Fermented by LAB

If You Treated Your Microbiome Like You Do Your Plant, Pet or Kombucha SCOBY, You'd Probably Look After It Better Than You Do Yourself

HealthAlana Holloway

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been guilty of looking after our plant, pet or kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Community of Bacteria and Yeast) better than we do ourselves, right?


Do they have enough light and water; are they too hot; is that too much sunlight?  Do they need to go the groomers; be walked?  I’ll buy them this little toy, just because. Aw, they want to play!  I can’t feed them that - they can only eat organic/raw food! Oh! What have I done?  I bet I fed it too much sugar again, or perhaps kept it in the wrong place, or maybe it’s because the water I used was wrong!  GAH!

It’s crazy behaviour when you think about it, eh.  So why do we do it?!  I’m sure there’s a study out there somewhere, digging into the psychology of it all.  My guess?  It’s got a lot to do with feelings of responsibility, failure, reward (when it all goes right), companionship, and a constant visual reminder of your success as a plant/pet/booch parent, all rolled into one.  It’s easy to see when a plant droops, a pet will soon let you know if they’re not happy and bad tasting booch… I just can’t cope!  

We droop and it can be pretty obvious when we’re not happy, too!  But we’re much easier to neglect and ignore.



Let’s go with the notion that all disease (dis-ease) begins in the gut.  Hippocrates said that.  Whilst I’m mostly in agreement with the statement, I do feel it’s a little over simplified.  To me, it paints the picture that it’s a solely a physical problem that needs to be fixed, not mentioning influencing factors such as diet, stress, sleep, lifestyle choices and movement. Much like our beloved pets and plants.   

But hang on… if we bring all of that together, we might be on to something. 

Sauerkraut and Kimchi

If you’ve been hanging around these parts for a while, you’ll already know this.   

Your gut is home to your very own, live in, pet, plant and SCOBY, all rolled into one… YOUR MICROBIOME! You therefore have full permission to look after it, maybe even better than you do yourself!   

Basic rules apply: 

  • Feed it the right food; it loves lots of variety, fibre and ferments

  • Make sure it never goes thirsty

  • Treat is to regular exercise and movement

  • Make sure it gets enough rest

  • Reduce the stress it’s exposed to; play, meditation and breath-work are some of its favourite things to do!

So there you have it.  Treat your microbiome with the same love, care and attention as you give your plant, pet and SCOBY and you’ll be onto a winner. 

Until next time,



What Is Mindful Eating and How Does It Benefit Digestion?

Gut HealthAlana Holloway

I’ve been the family record holder of speedy eating and of the ability to eat A LOT, for as long as I can remember.  “Hollowlegs”, a play on my surname Holloway, has been a name that’s been with me since childhood.  I used to feel pretty smug about both eating ‘achievements’ (I know how ridiculous it sounds to have counted them as achievements) but in recent years, I’ve realised that neither eating behaviours do my digestion any favours.  I’m often hit with after dinner bloating, discomfort and gas… no surprises there, then.  


In a bid to approach the way I eat with more respect for my digestive system, I’ve tried many things: smaller plates, putting my knife and fork down in between mouthfuls, chewing each mouthful over 10 times, stopping eatingbeforeI feel full and cooking only the amount that’s needed for that meal, not extra for leftovers (because, y’know, I’ll only eat them from the pan!)  My experiments have caused me to look at the way others eat, too.  And I realised, it’s not just me who eats without much consideration.  From what I’ve seen - be it at restaurants, out and about or at home with friends/family - most of the time, we eat without even realising we’re doing so.  Whether it’s because we’re watching the TV, distracted by our smart devices, eating whilst driving, eating at our desks, eating whilst walking (anybody else finish a chocolate bar in the time it takes them to walk from the supermarket to their car?!), eating from the kitchen counter… the list goes on.  So last week I took to Instagram to ask if any of you had tips that could help the rest of us eat more mindfully. 

But no…

About 99% of the people I asked, didn’t know what Mindful Eating was or had never heard the term before. Add to that, they confessed to eating in all the ways I’d seen people eating out and about, and in the way I myself eat.  


Mindful Eating is the practice of eating completely presently, without distraction.  

Basically, how we probably all ate before the dawn of technology and oversubscribed lifestyles. It’s about looking at your food, smelling it, noticing different tastes and textures, taking a breath between mouthfuls, chewing properly, stopping when your comfortably full.  It can even extend to cooking; do you cook in a rush whilst doing ten other things, just to get something on the table, or do you cook with enjoyment?


All of the above allows your body to prepare for what it’s about to receive.  It allows your salivary glands to be simulated and gets your digestive enzymes going, which results in more efficient digestion and less post-meal digestive complaints.  It’s also more enjoyable; food tastes much better when you’re actually paying attention when eating it.  Lastly, it shows appreciation for the food, for how it got to your plate, for the people who grew it/farmed it, and so on.  Gratitude has been linked to better mental health, so I’m all for slipping it in wherever possible.


I’m still trying to figure out that one, but here’s a good starter for 10.

-      Put your phone away.

-      Put your iPad away.

-      Put your book/magazine away.

-      Turn the TV off.

-      Eat away from your desk.

-      Look at your plate and take a couple of breaths before digging in (I’m not religious but perhaps pre-meal prayer is about more than worship and gratitude?)

-      Take a seat. That could be on a blanket in the park or at a table, just try not to eat whilst walking from a to b.

-      Enjoy your cinema snacks before the movie – and trailers - start! (Oh the scoops of ice cream and popcorn I’ve shovelled down in many a cinema).

-      Wait 20 minutes before going in for seconds.

-     Use your favourite crockery and cutlery… maybe even set a nice place! It makes a difference to how much you appreciate your food, trust me!

Any other tips?!  I’m all ears!

A List of Ways to Enjoy and Eat Kraut + Kimchi

FermentsAlana Holloway

I think “how do you eat it” is one of the most commonly asked questions we get asked at FBL.  I’ve been eating both Kraut and Kimchi for a while now and have tried some weird and wonderful ways of eating them, some more successful than others.  In this super short blog post, I’m going to share with you a list of ways to enjoy Kraut + Kimchi.  If you’d like more detailed recipes, then head over to the recipes page for inspiration galore!

gut loving lunch



Avocado on toast



Hummus on crackers

Mushrooms on toast

Smashed avo on crackers

Scrambled eggs on toast

Stews and casseroles




Cheese on toast

Croque Madame/Monsieur

Welsh rarebit





kimchi snack



(Just make sure you add it at the very end of the cooking process to keep some of the microbes alive!)



