By Vera Lehar —
People in Europe and all over the world have fermented vegetables for millennia, as it was and still is one of the best ways to preserve food for winter. Sauerkraut from Europe and kimchi from Korea are two common examples of traditional fermented cabbage that are still very popular today.
Fermenting, however, is not limited to just cabbage. Practically any vegetables you can think of can be combined in a jar and left to ferment, only to create a superfood that can be used in countless numbers of ways. But not everybody’s taste buds may agree with the sour taste of fermented vegetables. And depending on what vegetables and vegetable combination it is, it may take some courage to put it in the mouth, not to mention find it pleasurable. Done the right way, however, fermented vegetables become a wonderful experience, not only in taste and health, but in the connection to the good bacteria that is constantly at work to keep us alive and healthy.
Now is the time when the summer/fall harvest is at its peak, so why not make the best of it? Eating fresh vegetables at this time is perfect but with the abundance of food being harvested, much of it needs to be processed and preserved so it can be used later and there is no better way to do so than fermenting it.
This process only requires two ingredients: local grown—if not your own—vegetables and salt, in this case Himalayan salt or Celtic sea salt with all the trace minerals. Herbs and spices may be added and experimented with in small amounts to create different flavours. My personal favourite is caraway seed. There is no need for preservatives or additional wine or vinegar as found in many different kinds of commercial sauerkraut.
Fermented foods in general are detoxifiers containing much higher levels of probiotic then probiotic supplements. Because fermented food regulates many functions of digestion, assimilation, and excretion, it impacts our overall health, including immunity, brain function, bowel health, and, therefore, skin health. It optimizes gut flora, breaks down and eliminates toxins and heavy metals from the body, lowers the risk for cancer, regulates dietary fat absorption, stimulates production nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin K2, and helps prevent obesity. It is truly a superfood!
Pathogens and harmful bacteria in the gut are killed by cultivated bacteria—probiotics—in fermented vegetables. This might cause flatulence and belching because pathogens and harmful fungi release strong toxins in the process of dying. Cabbage has the strongest tendencies to stir the toxins. Therefore, the caraway spices are very helpful to ease the process.
If fermented food is new to you, it is suggested you start with small portions. The more pathogens in the gut, the harder the detoxification process; therefore, a slow introduction of fermented vegetable is recommended.
I suggest searching Donna Gate’s website. She re-introduced fermented foods to the United States using terms such as “inner ecosystem” to describe the network of microbes that maintain our basic physiological process, from digestion to immunity. Visit www.bodyecology.com
As a key figure in the autism movement, Donna works with top doctors in the field who view her diet as instrumental in changing the theory behind and treatment of the disorder. She founded Body Ecology Diet Recovering Our Kids (BEDROCK), and an active online community of over 2,000 parents, many of whom have seen their children in full recovery. See www.bedrokcommunity.com.
A few delicious ideas on how to use fermented vegetables on a daily basis, besides using them as sauerkraut with meat, potatoes, rice, and quinoa, etc. include the following:
1 or 2 tablespoons yogurt or kefir- Homemade is best!
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons honey, Stevia, or maple syrup
1 to 2 garlic cloves
Bragg, soy sauce, or sea salt, according to taste
handful of cucumber or zucchini, chopped
½ to 1 avocado
2-3 tbsp fermented vegetable of choice
dry herbs, such as dill, oregano, or basil
Liquefy all ingredients except the dry herbs in a blender. Add dry dill, oregano, or basil to taste. Pour over lettuce or vegetable salad.
How to make your own yogurt or kefir:
Purchase organic yogurt or kefir. (Kefir works best). Place one tablespoon into a glass jar and fill it with organic half and half cream. Cover it loosely, so the air can escape, and leave it in a warm place—the kitchen counter is perfect. After 2–3 days, it will be solid. Then, cover it and place it in the fridge. Use 1 tablespoon of this kefir to start another batch. Repeat the process over and over again, to keep clean, healthy yogurt in your home.
Olive oil or hemp oil can be used with honey, garlic, and blended vegetables.
Place fermented vegetables—cabbage, kale, or any mix—into a bowl.
Add a little honey, if it is too sour. Add Grape Seed Oil Veganaise (from a health food store), or any mayonnaise of your liking. Mix it and add spices, or crushed garlic according to your taste.
Dip for chips, crackers, or veggie snacks:
2 Tbsp fermented vegetable (kale is excellent), 2 Tbsp cream cheese, yogurt, avocado, 1 to 2 Tbsp honey, 2 garlic cloves, and salt if desired. Liquefy ingredients in a blender. Add basil and / or oregano to taste.
Slowly pan-fry sprouted grain bread in coconut oil, on both sides. Rub garlic on the toast, if you wish. Spread miso in a very thin layer, and add thinly sliced avocado. Use Grape Seed Oil Vegenaise, or mayonnaise of your choice. Add fermented vegetables, tomato, green onion, or chives – finish it as you wish (cheese, ham…)
I am sure we can come up with many different ideas about how to use fermented vegetables for our health and enjoyment at the same time.
Vera Lehar – Old Country Cottage
(250) 296-9160 www.oldcountrycottage.ca