Do you want to know why cultured vegetables are so good for you and how to make them?
I can help you with that.
Hey, Friend! Imagine having an entire army protecting you. That’s just what the good-for-you bacteria found in cultured foods do for you and your health! Whether the enemy is inflammation, asthma, allergies, pathogens, depression, anxiety, obesity, diabetes, leaky gut, candida, or other digestive problems, studies (here, here, and here) show that eating cultured foods can protect you and help you heal.
In this article I will teach you specifically about the magic and beauty of cultured vegetables. I will show you what they are, why they are so amazing, and how you can make some of your own.
Throughout ages people have preserved their food through lacto-fermentation. Cut up vegetables soaked in a salty brine chemically change to a preserved state with greater nutrition than when they started. They become superfoods! The Greeks had a name for this chemical change: alchemy. A seemingly magical transformation.
So what causes this metamorphosis?
“Lactobacilli, a good bacteria found naturally on vegetables, converts the starches and sugars of the vegetable into lactic acid, a natural preservative that inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Lactic acid makes the environment surrounding the food too acidic for dangerous bacteria to survive, but keeps the acid at a level in which good bacteria thrive, thus creating a powerful probiotic. Lacto-fermentation also partially digests the food, starting the process of breaking it down into its component parts and making it easier for our bodies to get the most out of it. It also unlocks additional nutrients – including enormous amounts of vitamin C – that aren’t found in the same quantities of uncultured veggies. The enhanced probiotics, enzymes, and vitamins in cultured vegetables makes them powerhouse foods.” Schwenk p.31, Cultured Food For Life
Lacto-fermentation of vegetables and milk products produces antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances which helps build a healthy gut flora. There is much research that shows how important a healthy gut is to the health of our whole bodies.
“Hippocrates – although thousands of years ago – made a statement that all diseases begin in the gut. The more we learn now with all our modern scientific tools, the more we realize just how correct he was…every disease begins in the gut.” Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
Here are some ways cultured vegetables are superfoods:
Are you feeling excited and motivated to get this cultured goodness in you? Please don’t hesitate. It’s not hard. Just different because you’ve never made them before. But after a few tries you’ll be a pro. You will thank yourself again and again for taking this step for your good health.
How to make cultured vegetables.
- Quart canning jars, one per recipe, with plastic lids.
- Vegetables from recipe
- Sea salt (lots in a container you can scoop from)
- Measuring spoons
- Giant mixing bowl and stirring spoon
- Filtered water
- Pint of fresh kefir whey. See here on how to make this. (Hey Friend, I know this starts to feel like the story If You Give a Pig a Pancake…but hang in there! Don’t give up. Take the process one step at a time and you will be greatly rewarded! If you don’t have fresh kefir whey, see below in the Variations section for other options.
- Optional: I like to use a veggie chopper like the one listed in the resources below, or a food processor
- Optional: I like to use a Sauer Stone glass weight like the ones listed below in the resources. It helps keep all the vegetables below the surface of the salty water. This ensures proper culturing and no spoiling.
- Optional: I like to use an Easy Fermenter Lid, see resources below. This lid helps let the pressure easily out of the jar as the fermentation process progresses. With normal lids, especially if you over fill the jar, the brine will bubble out during fermentation making a mess. Also, another note about lids: don’t use metal rings and lids. The salt brine corrodes them. I like the white plastic jar lids if you are not going to use the Easy Fermenter Lid. Just don’t over fill 🙂
Here are 3 of my favorite cultured-vegetable recipes to get you started.
Makes 2-3 quarts
Use organic for best results
Days to ferment: 3
- 1 head Napa cabbage, cored and cut into small pieces
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped
- 1 cup carrots, grated
- ½ cup daikon radish, grated
- 10-12 leaves kale, washed and roughly chopped after removing rough middle stem
- 2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or put through a garlic press
- ½ – ¾ teaspoon dried chili flakes to taste
- 1- 2 tablespoon sea salt
- 8-12 tablespoons fresh kefir whey
- Filtered water
Combine cabbage, green onions, carrots, radish, ginger, garlic, and chili flakes in a big bowl. Mix with your hands or spoon. Fill up quart jars with vegetables, pressing gently to pack as much in as you can without compacting too hard. It’s good for the vegetables to be snug in the jar, but not too tight. Depending on how big your original vegetables were, you will have enough for 2 or 3 quart jars. Once your jars are full, put ½ tablespoon sea salt in each jar. Then put 4 tablespoons kefir whey in each jar. Next top off each jar with filtered water, leaving at least 1 inch below the top of the jar for the vegetable to expand during fermentation. Make sure all vegetables are under the water. If using, place the glass Sauer Stone glass weights in jars and put on lids. If using the Easy Fermenter Lid then mark the date to remind you when they will be done – three full days from the date you made them. Ferment on your counter at room temperature for 3 days. This can be used after initial fermentation is done then stored in the fridge.
