Redwood Fairy Herbs & Ferments
Sylvie Dore, owner and creator of Redwood Fairy Herbs & Ferments, provides our community with nourishing powerhouses like her famous Elderberry Elixir, Chaga Chai, and fermented kimchi. Sylvie believes businesses can support a better future for all and is committed to using eco-friendly packaging material, sourcing top-quality ingredients from small businesses, and building a healthy food community. Find her products at the Ketchum and Hailey farmers' markets, NourishMe, and through Kraay's Market and Garden.
We caught up with Sylvie to learn more about her background and food philsophy:
LFA: Explain your evolution as a locavore.
SD: Through my job at NourishMe, I’ve been privileged with access to fresh local greens and vegetables and been able to meet some of the farmers that deliver weekly. Over the years, I’ve slowly increased how much of my diet comes from locally produced food, as I’ve noticed that the usual extra cost does equal higher nutrients, better flavor, and the salad greens stay fresh and crisp way longer, minimizing spoilage. Also, considering some of the world and national economic uncertainty, I feel it is smart to invest in local food production for our long-term security and resiliency here in our region.
LFA: When did you become interested in the healing power of local and wild plants?
SD: Wandering in the woods looking at plants has always been a hobby, ever since I lived in a Redwood forest on the UC Santa Cruz campus and literally hiked to all my classes! I’ve always had a compulsion to eat wild plants (once safely identified of course) and I think it started purely as an instinct. But now, having had a decade consuming wild foods and herbs when available I can say with certainty that it results in profound health benefits for me. My experience has been increased vitality and energy, a feeling of being deeply nourished and satisfied, less cravings for sugar and junk, and a sense of grounding and connection to the land that I live on.
LFA: When and how did you start foraging?
SD: I didn’t start expending a lot of time and effort foraging honestly until I moved to Idaho 11 years ago. In California, I often ate clover leaves and miner’s lettuce or munched on turkeytail mushrooms during hikes. But alas, poison oak was absolutely everywhere, and after several “encounters,” I started sticking to the paths. I was also very concerned with pollution and overharvesting, which is a serious problem in high-density areas. Once I moved here I discovered that plants considered highly endangered elsewhere were actually not in trouble at all in Idaho, and of course poison oak is also not an issue so my foraging really took off!
LFA: Explain the advantages of eating fermented foods.
SD: Oh, where do I start??? I would say the main three advantages are gut health, bioavailability of nutrients, and convenience and money efficiency. 1) Digestion truly is the foundation of health. If your body doesn’t absorb nutrients, then the healthy food you are eating is a waste of time and money! How well you break it down and draw the molecules into your blood is of primary importance to the health of all other organ systems. 2) My line of sauerkraut is made completely from raw vegetables, and there is no cooking used in the process at all. That means all the nutrients are preserved, and in addition to this, the bacteria break down the plant cell walls and “eat” the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables. This makes the nutrients incredibly bioavailable, as the process transforms them into molecules we can easily use and absorb. And 3) being able to keep a jar of raw, LIVE food, bursting with flavor, nutrients, and fiber in your refrigerator for months, ready to eat directly with a fork or added to meals that are lacking freshness and life is so incredibly valuable! The convenience factor for me as a single mom of being able to add a “fresh” raw vegetable to a meal without needing to wash or prepare it, saving me from needing a fresh veggie available at all times, has been a lifesaver. I also know for a fact that I have saved a lot of money avoiding vegetables going to waste in the crisper drawer because I don’t need to buy as much on shopping trips. The sauerkraut delivers such a high-density nutrients, it only takes approximately a tablespoon to equal what you get in a large salad. This also makes it a more appropriate fall/winter/spring seasonal food then eating large amounts of energetically “cold” raw greens in our more extreme climate. Because sour foods are slightly heating, sauerkraut can be balanced with raw vegetables during the summer.
LFA: What are some examples of products in your Redwood Fairy Herbs & Ferments line?
SD: My original product is Sylvie’s Elderberry Elixir that I make through a triple extraction process. First the berries soak in brandy for several months, then are pressed by hand to extract the raw juice, and finally boiled in water with Idaho honey added last to make a strong syrup. Elderberry is incredibly effective at stopping viruses from replicating so it both prevents AND treats colds, flus and any other viral infection. Word has spread through the valley that this is THE remedy during the winter to keep on hand to stay healthy and well!
