Naturally fermented products made from local organic produce.
‘Good guts’ ambassador Marea Verry is based in Waikato. Marea hand-makes her products in small batches, sourcing fresh organic spray-free produce from local growers for her GoodBugs fermented foods – sauerkraut, its Korean cousin kimchi, and pesto.
Twenty years ago Marea Verry fell in love with sauerkraut when she was introduced by a hot dog seller in Washington DC. Fermented foods such as the sauerkraut that Marea makes, along with kimchi and fermented pesto, are a hot health topic for good reasons, she says.
Although research is still emerging on just how important microbes – the good bugs – in fermented foods are for our gut health, as well helping to boost immunity; Marea reckons fermented foods just make everything better.
Naturally fermented foods are alive with lactic acid bacteria and other microbes, along with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which proponents say benefit body and brain, improved digestion, plus skin, eye and heart health, and may help combat depression and obesity.
To help change the conversation around health and good foods to eat, Marea is also the local chapter leader for the Weston Price Foundation, a not-for-profit group providing education on traditional food farming and the healing arts.
Three years ago, the foundation needed a teaching garden for its local workshops and while their youngest child was only just a year old, Marea and partner Daniel set up their (now thriving) VerryWell Garden in their backyard. “It’s a bit messy, I have to say, organic and modelled on the permaculture principles of the Koanga Institute to grow nutrient-dense food,” she says.
Koanga was set up by Kay and Bob Baxter to inspire and support people in growing nutrient-dense foods regeneratively. Established north of Auckland in the Kaiwaka district 40 years ago, Koanga is now located near Wairoa in the Hawke’s Bay, and runs regular workshops as well as being home to the largest heritage plant collection in New Zealand.
Very quickly Marea and Daniel found that while people knew they could very likely improve their gut health with fermented food, many were not sure where to start. “And so GoodBugs was born,” she says. “We’re working every day to build a new kind of food culture in New Zealand: one that has room for mouth-watering, health-supporting fermented foods in every meal, every day.”
Using wild fermentation methods and spray-free and/or organic produce grown locally, they offer sauerkraut in eight different flavours, plus two types of Korean-inspired kimchi, both spicy, both winners in last year’s food producer awards. “Our original kimchi, Ginger Ninja, includes the fish sauce most Korean recipes call for. And we developed our Kiss Me Kimchi, using the more textural savoy cabbage, after many requests from customers for a spicier vegan/vegetarian option.”
Marea adds that GoodBugs is one of the few producers of fermented pesto. “Fermented pesto has a superior flavour, excellent nutritional properties and a good shelf life. It’s proving very popular. We make it from seasonal greens including basil, kale, spinach, rocket, mint and parsley grown for us by Tomtit Farm at Tamahere.”
GoodBugs sources cabbages – white, red and savoy – that go into the sauerkraut and kimchi from Pirongia Mountain Vegetables, a short distance from Hamilton. This family run market garden, formerly known as Cato’s Potatoes, produces a range of vegetables and garlic varieties, along with many different types of spud.
Among the other Waikato connections is a venture that pleases Marea’s love of a good hot dog. GoodBugs has teamed with Frank’s Sausages in Paeroa and Hamilton-based Volare bakery to create a free-range pork hot dog that is pure local, tasty and packed with nutrients – and a far cry from the one she first fell for two decades ago in Washington DC. Future plans are for commercially producing healthy fermented sauces that will also go well with hot dogs.
When the Verrys are not elbow deep slicing cabbages or chopping herbs, they are packing up online orders, out promoting their products – and free tastings – at markets in Hamilton, Cambridge and Tauranga, or talking with stockists in a range of cafes and stores, including in Auckland, as well as in Waikato, Bay of Plenty and King Country.
There is plenty to celebrate for this GoodBugs couple – and, while good flavours and good health is the mandate, with a smile, Marea adds that sauerkraut juice is a great hangover cure in the event of a little overindulgence.
Showdown Productions Ltd. Rural Delivery Series 16 2021