Stews and casseroles



Chilli con carne

Mashed potato



Bone broth

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5 [Anti] Food Waste Ferments

Sustainability, FermentsAlana Holloway
grapefruit peels

It’s no secret that I’ve got an aversion to food waste.  It’s likely the influence from my Gran’s “waste not, want not” attitude and my Mum’s obsession with making sure she gets every last scrap from the whatever bowl/pan she’s been cooking from… when she discovered silicon spatulas it’s as if all her prayers had been answered!   

When I started FBL and began fermenting on a larger scale, it hit me quite hard to see just how much food waste is produced in commercial kitchens by way of peels, rinds and knob-ends (why…what do you call them?!)  Although we have always composted our food waste at FBL (you can read about that and how else we identify as a low-impact business here), I knew there was more that could be done with our scraps, after having followed the closed-circuit food production practices of the hugely inspirational Silo.  

Fermentation lends itself so well to utilising the bits of food you might otherwise throw away and if you’ve been following me for a while, you may have seen some of my experiments on Instagram.  Today I’m sharing with you 5 of the anti-food-waste ferments that I think you’ll get most use out of.


Beetroot + Ginger Kvass

Fresh beetroot are beautiful things.  Rather than chucking the rough tops and stringy roots, pop them in a clean glass jar along with some ginger peels and knob-ends then fill with a 2% salt brine solution.  Leave to ferment at room temp until it’s a salty sour drink (usually around 7-10 days) before straining and decanting into a glass bottle.  A slice of orange or lemon would also work beautifully in this recipe. Take it as a shot in the morning for a great kick start to your day.

Optional: Once bottled, leave at room temp to carbonate for a further day or two before popping in your fridge.  

Preserved Citrus Peels

preserved lemon peels

Next time you cook a recipe that calls for lemon/lime/orange juice, don’t throw the peels away!  Cut them into quarters or eighths and pack them tightly into a jar, salting liberally as you go.  Pop a few whole lemons/limes/oranges in along the way and maybe even add some spices for a lime-esque pickle.  Top the jar up with water, making sure the peels are completely submerged.  These will take a couple of months at room temperature to mature. Here is a more in depth recipe.




This recipe does require an organic pineapple (organic is always advised when fermenting) which are quite tricky to get your hands on and a bit expensive.  But if you’ve gone to all that trouble, best use the whole thing, eh!  Tepache is a pineapple-y, ginger beer-y drink which utilises the peel and core and relies on the microbes present on the skin for fermentation.  Pop the peel and core in a clean Kilner jar and top up with an 8-10% strength sugar water solution (raw cane sugar preferably).  You can also add some ginger, a cinnamon stick, a couple of slices of chilli, cloves, etc.  You get the idea.  Allow to ferment at room temp for 4-5 days before straining, bottling and popping in the fridge.  Remember to burp throughout fermentation to avoid any explosions!


Apple/Pear Core Cider Vinegar 

apple cider vinegar

Next time you make apple crumble/pie/anything with a few apples in it, use the cores and peels to make ACV or PCV!  Pop the cores and peels of 3-4 apples in a 1L Kilner Jar.  Top up with water and 10g sugar.  Cover with a muslin cloth and elastic band to secure and leave to ferment at room temp for 8-10 days, shaking or stirring every day to prevent mould growth.  Strain and bottle.  A more detailed recipe can be found here.


Ginger Peel + Knob-End Bug

Instead of making your ginger bug with the good parts of the ginger root, try using all the gnarly ends that aren’t really good enough to eat but are too good to waste.  This is a good ginger bug recipe to follow.

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Why I Choose House-Pressed, Cold-Extracted Juices to Flavour FBL Water Kefir

FermentsAlana Holloway
Cold-pressed rhubarb juice

Cold-pressed rhubarb juice


Happy Friday folks! How are you?  

I was uploading an Instagram story the other day about why I choose to cold-press apples in house in order to make apple juice, over buying in ready-made organic cold-pressed apple juice. The reason being: because most, if not all, pre-pressed apple juice contains ascorbic acid.  Ascorbic acid is a concentrated derivative of Vitamin C, which really isn’t that bad, I know.  It’s often used as a preservative to extend shelf life, prevent spoilage, and to retain colour… ever noticed how your home pressed apple juice turns brown pretty quickly? The reason it does all those things is because the pH of ascorbic acid sits somewhere between 1.0-2.5, meaning it prevents microbial growth. Which is precisely the reason I’d rather leave it out of FBL Kefir!  Kefir is built on microbial growth (of the beneficial kind).  Adding something that prevents that would also stop any further beneficial microbial growth from taking place.  You see, because FBL Kefir is alive and kicking with microbes, those microbes produce even more microbes once it’s flavoured with (cold pressed) juice, which acts as microbe fodder; it’s known as the second ferment.  Call me crazy but adding something that prevents microbial growth just doesn’t make sense!   

It got me to thinking about all the other reasons I choose to only use organic, house pressed, cold extracted fruit and vegetable juice in FBL Kefir… 

-      It’s additive free.

-      It’s fresh as can be.

-      It retains far more nutrients than juice that isn’t cold-extracted.  Cold-extraction uses a masticating action, rather than centrifugal. It effectively chews the whole fruit/vegetable to extract the juice.  Centrifugal juicing is very fast action spin and chop motion and produces a fair bit of heat in the process, which begins to kill off heat sensitive nutrients in the juice… I’m all for maximum nutrients!

-      I have control over choosing fruits and vegetable varieties which yield the tastiest juice and therefore, the tastiest Kefir.

-      The pH of Kefir (between 3.0 - 4.2) offers all the ‘preservatives’ I need.

-      It gives me more freedom to choose to work with a wide range of organic, seasonal fruits and vegetables… carrot, rhubarb, grapefruit, beetroot, the list goes on!