Other elixirs include an Orange-Vanilla Dandelion Digestive Bitters and a Hawthorn Heart Tonic for overall cardiovascular health and energetic heart healing. Like the Elderberry Elixir, they both combine ethically wildcrafted local herbs, organically grown herbs, fruit extracts, and local Idaho honey.
I have also recently expanded my product line with some herbal tea blends. The caffeine-free Chaga Chai Tea Mix is completely herbal, and as healthy and good for you as it is delicious. I also have a Calm & Elevate Tea blend that combines Holy Basil, Skullcap, Cinnamon, Orange peel and Hibiscus and makes an amazing iced tea in the summer.
And of course my flavorful sauerkrauts : Curry Cauliflower, Pink Kraut, Apple-Fennel, and KimChi, all made with 100% organic vegetables, lots of fresh ginger, and love!
LFA: Where can people find your products?
SD: Right now I have my full line of products available for sale at NourishMe Health Food and Café on Main Street in Ketchum, and through Kraay’s Market and Garden online. I will have my booth at both the Ketchum and Hailey Farmer’s Markets again this summer so make sure to stop by and say hi! I’m also hoping to expand to Atkinson’s Markets soon.
LFA: Why is packaging your products with eco-friendly material important to you?
SD: When I started shopping around for different packaging options I quickly faced the reality that as a business, my decisions would have massive impact on both the environment as well as other businesses that could possibly follow my lead in the future. As a consumer that has been trying to reduce my reliance on the use of plastic, actually spending money to purchase it not only felt discordant, it seemed outright wrong. My consumers would have to bear the burden of disposing of the packaging I chose, and I wanted them to be able to feel good that purchasing from me meant no addition to the landfills. I also did not want to support companies using GMO corn, because of cross-contamination concerns in farm fields and the ethical problem of growing food for packaging instead of eating. It was not easy or quick, but I eventually did find a company that produces completely compostable “plastic” bags made from discarded wood pulp. These actually decompose on their own in a backyard pile as opposed to needing an industrial composting facility (which is not available in our region). I have also recently sourced a bioplastic/starch cup made from non-gmo plants. It has been incredibly difficult and time-consuming trying to find real alternatives that are actually eco-friendly but I feel it is my responsibility. I hope I can inspire other companies to look at alternatives with my example and therefore increase the positive impact of my choices!
LFA: What’s your favorite locally sourced and seasonally inspired meal?
SD: My absolute favorite is Agrarian Farms sausage, kale from the Sage School, and my Pink Kraut! I cook the sausage first in a pan, then cook the kale in the drippings and top it all with a generous scoop of kraut. Perfection in any season! If it’s winter or really cold outside I do usually add Idaho potatoes and Picabo Desert plain goat yogurt if I’ve got it.
LFA: How can community members best support local food artisans like you?
SD: For those of us vendors that sell directly to consumers at farmers’ markets, visiting us and buying regularly is the absolute best! I also love hearing your feedback, your favorite ways to use my products, and when you take the time to post about it on social media. It’s that kind of positivity and support that keeps me going through all the obstacles and hurdles.
LFA: Who is your food hero?
SD: That would definitely be Julie Johnson, owner of NourishMe! Julie has held an amazing vision for the last decade of building food security and health resilience for the residents of the Wood River Valley, and her store has persevered and built a dedicated and loyal customer base. She has created a hub for local food in the valley, and wholeheartedly supports local farmers and food businesses, working with tiny margins to keep local products as affordable as possible. Julie hired me in 2013 and encouraged me to teach fermentation and herbal classes at the store, because she firmly believes education is such a key component of her mission to bring health, nourishment, and traditional cooking skills to our community. My company would not exist if it wasn’t for those opportunities to teach and hone my craft under her wing. She has helped and supported me through almost every step of my journey as a local food entrepreneur, whether as a role model, advisor, or literally buying me bottles so I could sell my Elderberry Elixir its very first year in 2014. That’s as much of a “food sHERO” as I can imagine!
LFA: What change would you like to see in the Wood River Valley in terms of food?
SD: A local food hub in Hailey! A community kitchen-type space where we can come together and cook meals or exchange locally grown surpluses from our gardens, and build community connections in the process.