This is an extract from Dr. Han Kyu Cho’s Korean Natural Farming Handbook p.106-p.121. Some slight editing has taken place to make the material more readable.
Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ)
1. What is FPJ?
Generally plants are composed of blood, chlorophyll and fiber. Plus, there are about 100, ooo to 150, 000 microorganisms per 1cm3 of leaf. Most of them are lactic acid bacteria and yeast.
Fermented plant juice (FPJ) is a fermented extract of the plant’s blood and chlorophylls. Brown sugar is used to extract the essence through osmotic pressure. Therefore, FPJ is a rich enzyme solution full of these bacteria; invigorating plants and animals.
It is interesting to note that chlorophylls don’t dissolve in water or oil but in weak alcohol. Microorganisms in the process of fermentation of making FPJ produce small quantities of alcohol; extracting the chlorophyll.
FPJ and Kimchi
Kimchi have enjoyed kimchi (korean style pickled vegetables) for hundreds of years. Kimchi, which is made by adding variety of spices and condiments to vegetables, is not only a food source rich in nutrition, but also helps digestion. Abundant lactic acid bacteria in the kimchi soup do this job. That is why Koreans will begin their meal with a spoonful of kimchi juice.
Some smart farmers tried to apply kimchi in farming. My father was one. My father never threw away left over kimchi juice, which is very sour, but instead always poured it into a container filled with human faeces and added water. He then used it as fertilizer and so the crops grew healthy and strong.
This got me to thinking that ‘if human faeces treated with kimchi juice is good for crops, why not use the kimchi juice directly? So I did some experimentation and applied diluted kimchi juice directly to the growing of crops. I tested to see whether hot pepper seeds dipped in old kimchi sauce would germinate. So I dipped the hot pepper seeds in kimchi juice for a while, sowed the seeds and observed the effects. The result were much better than I had expected. Preparing the seeds by dipping them in kimchi juice meant that even old seeds sprouted and all the plants were healthy. The success of my experiments led me to use other plants for kimchi ingredients and FPJ is the eventual result. In essence it’s the same process to make FPJ as kimchi, except that salt has been replaced with brown sugar.
Mugwort and Dropwort
The two basic FPJs come from these two plants; Mugwort (Artemisia Vulgaris) and Dropwort (Filipendula Vulgaris). My inspiration for using these two plants came from my Korean ancestors use for these plants. It was a traditional practice in Korea for women who had just given birth to bathe in a broth of mugwort water. Indeed it is written in the “Dong Eui Bo Gam”, Korea’s great medical encyclopaedia, that mugwort is also known as the “lady’s plant” and that it was good for women.
After some studies of my own it became clear why this should be the case. Mugwort is rich in iron while Dropwort is rich in manganese. The iron in Mugwort thus supplements a woman’s supply of iron, which is depleted during menstruation or after she has given birth. Manganese on the other hand stimulates the peripheral nervous system, which promotes cell division, allowing wounds, such as those sustained in a difficult birth, to heal more quickly. However as trace elements iron and manganese are not only important for humans but also for plants. Therefore it occurred to me that extracting these micronutrients from these plants and applying both to my crops would produce good results.
The best ingredients are everywhere
Once again I should emphasize that the Korean Natural Farming philosophy strongly recommends that farmers produce their agro inputs themselves rather than purchasing them from the market. As we have everything we need close to hand to make other inputs ourselves so it is with FPJ.
All things created by nature are imbued with energy and plants are are no exception. Plants overflowing with energy are all around us. We can utilize a variety of weeds, crop remnants and wild plants from the mountains and the sea as the ingredients when making FPJ. Any vigorously healthy plant is good.
When making FPJ plants choosing plants which grow first in the spring or remain green longest in late fall/autumn are particularly good ingredients. Fast growing bamboo shoots and arrowroots are likewise good. In southern tropical areas banana, mango, kangkong and bapoom are vigorous and strong. Addtionally, the lateral buds of all plants contain hign concentrations of growth hormones, which is excellent for FPJ.