Producing the highest quality ferments is of utmost importance to me and using fresh, organic and seasonal cold-pressed juices is just one way of ensuring that.  

Just a short one for today. Have a lovely weekend,

Alana x

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Introducing the Spring 2019 Collection!

FermentsAlana Holloway

I have to say, I’m so excited to welcome in the Spring this year.  Working with the seasons has me even more aware of the changes that happen and every day, a big smile is put on my face by the blooming of flowers, morning song bird and longer days.  The welcoming of Spring means the welcoming of the Spring Collection here at FBL and I’d like to introduce you to each of the new flavours.




Last Spring, I was addicted to the lemony tang in the Fennel + Lemon Kraut but wanted to try something different this year.  Krauts are famous for pairing well with rich meaty dishes but Spring calls for something a little lighter.  Saffron, lemon and fish are a match made in heaven and I can’t wait to create some recipes… I just know the colours will be beautiful! 


OK, this one isn’t exactly new but I think I might have a mob on my hands if it wasn’t brought back.  It’s been a firm favourite since day one; its sweet and tangy with a spicy kick and works well in so many dishes.  I’ve got a Kimchi and Kale loaf in the making… trust me, it’s delicious.


This one was born out of my love for roasted carrots sprinkled with nigella seeds.  It’s great for anyone following a low FODMAP diet as there’s a hint of onion brought by the Nigella seeds, without actually containing onion!  I’ll be tossing this one into salads and slaws, for sure.



I had such pleasure using red grapefruit last Spring.  Every batch of grapefruit showcased a rainbow of pinks, peaches and reds, displaying what it truly means to work with nature’s bounty.  I love this combination; the back note of basil somewhat calms the pallet smack that grapefruit is so famous for!


Another front runner from last year… I just wasn’t ready to let it go!  This one’s the perfect cocktail (alcoholic or not) mixer.  The rose is definitely present but by no means overpowering. It pairs so perfectly with the rhubarb, which changes from shocking pink to a deeper red as the season progresses.  Plus, it’s pretty pink hue makes for the perfect Instagram shot!!


I start to get really into smoothies and vegetable juices in Spring.  Autumn and winter are all about the warm and the well-cooked but as the temperature rises, I crave the fresh flavours of a cold pressed juice.   I always add Kefir to my smoothies at home and wanted to give you something similar, ready-made.  Carrot, apple and ginger is a classic combination.  The ginger eases you in whilst the weather is still a bit temperamental, providing a little heat for those not-so-warm days.

A full list of the ingredients can be found here. The Spring Collection will run from March - May, with the last orders being taken on May 13th (delivery on May 15th). I can’t wait to hear what you make of the new collection!

Over and out,

Alana x

What Being a Low Impact Business Means to Me

Sustainability, BusinessAlana Holloway

The health and longevity of this planet means a lot to me.  As humans living on planet earth, we’re faced with hundreds of daily decisions about whether we contribute to the harm of this planet, or don’t.  The media surrounding the many ways in which we can save Planet Earth has been hard to ignore this past year.  Amen to that.  But it’s hard not to become completely overwhelmed by it all, eh! 

Introducing the Winter 18/19 Collection

CollectionsAlana Holloway

I’m writing this post a little later than planned… better late than never though, eh! Anyone else find that they fall massively behind schedule at this time of year?! Creating the seasonal collections is one of my most favourite parts about running FBL. I get to stretch my creative legs, work in alignment with nature and the beautiful seasons all whilst getting the much loved buzz from feeding my customers a range of new and exciting fermented flavours.

This is the second Winter collection I’ve created since launching in April 2017; the nice thing about doing it the second time around is that I have a great base to work from. I know what worked last time and more importantly, what the favourites were. It’s my mission to make each collection a box of ‘favourites’… so I should have it in the bag by year three!!


Curried Parsnip Kraut was the favourite last year, so I just had to include it again (remember, I’m working towards a Box of favourites!!) It’s tangy with a sort of creaminess (brought to the party by parsnip). One of my customers said I should’ve called it Coronation Kraut, because that’s exactly what it tastes like. I popped it on top of lamb biryani last year and it was MAGIC.

Winter Spice Kraut. What is a roast without a side of braised red cabbage? Incomplete, in case you’re wondering. Especially at Christmas. This Kraut will save you the job of making braised red cabbage AND add a probiotic lunch to your plate. Load up on it and it’s one less job for you to do when all your hob rings are taken and the oven’s full to bursting.

Horseradish + Mustard Kimchi. As the seasons have come and gone, one thing has become blatantly obvious. You lot LOVE Kimchi! I honestly think it’s down to the fact that it contains both prebiotics (the fibre that feeds your gut microbes) and probiotics (good bacteria)… it’s a combination that the gut microbiome craves and has you going back for more, fork and jar in hand. Horseradish is a wonderful vegetable and is even better when fermented. It’s what brings the heat to this Kimchi as it’s chilli free, making it a ‘white Kimchi’, not the red kind you may be used to. It’s also vegan, as all of my Kimchi’s are.


By combining two of the best winter fruits last year in the Cranberry + Citrus Kefir, I was missing a trick, so have decided to let them shine own their own this year…

Cranberry + Cinnamon Kefir. I imagine this one is going to make some wicked cocktails - alcoholic or not - over the festive period. It’ll also be the injection of Vitamin C you’ll need come January.

Clementine + Thyme. I always remember Jamie Oliver using clementines a-plenty in his Christmas cooking shows. They are delicious, so I really don’t blame him. Also, if Jamie does it at Christmas, the rest of us should too, right! If you’ve ever tasted one of my Kefirs using a woody herb (Pomegranate + Thyme, Red Grapefruit + Rosemary) then you’ll know just how marvellous they are. The woody earthiness of the herbs perfectly balance the sharpness of the fruit and sweetness of the Kefir. Again, this’ll make a fantastic mixer!

Pomegranate + Beet Kefir. If you’re thinking I’m mad for putting beetroot in Kefir, then I dare you to give this a try and say the same. It’s just enough to add a beautifully round earthiness to the astringent qualities of pomegranate. With a touch of lemon juice, its pure health in a bottle.

