To those that appreciate the value of a probiotics rich diet, no meal would be complete without a serving of tangy cultured vegetables.
I personally eat at least a tablespoon of this enzyme, vitamin and bacteria rich food with breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Fermentation of fruits and vegetables has been utilized by traditional cultures for thousands of years as not only a way to preserve food, but as a method of increasing its nutritional value and protecting against infectious disease.
For example, the vitamin C content in cabbage is increased one hundred fold when fermented.
Captain Cook knew this, and to prevent scurvy in his crew, always had barrels of cultured veggies aboard his ship.
Cultured vegetables are teaming with lactobacilli, or lactic-acid producing bacteria.
These beneficial microflora not only aid in digestion by producing helpful enzymes, but also inhibit pathogenic invaders by producing antibiotic and ant carcinogenic substances such as hydrogen peroxide and benzoic acid.
Even today, many cultures utilize fermented vegetables in their diets in order to maintain health and longevity.
In Europe, sauerkraut is the primary lacto-fermented food. The word sauerkraut literally means sour (sauer) greens (kraut). You are probably familiar with this food, as a pasteurized version is commonly carried in supermarkets throughout the United States.
It is important to note that pasteurized sauerkraut does not impart the same health benefits as the traditional raw version, as the heating process involved in pasteurization kills the helpful enzymes and bacteria.
Luckily, you can find genuine raw cultured veggies in many natural food stores and online.
Additionally, I will be teaching you how to make sauerkraut, kimchi and other cultured recipes at home.
The before mentioned Korean kimchi is one of many recipes of fermented vegetables eaten on a daily basis throughout Asian culture. Variations on this traditional recipe include combinations of cabbage, cucumber, turnip, onion, carrot and other vegetables.
Pickled or fermented fruits are not quite as common, though examples can be found in the Japanese umeboshi plum and the many variations of Indian chutney.
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Adding Cultured Vegetables to Your Diet
As with any probiotic food or supplement, cultured vegetables should be slowly implemented into the diet. I would start by adding a tablespoon or two to each meal, working my way up to about 1/2 cup per meal.
If you are following food combining principles, cultured veggies can be eaten with either protein or starch based meals.
The enzymes and beneficial microorganisms that are so plentiful in this food will begin to stir up toxins in the digestive tract as part of the cleansing process.
Though you may experience some initial gas or bloating, keep in mind that you are eliminating harmful toxins, rejuvenating cells and strengthening your digestive and immune systems.
Eating cultured vegetables regularly will:
- Aid digestion
- Improve elimination and stool consistency
- Increase energy
- Restore greater health and well being
How to Make Cultured Vegetables
Although you can purchase genuine raw sauerkraut, kimchi and other recipes at health food stores or via online vendors, it is much cheaper to make your own.
You will need a food processor, meat hammer and one or more airtight (glass or steel) containers to do this.
Although there are a number of recipes to choose from, the basic process is the same.
The first step in making cultured veggies is to shred your vegetables using a food processor.
Next, in a bowl, combine the shredded vegetables with sea salt and a little bit of water.
In order to create a finer consistency and release the natural juices contained in the vegetables, you will either pound the ingredients for approx 10 minutes using a meat hammer or process them with a blender or food processor (using a blending blade).
You will now add any additional ingredients such as whey or culture starter, as well as caraway seeds, garlic, chili flakes, etc..
Finally, pack the ingredients into one or more airtight jars, leaving about an inch at the top as the vegetables will expand during fermentation.
Store the jars at room temperature (approx 70 degrees Fahrenheit) for a minimum of 3 days, better if left for 5-7 days. Remember, that warmer temperatures speed up the fermentation process, while colder temps slow it down.
Cultured vegetable get better with age, and can be left culturing for a couple weeks prior to refrigeration. Once refrigerated, they can last for several months without spoiling.
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Whey vs. Culture Starter
You will see that many recipes call for either whey or culture starter. When left at room temperature vegetables will naturally begin to ferment on their own. While not absolutely necessary, both whey can culture starter supply lactobacilli and act as inoculants, thus ensuring a proper and consistent fermentation.
Do not use dried whey or commercially processed whey. It is very easy to make homemade whey from store bought yogurt. You can find instructions for doing so here.
You will notice that the recipes suggest adding additional sea salt if whey or culture starter are omitted. Again, this is to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria at the beginning stages of fermentation, thus ensuring a proper fermentation.