For many, yogurt is a kitchen staple. We’ve used it to whip up dips and desserts or mixed it with fruits and cereal to make a healthy breakfast bowl. This mildly tangy, creamy ingredient is also the key to many delicious dinner options. Not just that, you walk down the dairy aisle at a supermarket and you’re spoilt for choice.
The bottom line, people simply love their yogurt, plain and flavored. But have you ever wondered about the origin of this diary option? The first productions of yogurt can be traced back to the tiny Balkan nation of Bulgaria. To add, the Bulgarian variety is considered the healthiest to be made in Europe.
Here’s more on it.
The legend has it…
The Thracians, a nomadic tribe inhabiting the South Eastern European region have been credited with discovering Bulgarian yogurt. The Thracians were horse breeders. They thrived on the milk of mares.
As they moved from place to place, the milk was stored in skins strapped around their waists. The heat emanating from their bodies fermented the milk-producing a beverage called Kumis. With time, sheep’s milk replaced mare’s milk. The former was found to have higher fat content and better protein quality and thereby a higher nutritive value. It was also noted that the sheep’s milk thickened on fermentation. Thus, was produced Bulgaria’s favorite sour milk.
Dr. Stamen Grigorov – The Pioneer
A native of the Tran region in Bulgaria, Dr. Stamen Grigorov was the Bulgarian scientist responsible for discovering the yogurt bacterium. In the early 1900s, he brought back to the University of Geneva a small quantity of homemade yogurt in a clay pot. A year into studying the sample, he discovered the bacteria that turned milk into yogurt by fermentation. It was named lactobacillus bulgaricus, as a tribute to the country that first produced yogurt. As a matter of fact, in his publication, Dr. Grigorov avoided the term “yogurt”, instead referring to it as fermented milk and sour milk.
Dr. Grigorov’s discovery was seconded by the Russian scientist, bacteriologist, Nobel Laureate Ilya Mechnikov whilst serving his stint at Louis Pasteur Institute in Paris. He conducted a survey on populations with the highest longevity and found that the maximum number of centenarians lived in Bulgaria. He attributed their higher life expectancy to the inclusion of nutrient-dense Bulgarian yogurt in their daily diet. He proposed that feeding lactobacillus bulgaricus would destroy the bad bacteria present in the intestines and restore pH balance as the bacteria behaved like antibiotics.
The lactobacillus bulgaricus is a naturally occurring bacterium in Bulgaria and unique to the region. This coupled with conducive temperatures makes yogurt production a natural process. Leave a pot of milk out and it will turn into yogurt!
What’s different about Bulgarian yogurt?
Bulgarian yogurt is quite different from what is regularly sold under the label “yogurt”. The authentic Bulgarian variety is made by combining two strains of bacteria – lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus It is sour in taste. It is not creamy in its texture but instead has a jelly-like consistency.
Bulgarian yogurt has earned its reputation as a superfood since the 20th century. Incorporate it into your diet if you want to reap its health benefits.