That’s about all for now, folks. I’ll be back soon with posts about the health benefits of these ingredients as well as some recipes showcasing how you can whip these ferments into a full on gut loving dish. Watch this space…

Wishing you a fantastic week,

Alana x

10 Ways a Yoga Practice Will Benefit Your Gut Health

HealthAlana Holloway

Ahead of my first Self Care Sunday: Yoga & Gut Health; the gut healthy yoga brunch I’m hosting with the LOVELY yoga extraordinaire Lucy Victoria Jackson (pictured below), I wanted to share a bit about why we’ve created this event.  Yoga and gut health might seem like a bit of an odd pairing at first, but they help each other out in more ways than meets the eye.  The more I delve into the world of gut health and fermentation, the more I realise that EVERYTHING they are involved with is based upon beautiful symbiotic foundations. There really is no end to the magic of microbes! The Yoga and gut health duo is no exception but I have (rather stupidly, I now realise) only covered one side of the story in this blog.  Gut Health for Your Yoga Practice will have to wait for another post! 

yoga and gut health


-      The twist poses in yoga aid digestion as they apply pressure to your digestive organs, helping them to release toxins and waste matter.  You may have noticed that in twist poses, you’ll twist first to the right and then to the left.  This helps the natural flow of the digestive system (which flows from right to left), encouraging waste and gas to move along the transverse colon to the descending colon.  Don’t tell me you’ve never left a twist-heavy Yoga class feeling a little windy!  

-      You’ll know that the gentle poses in a yoga practice help to relax your whole body, but did you stop to think that that includes the muscles surrounding your gut?  So many of us hold tension in our abdomen (I am terrible for doing it), whether that’s by holding our tummies in or because we become tense during stressful periods.  Tension restricts movement, wherever it’s held.  Dedicating some time to a relaxing Yoga practice - therefore allowing your tummy to soften - will ultimately allow your digestive system to function as it should.

-      Many of the poses which involve your thighs pressing close to your stomach - such as Child’s and Pigeon Pose – will gently massage your digestive organs as you breathe, helping to alleviate constipation and trapped wind, therefore aiding the natural detoxification of your gut… 

-      … Deep/belly breathing, which is mindfully practiced during a yoga flow, meditation and/or breathwork, is another way to give your gut a little massage.  Great for all the reasons mentioned in the previous point.

-      During Savasana (the lovely relaxing bit at the end) your body enters rest and digest mode. Oxygenated blood flows to your digestive organs, enabling them to work on digestion, cleansing and healing.

-      A yoga practice is a fantastic way to manage and reduce anxiety and depression.  Have you ever heard the gut being referred to as the second brain?  That’s in part because the gut and brain communicate via a two-way nerve called the Vagus Nerve, meaning the brain feels what the gut does and vice versa.  It’s more scientifically known as the gut-brain axis.   A stressed brain = a stressed gut, so the more you can do to relax your mind will also help to relax your gut.

-      What’s even cooler is that between 80-90% of the hormone Serotonin (the happy hormone) is produced in the gut.  Committing to a regular Yoga practice - that improves your gut health - means you’ll be doubling down on the anxiety and depression reducing factor.

-      As well as reducing feelings of anxiety and depression, Yoga is well renowned for reducing stress.  It’s not just a diet full of processed foods that reduces the strength and diversity of gut bacteria... chronic stress does as well.  Yoga = less stress = stronger, more diverse gut bacteria = a healthier gut.

-      Backbend poses, such as Camel, Bow and Wheel Pose, stretch the stomach and intestines and can alleviate constipation.  These are my favourite to practice after a day of building tension in my abdomen.

-      I’m glad we’re at a point in time where we (again!) realise and acknowledge that our whole body is connected.  Tight hip flexors are a sign of the times.  We spend approx. 90% of our day inside, probably sat on the sofa, at your desk or in bed, which does our hip flexors no favours at all.  The hip flexors (the psoas muscle), run from deep within the hip joint all the way to the sacrum (bottom of the spine) and act as part of the shelf (together with the pelvis and pelvic floor) which supports the digestive system.  Tight psoas can constrict the digestive organs, affecting flow and how well we digest food.

SO, THAT’S 10!

I’ve absolutely loved researching this post.  Most of it I was familiar with, but I discovered some real gems along the way (the last one in particular).  Have you found improvements in your gut health since committing to a regular yoga practice?

Lucy and I are really looking forward to meeting those of you that are coming to our first Self Care Sunday.  If you were unable to come to this one, we hope to make them a regular thing, so keep your ears to the ground.

With microbial love,

Alana x

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Ingredient Spotlight: 5 Health Benefits of Beetroot

Ingredient SpotlightAlana Holloway

Ingredient of the week is BACK!  It’s been a while since I posted one of these but I’m reeeeally going to try to share them more regularly from now on.  I mean, seeing as I put so much thought into what ingredients I use in FBL ferments, it’s only right I share with you WHY I choose them, eh!  I’m hoping you’re in total agreement with me here…

health benefits of beetroot

This week, I’ve chosen to feature beetroot.  Not only do I bloody love a beet, in all it’s forms, it’s also the star ingredient in Autumn’s Ginger Beet Kraut, giving it a real earthy depth of flavour.

-      Red beetroot are one of the richest sources of glutamine, which is an amino acid (protein building block) essential to the health and maintenance of the gut lining.  Maintaining a healthy gut lining protects our inside world (body) from the outside, keeping everything in its place.  You can read more about an unhealthy gut lining– aka leaky gut - here.

-      Beetroot are a fantastic source of fibre.  Fibre is not only extremely important when it comes to maintaining regular and healthy bowel movements but it also acts as fuel for our gut microbes, allowing them to multiply in number and diversity (which is a VERY good thing!)

-      You’ll know that I change the FBL ferments seasonally… that’s because nature has created a wonderful pattern (aka the seasons) whereby the nutritional and energetic properties of any given naturalfood peak at certain times throughout the year. Beetroot are at their peak between July and October, making them the perfect ingredient for our Autumn ferments.

