(NaturalNews) Eating fermented vegetables can be one of the best things for overall health. Fermentation is an excellent way to preserve food, ensuring fresh vitamin-rich food all winter. It also infuses the body with beneficial microflora which can keep you healthy and strong.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and pungent. All five tastes need to be eaten for optimum health. Fermented vegetables have a "sour" taste, which is under-eaten in this country. The sour taste corresponds to the wood element and benefits the liver and gall bladder.
Healthy bacterial cultures such as Lactobacillus are present in cultured vegetables. The more healthy microflora one has the more the body`s receptors are blocked when exposed to dangerous bacteria and viruses. Fermented vegetables are high in antioxidants and benefit health in many ways, including:
Preserving nutrients and breaking them down into more easily digestible forms
Creating new cultures, which then create B vitamins such as folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and biotin
Removing toxins from food: all grains contain phytic acid which blocks absorption of zinc, calcium, iron and magnesium. Soaking and fermenting grains neutralizes the phytic acid.
Promoting digestive health by flooding the intestines with beneficial microflora
Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation credits fermented foods as being key to his superb health and energy, despite living with AIDS for many years. Many healing diets including macrobiotics and Ann Wigmore`s raw food and wheatgrass diet use fermented foods as a way to regain health. Macrobiotics uses miso - a fermented soybean paste - as well as tempeh and tamari, two other cultured soy products. Ann Wigmore`s diet uses rejuvelac, a beverage made from fermented sprouted grains.
Beneficial bacteria are readily available on vegetables and in the air, so no starter culture is necessary. Simply provide the right environment with:
Unrefined sea salt, which inhibits unwanted bacteria
Liquid, which prevents the vegetables from molding.
Cabbage is often used as the base because it is loaded with the beneficial bacteria required. Other vegetables, such as carrots, scallions, and broccoli, can also be added.
Chop or grate your chosen vegetables into tiny pieces. The smaller they are the more readily they will release their liquids and faster they will culture.
Mix all vegetables in a large bowl.
Use the salt liberally while mixing, to taste. A quart of sauerkraut will have at least 1 to 3 Tbsp of salt.
As you are mixing the vegetables you will find liquid is being released.
Pour the liquid and the vegetables into a jar.
Press down to release any air bubbles and to submerge the vegetables completely.
Large cabbage leaves can be rolled and pressed down on top to keep the vegetables submerged. A weight such as a smaller jar filled with water can be placed on top. Cover with a cloth to keep insects out. Or simply cap the jar once the vegetables are submerged (without adding the weight). Open the jar daily to release the pressure and to taste your kraut.
The vegetables should be kept at room temperature for at least 4 to 7 days. The warmer it is the faster they will culture. Some people culture their vegetables for weeks to months. Once you like the way they taste place the jar in the refrigerator where it should keep indefinitely.
Katz, Sandor Ellix. Wild Fermentation. Chelsea Green Publishing. 2003.
Gates, Donna. The Body Ecology Diet. Body Ecology. 2002.
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. North Atlantic Books. 2003.
Melissa Sokulski is an acupuncturist, herbalist, and founder of the website Food Under Foot, a website devoted entirely to wild edible plants. The website offers plant descriptions, photographs, videos, recipes and more. Her new workbook, Wild Plant Ally, offers an exciting, hands-on way to learn about wild edible plants. Melissa also runs The Birch Center for Health in Pittsburgh, PA, providing the best in complementary health care: acupuncture, therapeutic massage and herbal medicine.