We love to eat kimchi with our scrambled eggs and hash browns for breakfast, or topped on a salad or sandwich at lunch, or as a condiment to our dinner.
Makes 2 quarts
Use organic for best results
Days to ferment: 2
- 6 large tomatoes, diced
- 2 small onions finely chopped
- 2 serrano chili peppers
- 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and run through garlic press
- 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 8 tablespoons fresh kefir whey
- Filtered water
Combine tomatoes, onions, serrano chili peppers, garlic, cilantro, cayenne, cumin, italian seasoning, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix it up. Fill quart jars, gently pressing to compact yet not squish the veggies. Once your jars are full, put ½ tablespoon sea salt in each jar. Then put 4 tablespoons kefir whey in each jar. Next top off each jar with filtered water, leaving at least 1 inch below the top of the jar for the vegetable to expand during fermentation. Make sure all vegetables are under the water. If using, place the glass Sauer Stone glass weight in jar and put on the lid. If using the Easy Fermenter Lid then mark the date to remind you when they will be done – two full days from the date you made them. Ferment on your counter at room temperature for 2 days. They can be eaten after initial fermentation is done then stored in the fridge.
So good on eggs, tacos, salads, with chips or topping a baked potato.
Makes 1 quart
Use organic for best results
Days to ferment: 3
- 3 or 4 big carrots, peeled and cut into thick rounds, about ¼ inch thick. Rainbow carrots are really beautiful
- 1 heaping tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- ½ tablespoon sea salt
- 4 tablespoons fresh kefir whey (read here how to make this or see below for variations to make without kefir whey)
Combine carrot rounds and ginger in a bowl and mix. Fill jar with carrot mixture. Add ½ tablespoon sea salt to jar. Add 4 tablespoons kefir whey to jar. Next top off the jar with filtered water, leaving at least 1 inch below the top of the jar for the vegetables to expand during fermentation. Make sure all vegetables are under the water. If using, place the glass Sauer Stone glass weight in jar and put on the lid. If using the Easy Fermenter Lid then mark the date to remind you when they will be done – three full days from the date you made them. Ferment on your counter at room temperature for 3 days. This can be eaten after initial fermentation is done then stored in the fridge.
My girls and I love to just dip into the jar through the day to snack on these carrot- ginger treats. They satisfy a salty, crunchy craving.
Besides using kefir whey, there are two other options for making fermented vegetables.
- You can use just salt by doubling the salt and leave out the kefir whey.
- You can also use a starter culture, as Donna Schwenk explains in her book on page 36. You can see a discussion of pros and cons to each option on her website here.
You can ferment any vegetable and combination of vegetables you’d like. My favorite resources below have lots of great recipes you can follow, or you can get creative with your veggies and spices and come up with your own favorites.
General rules to apply:
- Fill a sterilized quart jar with veggies, pack tight but not too tight.
- Add spices and seasonings.
- Add ½ tablespoon sea salt to the jar.
- Add 4 tablespoons kefir whey to the jar (or starter culture if using).
- Fill with filtered water leaving 1 inch from top for expansion.
- Insert weight if using.
- Put on lid and leave on counter for about 3-6 days.
- You can tell it’s done once the brine is bubbly and the vegetables taste sour and yummy. You will know if they are rotten – you wouldn’t be able to eat them for the smell. So I’ve heard anyway; I’ve never had a batch go bad before 🙂
- Store in fridge for up to 9 months and possibly longer.
- Eat a spoonful of these delicious superfoods at every meal for optimal health.
Caution: start slow
Because the probiotics in fermented vegetables are so powerful, start out slow when you start using them. Give your body a chance to get used to their healing goodness. If you go too fast you could experience what is called a herxheimer reaction. It happens when bacteria or yeast in our body die off too fast for your body to comfortably deal with the toxins that are released during the die off. It feels like the flu with headaches, body aches, stomach aches. If you feel off just slow down while your body catches up with all the bad guys the fermented vegetables are destroying in your body. Yes, cultured vegetables are that powerful!
Fermented vegetables are a fun, easy, and economical way to help build health. Give it a try and let me know what you think! I am happy to help you in anyway. Check out the resources below to give you further inspiration.
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Cultured Food for Life, Donna Schwenk. This is the book that I used when I first started fermenting. She has so many great ideas. Her book was a springboard for my creativity and recipes.
Here is Donna Schwenk’s website. She is the cultured food guru! She has been culturing food for over 16 years and is truly a trusted expert.
Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon. This is where I first ever read about fermented vegetables and the benefits of cultured foods.
Dr. Mercola’s website also has some great information on culturing/ fermenting vegetables here.
There are lots of fermenting tools on the market. Most you don’t need. But two I highly recommend are:
Sauer Stones Fermentation weights
I like how this chopping tool quickly and easily chops veggies into uniform little squares for my ferments: Vidalia Chop Wizard.