Some people see cucumbers and think "salad," but local author Liz Crain, restaurateur David Barber and dapper foodist George Winborn think, "I'll stick those cukes in a crock, let 'em sit exposed to airborne organisms for weeks and then devour them."

This is the trio behind Portland's annual Fermentation Festival, which gathers the city's ardent home picklers, professional fermenters and curious eaters to swap secrets and nibble bits of each other's best kraut, kefir, kimchi, miso, cucumber pickles and other fermented wonders. You really never know who or what will show up at the event, which is held at Ecotrust. 

"There are always surprise ferments," explains Crain, who is also the scribe behind the Food Lover's Guide to Portland. "Last year there was delicious fermented salmon, and the year before that we had sticky, stinky (for brave eaters) natto." On the eve of the city's third Fermentation Fest, which is slated to include "ghost pickles, home-captured sourdough rye and fermented cabbage tonic," we asked the organizers to explain, in pictures, exactly how to ferment anything. Still have questions? Head to the fest.

GO: The Portland Fermentation Festival is held at Ecotrust's Billy Frank Jr. Conference Center, 721 NW 9th Ave. 6-8 pm Thursday, Oct. 20. $5. Info at