2. What to collect
It is recommended that you collect that are strong against the cold and which grow vigorously when spring arrives such as Mugwort and Dropwort. Both plants are abundant in Korea but are found everywhere. Mugwort endures both heat and cold. Herbicide weakens it for a while but it shrugs the effects off quickly. We want to transfer this innate strength to our crops. Koreans traditionally used Mugwort for numerous purposes, including cooking, medicines and baths. Dropwort is also readily available. As a medicine it alleviates fever, promotes urination and is full of calcium and manganese, which promotes good blood circulation and stimulates the peripheral nervous system. Dropwort will provide the similar benefits to crops if they are sprayed with Dropwort FPJ. Therefore farmers should always have mugwort FPJ and dropwort FPJ ready.
Fast Growing and Vigorous
When making FPJ it is important that your ingredients come from plants which grow quickly. Quick growing plants have growth hormones which are very active, and these plants have a lot of energy. This characteristic can improve weakness in your crops and help your plants recover from health problems.
Bamboo shoots are a typical example. You can almost see the shoots growing after the rain they grow so quickly. And because they grow so quickly you have to be quick when you are picking them. You shoudl remove the soil but not the outer skin. Bamboo shoot FPJ, like MUgwort FPJ and Dropwort FPJ can be used to increase vegetative growth when diseases weaken crops.
Some other plants, beside bamboo shoots, which are great ingredients for FPJ include cucumber, strawberry and kiwi. With cucumbers the lateral buds are used. A cucumber grows from1 gram to 10 grams in just 10 days. However, it is weak against cold or disease. During the last part of the harvest season you should cut about 50cm up from the root system and then hang the cucumber stem upside down in a bottle so that the cucumber juice flows out and is collected. This cucumber juice is also good for facial care. It is said that the juice can be stored for up to three years with the juice retaining it’s original quality, without discoloring or losing its flavor.
All FPJ ingredients have a particular season for their collection. This is also true for sea plants. For example, seaweed is best collected between March and April. If you cannot obtain a sufficient amount in one season prepare a lot in the previous year. Note that FPJ made in spring is used throughout the year so make plenty to ensure you don’t run out. It is also recommended that use wild plants that have lived in the local area for generations. These wild plants, available in large quantities, will be vigorous and full of energy which is the key to making good FPJ.
FPJ from the same plant
Apart from FPJ sourced from wild plants we can also used FPJ sourced from the plant we mean to benefit. We give back to the plant what it has produced. You can use what otherwise would have been waste, tomato lateral buds and leaves, squash and sweet potato vines, crops eaten by insects or overgrown, picked fruits or buds, unmarketable and other agricultural byproducts.
3. How to collect
Avoid excessive sunshine and rainfall
If the day is clear due to the hot rays of the sun, then the moisture level of the plants may be low. When the moisture level is low osmotic pressure might fail to extract the juice even if you add more brown sugar. If the hot weather continues but you really have to make FPJ you should water the plant one day prior to collection.
You should also avoid picking plants during or immediately after rainfall because rain washes away the lactic acid bacteria and yeast on the leaves. If you make FPJ at this time the juice can become sticky and thick and won’t ferment well. This is also why you should not wash the ingredients before fermentation. Picking plants two days after a rain shower is recommended. The reason for this is microorganisms have been washed away on the rainy day and haven’t had time to re-establish themselves the following day. However after 2 days without rain they are once again present in heavy concentrations. This is a good time to pick ingredients as the plant is full of moisture.
Just before sunrise
Plants should be collected just before sunrise as this is when the plants have the most nutrients. Plants have two metabolic processes; anabolism and catabolism. When the sun is up, anabolism is primary; from about 3pm to the next sunrise, catabolism is active. This means that in the early morning just before sunrise the plants contain the most nutrients and vitality. Plants with dew on them also give you more volume. In all cases it is best to make FPJ as soon as possible after picking the plants.