-      Being that it’s a root vegetable, beetroot is considered a grounding food, energetically speaking.  Ever get that slightly jittery, floaty, chattery, anxious feeling? The kind where you’re unable to concentrate on a single task and you feel like you’ve had one cup of coffee too many (I’m actually feeling like that right now!)?  In traditional medicine, Autumn is associated with the wind and air elements and the aforementioned feelings of anxiety, jitters, etc. can be more present during this season.  EAT A BEET! Beetroot (and other root = grounding vegetables such as carrots and potatoes) will help to balance those feelings and GROUND you.  

-       And if that’s not enough to convince you to eat beetroot, you may want to reconsider because it has been considered an aphrodisiac since Roman times!  Who knew?!  It contains high levels of boron, which has been shown to increase levels of testosterone (a hormone responsible for sex drive) in the body.

There you have it.  Those 5 little golden (beetroot) nuggets are the particular reasons I chose to use it in this Autumn’s ferments (well, perhaps not so much the aphrodisiac one!) and they only cover a small handful of beetroot’s health benefits… 

Until next time troops,

Alana x

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Enough is Enough: the Plastic Packaging Has to Go...

SustainabilityAlana Holloway

How it all began

When I first started FBL, I was sure I was going to be a plastic-free, or at least very low-plastic business.   The first Boxes I sent contained bio-degradable packing peanuts to protect the glass jars and bottles.  The labels on the jars and bottles were paper, the Boxes themselves were cardboard and even the tape I used was paper (both of those thigs still stand).  About a month and a half, I had had to send out so many replacement boxes due to breakages, that if I didn’t change something about the way I was packing my ferments, I’d be out of business pretty quickly. Not to mention the extra carbon miles accrued and the tonne of wasted product.  You see, the bio-degradable packing peanuts are made from corn starch and dissolve when they come into contact with liquid.  The nature of ferments mean that they can be pretty lively and occasionally the jar or bottle leaks when in transit. Add that to the condensation from the pre-chilled bottles ad what was often being delivered was a Box of dissolved, gluey, packing peanuts stuck to glass jars and bottles that had crashed against each other and broken … not quite what I was aiming for.

fermented by lab.jpg

 Packaging: marks 2 and 3

When I came across plastic inflatable air-packs, I thought my prayers had been answered.  I had found something that protected to a very high level (the journey my boxes go on with the courier is very bumpy, cramped and turbulent, so high-level protection is vital) that was also 100% recyclable and I have been using them ever since, with much success.  However, the recent hike in awareness about the damage plastic is doing to our planet – recyclable or not – has meant that I’ve had to return to the drawing board. It’s at this point (and at many points before) that I wish all my bottles and jars were the same size; that way I’d be able to use the standard cardboard dividers, some extra padding and I’d be away! Being a one-woman-band has meant that this trip to the drawing board has taken longer than I’d hoped.  There have been quite a few back-and-forths with the packaging company to try and get the design right, which has delayed the process even further, and it’s still not quite there.  You, my lovely customers, have been extremely patient and understanding of the time it’s taking and for that I am ever so grateful…


What’s next?

… But then my eyes were opened and on Tuesday of this week (02.10.18), I said enough is enough.  I, like many others, watched the BBC documentary Drowning in Plastic and I felt physically sick.  Even thinking about it now brings a tear to my eye.  I was well aware that we couldn’t go on using plastic like we have been, but I had absolutely no idea quite how bad the situation had become.  And to think that I’ve been contributing to that as a business, makes me feel so ashamed.  I have made a promise that I won’t place another order for the plastic air-packs; there has to be another way.  I have a number of them to get through before I can stop using them altogether, but over the next few deliveries, I’ll be phasing in an alterative.   It won’t be the alterative that I’ve been working on as the design is still being tweaked and then the bespoke cutter needs to be made.  The lead time, once the order has been placed, is then another couple of weeks, give or take.  Then there’s the busyness of the Christmas period to think about.  But, for the sake of not putting any more single-use plastic into our oceans - and the creatures that live within - I’m just going to have to suck it up.  I’m freaking out that it’s all going to go tits-up and I’m really hoping that the temporary alternative won’t result in a load of breakages – I’ve learnt a lot about how to package since my early days – but if it does, I’m praying that you’ll bear with me.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on any progress that’s made.  If you have any suggestions for my interim alternative, please throw them my way!

That’s it for now! 

Alana x 

5 Reasons to Love Elderberries: Health Benefits and More

Health, Ingredient SpotlightAlana Holloway

A little tale about elderberries…

My first experience with the humble elderberry was when I was a wee young thing.  My dear Gran used to look after my sisters and me in the Summer holidays and we would often rope her into doing all sorts of things, as grandchildren are so very good at doing.  Her well-thumbed WI Cookbook would always be pulled from the shelves and on this occasion, I stumbled across a recipe for elderberry syrup.  It must’ve been the very end of the holidays as a few moments later, we were walking down the lane to pick ourselves some elderberries.  Once we had cleaned, picked and simmered the elderberries in water and sugar, we strained and bottled the cooled liquid and put it aside until it was ‘ready’… reading this back now, I really have no idea what we made that required us to wait! Wine?!  After all that effort and patience, I couldn’t wait to taste our magic potion. A few visits later, we popped the top, mixed with water and sipped on a glass.  I HATED it!!  I was so disappointed and vowed never to try elderberries again with no idea that years (and years) later, I’d be flavouring Kefir with it and drinking it like it was going out of fashion!


As FBL grows older and more seasons pass, I am even more drawn to using the seasonal ingredients I find on my doorstep.  Mother Nature continuously proves that she’s got our backs, providing us with what we need to survive and thrive throughout the ever changing ebbs and flows of life. Elderberries are probably one of the best examples of that. As the sunlight hours reduce and the nights draw in, the temperatures dip and central heating gets turned on, it’s vital that we increase our intake of immune boosting foods high in vitamin-C to ward off the coughs and colds that inevitably follow the back to school period.  Read on to find out more…

-      Elderberries immune boosting power comes from the flavonoids (a group of phytonutrients aka plant chemicals, responsible for vivid, deep and rich colours in plant foods).  Flavonoids are powerful anti-oxidants that help keep our immune systems fighting fit.

