some friends back in 2010. And I first taught basic fermentation classes back in 1988.

Long before a ‘fermented anything’ had started turning up on the plates of fine restaurants.

And a few months before the launch of Instagram and resultant addiction to social media that is so prevalent in our culture.

I remember taking Michelin starred chef Alyn Williams and his crew out foraging.

At lunch, Alyn asked me what new foods I thought would be appearing in our culture down the line.

I leapt at the chance to tell him that I thought fermented foods would become a mainstream cultural revolution within 5 years.

I got the timeline for the introduction of fermented foods bang on.

Although I have fermented wild edible plants for years, and on a regular basis. I’ve never really posted that many recipes of my creations.

The fermented wild food recipes that appear on my site are far less than what I actually create.

I put that down to simply being un-together, and not actually being that brilliant in the kitchen. Or so I think.

Plus, if I am honest, a lot of what I create fails miserably. But that’s the creative process for you.

It’s a journey, and as with any journey, there are bumps, hills, and mountains along the way. As well as beautiful vistas, serene lakes, and tranquil woodland glades.

The same as life.

Design or create anything in this world (and that includes your own life), and you will experience ups and downs. It’s simply the price you pay for being alive.

Foraging, fermentation and reconnecting to the deep roots of this Land are for free-spirits and independent souls.

Swiping a screen, liking a photo on social media can and never will replace sticking your bum in the hedge, getting scratched by thorns and ending up with dirt under your nails.

And the price for this?

Coming home with delicious hedgerow delights that aid your wellbeing, and boost the health of your body and mind.

I like my gods and goddesses dirty, wild-haired, raggle-taggled and anarchic.

Which is why I love the earth so much. Which is why I forage.

The sermons aren’t in the books or churches or temples. They are in the wildness of the world.

You just have to get outside regularly and listen and observe the ecosystem that you are deeply embedded with.

Even if you think you aren’t. You are.

You can’t avoid it.

Your bones are the mountains. Your blood the ocean. Your breath the wind and air. Your eyes the stars. And your heart is the very complexity of life itself.

So what does this all have to do with getting the gut health of a hunter-gatherer?

If you’ve been “paying attention” to the rise in articles, books, TV shows etc. on gut health and the importance of the microbiome, you may have come across some interesting research from The Human Food Project.

Jeff D. Leach (author of Rewild) and the man behind both the Human Food Project and American Gut, which is “…the world’s largest open-source/crowd-funded microbiome project in the world”.

He’s done some exceptional work, and it is down to folk like Jeff (and others) that you are even hearing the word microbiome in the mainstream.

Years ago, what those of us who were experimenting with wild food and fermentation knew intuitively, was that this was something sorely lacking in our modern diets.

We simply didn’t have the science or validation to back it up way back then.

Nowadays with the likes of Sandor Katz and Jeff D. Leach…

…we have the evidence that microbes and creating and maintaining good gut health are super important to our physical and mental wellbeing.

Recently I interviewed former plant biochemist Viola Sampson turned “fermentation passionista” on the benefits of wild fermented foods.

You can listen to the podcast here


  1. Hi Robin, as always I find the content you post highly fascinating and interesting! I’m particularly curious about the lactic fermentation process. The reason I say this is I believe I am lactose intolerant and would like to find out more about the implications of the lactic fermentation process for someone who possibly is lactose intolerant. I haven’t been officially diagnosed but I’m currently following the Michael Mosely 4 week plan loosely, in the sense that I’ve cut out all gluten and wheat and I’ve for out dairy completely from my diet. I slipped up one day and had a few sausages that obviously weren’t gluten free. The symptoms were as expected, slightly bloated and gassy followed by a more loose stool. No pain in my gut though. So I think that possibly I’m fine with gluten in moderation. Then on Sunday last week my wife made us all a lovely lunch which include a shop bought fish. None of us thought anything of it until halfway through my meal I asked: “is this butter on this fish”? Sure enough 2 minutes later I was double over in agony with stomach cramps! I’m not allergic to fish, that I know for sure! So by process of elimination I think I’m lactose intolerant but I may be wrong? Anyway my point being is what would be the alternative to lactic fermentation for someone like me? Many thanks, Michael

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