Visit the site prior to any expedition
It is usually a good idea to visit the site where you are going to pick plants during daylight hours since finding plants in the darkness before dawn will otherwise involve a great deal of difficulty. Local knowledge is also of benefit. For example if the coming season is the season of the clematis berries then you should have already noted where they will fruit from the previous year.
I should also mention that Natural Farming techniques work best when performed by the husband and wife in partnership. This is due to the fact that women tend to be more careful and particular when gathering the necessary ingredients for NF inputs.
Make your wife crazy about Natural Farming! If you do then everything will work out very smoothly. You will be able to practice natural farming well and have plenty of plants in storage. Natural Farming is something that a married couple can have fun doing together.
Since mugwort and dropwort is needed every year it is a good idea to plant a small amount of each plant in your field. Mugwort and dropwort are both very prolific plants so they will grow well when planted and you won’t have to travel far to obtain them.
Quickly snap the growing point
You should pick the growing point for making FPJ. Opinions differ on how far below the growing point to cut. If you cut far down from the growing point you will get obtain a great quantity of material but the growing point portion will be small.
For cucumbers, it is best to cut about 10cm down from the growing point. However it is difficult to obtain sufficient quantity for processing with 10cm so some people cut 20cm down from the growing point.
It is best to use the picked plants immediately. As soon as you pick the plants its liveliness and energy begins to diminish. If you wait too long before processing the plants will start to dry out. If you try to make FPJ with dried out plants you will only be able to extract a small quantity of juice.
Immediate use is problematic when one must go into the deep forest to obtain, for example wild grapes or wild clematis, since bringing your plant cuttings back home will take some time. Under these circumstances you should take some FPJ with you. When you pick the fruits dip them lightly in FPJ as this will form a film on the surface of the fruit preventing the escape of nutrients and energy.
Some notes on materials
You should use either a clay pot or a wooden container made from Japanese cedar. Avoid using stainless steel, iron or plastics.
A clay pot is good because it is not prone to temperature changes, particularly in summer. However the disadvantage of a clay pot is that when it is large it is very heavy and difficult to move or wash after use. Therefore choose a jar which is not too heavy to manage. A jar with a small opening is also good since less air will contact the juice and this will promote fermentation. Another reason for a small opening is that when the liquid rises to the top and all the ingredients are fully soaked, the liquid should rise above the level of the ingredients. If this does not occur then the surface will become dry and encrusted and fungus may appear.
For Japanese cedar containers sizes between 18L and 36L are adequate. It is also convenient to use a wine barrel with an outlet valve at the bottom since this makes retrieving the solution easier.
It is also a good idea if you have jars and containers of different sizes as different FPJs may require different container sizes. To practice NF properly, you will need 5-10 containers of various sizes. Most of the other inputs will also need containers.
If you cannot obtain a clay pot or a cedar barrel you may use glass or plastic containers though the quality of the NF input will not be as good.
Finally, do not forget to shade glass containers with black cloth or paper, since the rays of the sun should be blocked.
Large amounts of brown sugar are used for making FPJ. Remember that when the ingredients have a lot of moisture (as in summer citrus fruits, fruits, flowers etc.) you will need to use more brown sugar. Generally the amount of usgar you need to use is 1/3 to 1/2 the weight of the ingredients. When using ingredients with a lot of moisture you should use 1/2. Should you be using Philippine crude sugar, you will need to add still more.
If it is totally impossible to obtain brown sugar then you may use white sugar. However, since white sugar has been refined it contains fewer vitamins and minerals. Consequently, the fermentation process will be different and the FPJ will be of low quality.
Even better than brown sugar is crude sugar. You can also mixed sun dried salt with sugar, though refined white salt should be avoided. Molasses is unsuitable as it contains too much water and so is not good for generating osmotic pressure.
Using a stone weight to extract air
After putting all the ingredients into a container you will need to use a stone, or similar weight, to extract the air. Since the plant juices are extracted by osmotic pressure, not by physical pressure some compression is needed to bring the the brown sugar and the ingredients into close contact. Place a stone on top of the ingredients, the size of which will vary according to the thickness of the ingredients and their sugar content.