-      Elderberries are extremely high in fibre, therefore promoting good digestive health and constipation relief.  We use re-hydrated elderberries to make an elderberry puree to flavour our Autumn Berry Kefir, meaning some of that fibre remains in the bottled, finished product.  Dried elderberries can also be added to cakes, muffins, sauces and jams to increase their fibre content.

-      Elderberry syrup has been used for centuries to ward off and treat colds, coughs and flu. It boasts anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and works a treat… hence it sticking around for so long.

-      High in both vitamins A and C, elderberries are a great addition to your diet if you’re looking to improve the health and appearance of your skin.

-      Elderberries have anti-inflammatory properties and can help to reduce swelling in mucous membranes such as your sinuses, helping to reduce nasal congestion, aka the sniffles!

Is it achievable to eat 30 different plant species in a week, in order to nurture a healthy gut?

HealthAlana Holloway
Fruit and vegetables

Instagram can be a wonderful place, can’t it?!  One of my favourite people to follow is Dr Megan Rossi, aka @theguthealthdoctor.  She shares a wealth of ‘no bullsh*t’ gut health related information, demystifies studies and debunks media articles which I just LOVE to read!

One of her recent posts posed the question: is a vegan diet healthier for your gut than a non-vegan diet?  She often asks these questions as polls in stories.  I answered ‘no’ but was pretty sure the answer to this one wouldn’t be a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  I was right! Whilst a vegan diet isn’t necessarily healthier for your gut (vegan doesn’t always mean healthy), a focus on plant-based foods is.   Your gut microbiome relies on a variety of foods to build a diverse community and in gut terms, diverse = strong and health and Dr Megan Rossi’s recommended weekly target is 30. That’s 30 different plant species throughout the week.   

The Gut Health Doctor

Is that achievable?* A combination of precious kitchen space, weekly - rather than daily - shops, bulk cooking/meal prep, busy schedules and small households means it’s all too easy to fall into a routine of eating the same (or very similar) foods, every day.  When you cook a big meal on a Sunday, the likelihood is that you’ll be eating that same meal for lunch/dinner for the next 2–3 days.  When you buy a bunch of bananas, at least one of your 2-3 daily pieces of fruit is going to be – you guessed it - a banana!  You get the gist, I’m sure.  So, I decided to record the plant foods I ate for a week, to see if I was anywhere near hitting the target.  Honestly, I wasn’t so sure that I was going to, for all of the reasons listed above. I, like many others, have been so busy thinking about what I eat in a day (am I getting my RDA of fruit and veggies, fibre, protein, etc?) that I really wasn’t paying too much attention to how that panned out as the week went on.  

Here’s how I got on (‘<’ means a very small amount of something):

Day 1
Basmati rice

Day 2
Chia seeds
Hemp seeds

Day 3
Chia seeds
Sweet potato
Red onion

Day 4
Red pepper
Sweet potato

Day 5
White rice noodles
Fresh coriander
Tofu (soy)
Spring onion

Day 6
Salad leaves
Sweet potato

Day 7
Sweet potato

Wow, day 7 was a good day!!  Jokes aside, all in all, I ate 43 different plant species.  I was really careful not to fudge the results by doing anything different than my norm and am pleasantly surprised.  Looking back, what I think helped me achieve the target was making dishes where I could sneak in extra ingredients, such as the crumble I made at the beginning of the week (the topping alone contained 5 different plant species), or the savoury veggie pancakes I had towards the end (the fillings were very veg heavy).  I could’ve varied my grains/legumes a bit more, so will make a note of that for the future.  Over the winter, I’ll make sure to pack my stews and curries with veggies and grains and I’ll be interested to give it another go to see if the results are at all similar.  

If you fancy giving this a go, please share the results with me over on Instagram @fermentedbylab – let’s raise the awareness of this weekly target and all help each other achieve a more diverse gut microbiome!

*Megan does recommend just adding one extra plant food to your week if 30 seems unachievable.

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Three Years On: How I Keep My Eczema at Bay After Overcoming TSW

HealthAlana Holloway
Alana Holloway

Discovering the root cause of a health issue is often a complex task that needs to be approached from different angles.  I've been asked a few times about what else I do - outside of the fermented food/gut health arena - to ensure my skin stays healthy, so I thought I'd create a blog post to consolidate it all.

As many of you may have read, fermented foods and improving my gut health were key to me healing from TSA/TSW (Topical Steroid Addiction/Topical Steroid Withdrawal). They were, and still are, the cornerstone of how I manage my eczema - medication free - in a more natural and holistic way.

Eczema is now considered an auto-immune disease. Autoimmune means that certain triggers cause your immune system to attack certain cells in the body.   I’ve come to realise that eczema is something that will always be in the background and can even be put into remission, but that in order to maintain healthy skin, I need to follow certain diet and lifestyle choices. Here’s a list of the tools I’ve compiled over the years to keep my eczema at bay;

- Eat/drink something fermented every day!
-Plenty of fibre in my diet. Fibre is fuel for gut bacteria.
-Eat lots of plant foods!
- Yoga as much as I can.  To get my blood flowing, system moving and mind calm.
- Daily 10 minute meditation.  Stress has such a huge impact on my health and my skin.  I find the Calm App to be best suited to me.
- A water softener as I live in such a hard water area.
- Early to bed and sleep for 8-9 hours every night, although this is a constant work in progress!
- Natural skin products and no make-up (natural make up for when I have to!) I’ve actually now started making my own.
- Limited/no alcohol.  I've tried natural wines but find I wake the next morning more inflamed than I'd like. 
- Plenty of water throughout the day and herbal teas depending on my mood.
- Limited sugar.  I tried totally sugar free for a while but am only human and missed treats!  Saying that, I stick to the more unrefined sugars and try to keep my consumption below the RDA.

Diet wise, I do avoid cow's dairy and gluten as they tend not to sit well with me (although I've recently been experimenting with sourdough), and am mindful of my consumption of goat's dairy as it can make my skin feel 'damp/clammy' (you'll know what I mean if you suffer with eczema)  I've found what works for me and do experiment from time to time.   The wellness world can be so black and white about what's 'good' and 'bad' for you.  It doesn't allow for exceptions to rules and that can cloud judgement.  For example; I've found that I'm absolutely fine with ghee but not with butter.  In essence, they're kind of the same thing but the way in which ghee is made makes it tolerable.   My point here is: don't be too strict when it comes to food and food groups.  Experiment, test and keep an open mind.

