Producer of the Week: Cucina Verde

Cucina Verde's Latin American Curtido kraut. Photo courtesy of Copper Lantern Pictures.

Cucina Verde’s Latin American Curtido kraut. Photo courtesy of Copper Lantern Pictures.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression “Go with your gut.” Turns out, that’s great advice. Your gut is integrally tied to your health and well-being.

Annmarie Cantrell, owner of Cucina Verde, found this fact out for herself several years ago. “I was in my late 20’s and was experiencing health challenges when someone told me about the connection between your gut and immunity,” said Annmarie.

At that time, Annmarie was an early childhood special education teacher who worked with children with autism. In this role, she began to notice the reactions the children had to certain foods. She, herself, was experiencing similar food reactions.

This realization prompted Annmarie to study food reactions and possible biomedical interventions. Her research revealed to her the power of food to a person’s physical and emotional health.

Annmarie left teaching and started Cucina Verde eight years ago. She was preparing foods for clients, teaching them about food allergies, and consulting with them about good foods to cook.

“In 2001, I attended a cultured foods program and went through a process of gut healing,” Annmarie shared. The program introduced her to Donna Gates’ Body Ecology Diet where fermented foods are a mainstay. “I started eating fermented foods and felt amazing,” Annmarie said.

So, about four years ago, Annmarie began fermenting foods for others and selling them at farmers markets. Her lacto-fermented foods include sauerkrauts, root vegetables, and fruits. “Lacto-fermentation is a traditional way of preserving foods,” Annmarie said. “I use salt to preserve the vegetables, and I let them sit. Alchemy occurs and the result is foods that are rich in probiotics, digestive enzymes, and enhanced vitamin content.”

The fermented products that Annmarie and her husband Sam sell at the UM Farmers Market include a Latin American kraut called Curtido. “Curtido is great on tortillas, tacos, pulled pork or braised meats,” Annmarie said. “Also, our Rosemary Red Kraut pairs well with braised short meat.” Many of Annmarie’s krauts are great on salads, too. “When you put the kraut on salads, you don’t need dressing. Just toss the salad with oil. The kraut adds crunch and flavor,” Annmarie said.

Whether on salads or meats or directly out of the jar, UMFM market patrons are finding many ways to eat and enjoy Annmarie’s krauts. “I keep it local and seasonal. I use many greens and herbs,” Annmarie said. “I am a small producer, and I take the time to locally source my products by going to farms and picking out their best produce.”

For this reason, Annmarie said, her krauts do cost a bit more than store-bought sauerkrauts. “The reason being that I’m taking the time to source and prepare my foods with a different level of consciousness and a greater intention for the good of the community.”

Annmarie’s highest vision for her business is to create a healing center some day where members of the community can come to reconnect with their food. “Many people are disconnected from how food makes them feel,” Annmarie said. “This would be a place where people could come to connect with food and each other. Perhaps, they would come for a weekend retreat that would include massage, yoga, and nutritional counseling. I would also like the center to be a place for parents of children with autism, and for these children themselves. I would like to offer them cooking classes and teach them how to make foods.”

With this as a vision for the future, Annmarie is busy today preparing fermented foods for market patrons and talking with them about their diets. “It’s fun to have a hand in bringing health to the community,” Annmarie said. “It’s creative. I get to create different flavors, and when I sell at the market, I get to connect with people and hear their stories. I also get their feedback on my products, which I like. As a small producer, I can take this feedback and customize my products for my customers.”

Visit Annmarie and her husband Sam at the UM Farmers Market this weekend to share your stories and learn about the health benefits of fermented foods. Annmarie will be bringing a 5-spice apple relish that goes great on toast or on a cheese platter.

PRODUCER SPECIAL: This Saturday, Annmarie is offering a tasting bundle. The bundle includes 8 oz. of three different krauts that patrons can sample. Don’t miss it!