Alternatively, you can use a plastic bag filled with water. This method has the advantage of spreading the weight evenly over the surface and perfectly adhering to the plant material. The disadvantage is that you must ensure that the bag does not get ripped. So you should use thick plastic bags, or place one bag inside another.
The weight should be removed after the air has been extracted; maybe after a day.
A cover is needed to prevent insects getting in. Porous paper is ideal as the cover must let air in and out. Newspaper is not good because of their surface ink. You may use cloth but it is easy for small animals to get in and for dust to accumulate in wrinkles in the fabric.
Don’t forget to write the preparation dates and the ingredients on the paper as you will need this information.
5. How to make FPJ
1. Collect the ingredients.
2. Shake the dirt off the ingredients but do not wash the ingredients as you will also wash away the microorganisms. If the size of the plant material is too unwieldy cut them into 5-10cm pieces. Doing this will increase the surface contact area and promote the action of osmotic pressure.
Note! Always remember not to mix different kinds of ingredients in one container. The rule is one ingredient to one container.
3. Measure the weight of the plant ingredients. Measure the weight of brown sugar. The weight of brown sugar should be between 1/3 and 1/2 the weight of the plant ingredients. You should adjust the amount of brown sugar to take into account the moisture of the plant materials you are using.
4. Put all the ingredients, plant material and brown sugar, into a large wide container and mix it altogether with your hands. When the ingredients are fully mixed, cover with a newspaper and leave it for 1-2 hours.
5. Put all the ingredients into a clay pot. The ingredients should fill about 3/4 of the jar, not too much less or too much more. This 1/4 space is not useless, rather it is the required amount of space for air to react with the ingredients to the correct degree.
6. Place the weight (stone or puncture resistant plastic bag filled with water) on top of the ingredients.
7. Put on the cover (Ian: presumably paper) and tie it onto the jar.
8. Remove the weight after one or two days; after the air has been expelled from the ingredients. Put the cover back on.
9. Place the the jar in a cool, shaded place. Do not open, move or stir the ingredients while fermentation is taking place.
If the juice is not extracted well you can add sun-dried salt. Doing this will promote extraction, though it will also make the final product unfit for human consumption. When you use salt make sure the amount you use does not exceed 1/3 of the amount of brown sugar you used; for example if you used 9kg of sugar you should use no more than 3kg of sun dried salt.
6. How to use FPJ
According to the nutritive cycle
Natural Farming applies fertilizer in accordance with the Nutritive Cycle Theory proposed by Oino Ueyas. This theory states that crops need different nutrients at different stages in their life cycle. Given that, let us see which FPJ suits which stage.
From germination to early growth: Dropwort, mugwort, bamboo shoot FPJs are good. They will help crops become cold resistant and grow quickly and strongly.
During the vegetative growth period: The crops are developing their volume at this stage, which means they need nitrogen. Arrowroot, bamboo shoot and reed FPJs are good.
During the changeover period: The crops need a lot of phosphoric acid (P) at this stage. Mulberry, grape, raspberry FPJs made from unripe fruit (unripe is when they have more acid) are good. This is similar to a pregnant woman’s craving for sour foods.
Reproductive growth: The crops need a lot of calcium (Ca) at this stage. FPJs made from fully ripened clematis, apple, peach and grape are good.
FPJ’s are normally used at dilutions of 800 to 1ooo. When used with other inputs the solution should have still more water. And during the period from germination to the infant stage crops FPJs should be used at the lower concentration level (i.e. at an FPJ to water dilution ratio of 1:1000). If the leaves are smaller make it even milder. During the reproductive growth stage it is better to to use the stronger solution (1:800) and spray on the leaves and fruit.
Dropwort and Mugwort FPJs are good for helping plants recover from the effects of storms, typhoons and sudden cold spells etc. FPJ will help plants with damaged leaves to recover and regain the optimum balance of microorganisms on their leaves. As such it will help farms recover from natural disaster. For all such emergency treatment you should use FPJ made from dropwort and mugwort.