Lastly, over the past couple of years, I've been taking more interest in Ayurveda.  It's something I've only recently started incorporating into my daily life but find it really helps.  I've found it a really gentle and sympathetic way to approach my health, making tweaks here and there when I need to.  I would really recommend looking into it.

I really hope the helps some of you on your quest to better health.  As always, please feel free to ask any questions either in the comments below or by emailing me.

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What Alana Eats in a Day to Keep Her Gut in Good Health

Alana Holloway
Abundance Bowl

This was originally published on the Pollen + Grace blog, as part of their Food Diary series.  Read on to find out what and how our Founder, Alana eats to keep her gut in good health.

Approach to food: I love to eat intuitively, according to the seasons… not only that, but according to the weather and how I’m feeling on any given day.  After a lifelong battle with eczema, I have now found the key to managing it with the right foods for my body, and a complimentary lifestyle, too.  I like to maintain a balanced, healthy gut and so eat/drink ferments every day… just as well I run a company that makes them!

Food Diary:


I tend to start day with about a pint of warm water. I really find it gives me immediate energy following sleep.  I’m really not a lover of cold water, so will always drink it at room temperature or warm/hot. 

I usually have breakfast about 10.30 as I struggle to eat too early in the morning.  I like to allow my body time to build up a good hunger!  Now that Spring is here, I’ve swapped my porridge for smoothies.  This morning’s is organic cooked beetroot (I cook up a batch and then freeze it for smoothies), organic frozen strawberries from last Summer, a green banana, which is a great source of prebiotic fibre, coconut yoghurt, goats milk Kefir for the all-important probiotics, Plenish cashew milk (my favourite) and a little raw honey for a some more prebiotic love! I also take an omega 3 supplement; generally speaking, I’m not a massive supplement advocate and prefer to get what I need from my diet, but as I am prone to really dry skin, I find this one helps.  

I grab a small handful of Brazil nuts as I head out the door.

At 1pm I have a chunk of goats Gouda and another pint on warm water whilst waiting for my lunch to cook.  I can tell it’s going to be a hungry day for me today! 

At 1.30, I have a lunch of sliced avocado roasted chickpeas with nigella seeds, soft boiled egg, roasted sweet potato, Fennel + Lemon Kraut from the Fermented by LAB Spring Collection, steamed broccoli & kale.

3.30 small glass of Kombucha as I need a bit of a kick!

At 7pm I have dinner - it's lentil Dahl with Carrot + Coriander Kraut from last year’s Autumn Box (one of my favourite things about fermenting foods is getting to eat them months later!)

I drink a Golden Mylk before bed and soak some oats for tomorrow morning’s porridge… I mentioned Spring too early and hear it’s due to snow tomorrow!


10am - I start the day with two huge mugs of warm/hot water again and follow it with the porridge I soaked last night.  I always soak my grains/pulses/legumes to make them easier on my digestive system. My porridge toppings are roasted rhubarb, coconut yoghurt, a little raw honey and some chopped Brazil’s. 

3pm - Lunch is a chunk of goat’s milk Gouda (I can’t get enough of it!) and roasted broccoli, carrot, fennel, sweet potato and nigella seeds with a soft-boiled egg (again!)  Despite it being the weekend, I’m working and need something easy to cook which doesn’t require too much thought!

5pm - I have a bottle of Red Grapefruit + Rosemary Kefir from the Spring Box.  I’m lucky enough to be able to delve into a good selection of seasonal ferments… it means I don’t get bored with eating the same Kraut all the time!

7pm - I try to stop eating by 8pm so that I can give my digestive system a break overnight.  As I had a late lunch, I’m not overly hungry so make a beetroot, carrot (both cooked and frozen), blackcurrant, green banana and goats kefir smoothie and have a mug of chicken bone broth.

I drink a small Golden Milk just before bed.  They really relax me and as I have a history of eczema, find they really help keep my inflammation at bay.

Best piece of advice about health + wellbeing?

Don’t search for all the answers in one place.  Every day, I try to remind myself that it’s not just about a healthy diet, a good exercise regimen, good quality sleep or daily meditation practice, for example, it’s a combination of all of them that allows you to live your healthiest and happiest life.

Red Grapefruit + Rosemary Kefir

Red Grapefruit + Rosemary Kefir

Ingredient Spotlight: Health Benefits of Cabbage

Ingredient Spotlight, HealthAlana Holloway
Health benefits of cabbage

Cabbage, on the surface, is probably one of the most boring vegetables around. Unlike its celebrity cousins, kale and broccoli (all part of the brassica family), it often gets disregarded as smelly and bland. But I LOVE IT! Without cabbage, my beloved Kraut wouldn’t be what it is, so it only seems right to celebrate it every once in a while.

⁃           We’re now realising that, on the whole, our diets fall way short of the RDA of fibre. Not only is cabbage a great source of fibre, studies have found that raw cabbage juice has been found to help cure stomach ulcers.  All the more reason to drink that Kraut brine!

⁃           I’ve already mentioned it’s ‘superfood’ cousins kale and broccoli, which are well renowned for being high in antioxidants. Well if you fancy a change up, grab a cabbage which has its own array of the inflammation reducing, brain boosting powerhouses.

⁃           Cabbage is already a great source of vitamin K, but when eaten in its fermented form, it helps to support our gut flora in producing Vitamin K2.  A deficiency in K2 increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer.

A bit like marmalade, I like my Kraut somewhere in between thick and thin cut, providing the perfect bite! How do you like yours?

Ingredient Spotlight: Health Benefits of Rosemary

Ingredient SpotlightAlana Holloway

You'll know if you've followed LAB for a while that one of the most joyful parts of developing the recipes is getting to research the ingredients.  Not only are they chosen for their flavour, but for their health benefits, too.  I asked Claire, one of LAB's most devoted customers to have a look into the hardy herb and report back.  Over to you Claire...