It is better to use FPJ mixed with other inputs, such as OHN Oriental Herbal Nutrient, to obtain synergized effects. However, in emergencies you should avoid using strong concentrations, even though your need may be great. You should instead start with a weak solution and slowly move to a stronger solution as your plants recover. The reason for this is when the crops are weak their absorption power is also weak. You should also vary the dilution rate according to the weather, stronger in wet season and weaker in dry season.
FPJ as a beverage for human consumption
FPJ is good for human health. FPJ made frommugwort and dropwort at effective treatments for constipation and arthritis. FPJ made from bamboo shoots is good for people with weak physical conditions. Clematis and Japanese cedar FPJ are effective in alleviating liver and bowel diseases. People have said that they have been freed from several aches and pains from drinking FPJ.
Natural Farmers use FPJ as a beverage. Also if you get used to drinking NF drinks then you will drink less carbonated soft drinks. Phosphoric Acid, which is a key ingredient in carbonated drinks, flushes calcium out of of your metabolism. Therefore by choosing to drink FPJ instead of carbonated drinks you can prevent calcium depletion and the onset of osteoporosis. If you raise your children by giving them FPJ to drink as opposed to alternatives, then your children will avoid minor and frequent bouts of illness. I am not exaggerating when I say that FPJ will protect the health of your whole family; it is the king of all medicines.
FPJ restores your body’s energy and also enhances your body’s activity thresholds. FPJ revitalizes crops and trees so dried out and wasted that they seemed on the verge of death. The juice can also help treat the weakened digestive systems of cows, pigs and chickens when fed to them with brown rice vinegar (BRV). Very quickly the animals will regain their appetite and vigor.
The effectiveness of FPJ can be enhanced by adding BRV. The combination of FPJ and brown rice vinegar is not only good for your body but is also has a very fresh taste. If you drink this FPJ twice a day (morning and night) then it will be very helpful in protecting your health. You can also experience beneficial health effects if you cook meat products after marinating them in FPJ.
7. Fermented Fruit Juice
Fermented Fruit Juice (FFJ) is a kind of FPJ that is made from fruit. According to Mr. Shibada Genshi, the foremost enzyme researcher, fruit enzyme is like making honey in a cedar wooden container. Fermented fruit juice (FFJ) is produced in almost the same way as FPJ. However if FPJ is ying, then FFJ is yang.
How to make FFJ
1. Prepare about 6 different fruit types (in all cases more than 3). The fruit should be fully ripe, either picked or fallen. Clematis (best) , figs, strawberries, grapes, wild berries, mulberries, carrots, apples and cherries are good. When there is insufficient fuit available you may add supplementary ingredients such as spinach roots, wild yam, dasheen, potato, chines cabbage, cabbage, cucumber, zucchini and chinese radish. (However, use persimmon only for persimmon and citrus for citrus. These two FFJs are not good to use on other crops because of their cold and sour character0.
2. For 1kg of fruit, prepare 1.2-1.3kg of brown sugar in summer, and 1kg in winter.
3. Wash the container and then disinfect it in the sun.
4. Spread the brown sugar on the chopping board and dice the fruit in order, starting with the fruit with the highest sugar content. After dicing the fruit put the sugar on the fruit and place them in a container, the sweetest fruit goes in the bottom. Do this very quickly to prevent the loss of essential substances. The ones that are difficult to dice, such as grapes and strawberries,may be slightly crushed with clean fingers.
5. Use half the sugar while dicing and pour the remainder in at the end.
6. Stir slightly, about 2-3 times with a cedar wooden stick. Stir less in summer and more in winter.
7. Cover the container with porous paper and tie it down.
8. In summer fermentation will be complete in about 4-5 days, in winter it will be about 17-18 days.
9. After completion,sprinkle some sugar and store in a cool shaded place. There will be some sugar on the surface after completion; if it is hard like ice, the FFJ is a success.
How to use FFJ
use FFJ diluted 1000 times after the changeover period of your crops. It is excellent for reenergizing, whether for crops, livestock or humans. It will also keep your family healthy when consumed regularly.