To be perfectly honest, up until now I had never thought of Rosemary in terms of anything other than culinary as it is very frequently added to meat and fish dishes; so to increase my awareness of the many health benefits of this wonderfully aromatic herb,  and because it  is being used alongside red grapefruit in this season’s Kefir, I would like to share with you a few of the reasons we are so excited about it:

My knowledge of this herb is that it is a very hardy member of the lavender family and grows prolifically in well-drained soil and is often planted alongside thyme.  Therefore its floral fragrance provides a sense of nostalgia for anyone whose parents cultivated a herb garden or patch.  The scent of Rosemary always reminds me of the family Sunday Roast when lamb was that week’s joint as I would stab the joint deeply all over and poke in slices of garlic with a sprig of Rosemary before seasoning and popping into the oven.  Only yesterday I was at my daughter’s for Easter Sunday and it was so comforting to watch her do the same thing exactly when she was roasting the lamb.

What I didn’t know until today, was how Rosemary is used in herbal and holistic medicine and that when we add it either internally or externally, there are many ways in which we are helping to combat some health issues.  For instance, did you know that amongst many other things:

·     Rosemary is a powerful antioxidant. Its properties also have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory benefits and have even been shown to ease allergies ~ a good reason to increase your intake during the hay fever season!

·     Rosemary is a good source of fibre and vitamins A, B & E, copper, potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium and iron.

·     The best thing I have discovered about Rosemary today is that not only does its intake improve memory and concentration, but current research into Alzheimer’s disease has shown, although a cure for the disease is not yet on the horizon, that two compounds of Rosemary, namely rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, have been found to enhance the production of nerve protein structures responsible for the survival and repair of nerve cells and to protect brain cells from plaque ~ now considered to be one of the main causes of  Alzheimer’s disease. 

It would be impossible to list all the benefits of Rosemary in this blog, but for now, just try rubbing a leaf between your thumb and forefinger some time; and then inhale deeply.  I always find it gives me an incredible sense of well-being and comfort.

Finding The Motivation to Eat Well for Your Health

HealthAlana Holloway
Fermented by LAB team lunch

Fermented by LAB team lunch

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted on this blog - so much to do and so little time!  We’ve been having a blast backstage at LAB.  Alana has been working hard on developing the Spring flavours and I can’t wait to taste-test!  Alana and I call the day we package your fabulous ferments and send them out to you ‘Boxing Day’, but we often find it doubles up as ‘Therapy Day’ as we end up talking the hind legs off a donkey and putting the world to rights.  I cook lunch for us and bring it along to headquarters, usually a hearty soup or a reviving curry (with a generous serving of a complementary ferment, of course!).  After the obligatory high five when your boxes have been collected by our courier, we sit down, take a deep breath and relax.  I’ve got to say, working with my sisters is brilliant.  I am the eldest of three.  Alana is in the middle and our youngest sister is Georgina.  Georgina is currently working on her own contribution to LAB, which we hope will help spread the word about what we do.  We’ve all worked together one way or another before and I love that we can do that.  I strongly believe that having a support network as strong as we do is a huge factor in our potential to achieve, keeping us motivated.  Which leads me to the subject of today’s post-  motivation!

It’s remarkable how much motivation we can find for something that we want to do.  Whether it’s getting dressed up to go out or saving money towards a holiday in the sun, we can often dig deep when there’s a dangling carrot to spur us on.  Why then, is it so difficult to be motivated to eat well when the dangling carrot is good health?  You’d think that feeling good would be the ultimate reward, yet millions of us fall in to the trap of eating something quick and easy that doesn’t always satisfy our body’s nutritional needs.  We’re pre-programmed to enjoy high calorie foods.  Primitively, this helped us to survive when access to food wasn’t guaranteed .  With processed and fast food readily available today, our need for convenience often leads us to grab a sandwich from a petrol station or order a pizza.  The result?  A calorific intake is achieved, but our bodies haven’t necessarily been nourished.  

What we eat is fundamental to not only our body weight, but energy levels, ability to fight infection and disease, emotional well-being and ultimately, how long we live.  Most of us have tried various diets and with the media advertising the latest way to lose weight at the appropriate times of year (after Christmas, the lead up to summer for a ‘Bikini body’), we’re spoilt for choice.  Food is everywhere.  Deep down, we all know that eating healthily is as simple as these seven words.  “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mainly plants.” (Pollan, 2016).  Whilst true, this doesn’t provide the specifics on how to do so, or, equally importantly, how to want to do so. 

I am my own worst enemy when it comes to what I eat.  A self-confessed chocoholic and cheese addict, I find myself reaching for these things when I’m in need of comfort.  During the past 2 years, I think I’ve changed what ‘comfort food’ means in my head.  As I discussed in last August’s post, I started eating fermented foods by becoming Alana’s guinea pig!  I rapidly noticed an improvement in my mood, reduction in symptoms of my Endometriosis, clearer skin and the list goes on.  Fermented food and drink has acted as a bit of a ‘lightbulb moment’ for me.  I eat/drink it, I feel better.  I am comforted.  It is my healthy comfort food!  It has made me think twice about my food choices.  I recognise now that when I eat unhealthily I am actually sabotaging my chances of feeling good (read ‘Love What You Eat: Choosing Foods That Will Change Your Life’ by Nicholette M. Martin MDHC – so helpful!).

Many of us find things easier to manage step by step.  I’m one of those people!  My first step to eating for health was to eat a portion of fermented food or drink every day.  My second step was to drink more water.  My third step, to ensure that half of my plate of food contained vegetables.  I’m working on the fourth step (reducing my chocolate intake)!  I don’t get it right every day, but I do know why I’m doing it.  I want to feel good!  So far, I’ve found that changing how I think about ‘comfort food’ has helped motivate me to eat for better health.  What helps to motivate you?


Does Fermented Food + Drink Help Reduce Body Fat?

HealthAlana Holloway

Metabolic disease is a modern, umbrella term for a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. Those effected are at a significantly greater risk of heart disease, stroke and other blood vessel illnesses.  According to the NHS, one in four Brits are known to have metabolic disease (in one form or another) and while we all know that leading a healthier lifestyle reduces the risk, you will be pleased to know that ferments also help along the way!