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Fermented Vegetables, Superfood?
What are fermented vegetables?
Fermented vegetables are vegetables that have undergone a process called lacto-fermentation. The name may be deceiving because it has nothing to do with dairy. This process is where a bacteria called lactobacillusbreaks down sugars in the vegetables into lactic acid. This process also gives the food a sour flavor.
1. Fermented vegetable are digested easier
The lactic acid bacteria in the fermentation process of the vegetables create enzymes and break down some of the large molecules in the vegetables, predigesting them for us. Fermented vegetables are also proven to help reduce symptoms of chronic GI diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
2. Source of Probiotic
Fermented vegetables are a good source of probiotics which is a term for good bacteria. These good bacteria help to support our digestion of food and also provide nutrients for us.
3. Source of prebiotic
Prebiotics is a term for substances that support probiotics such as fiber. Prebiotics help support the digestive system, immune system, and may reduce inflammation.
4. Fermented vegetables have a high nutrient content
Fermentation increases the bioavailability of the nutrients in the vegetables by breaking down the large molecules and releasing the nutrients to be absorbed. Studies have shown iron and zinc being more readily absorbed from fermented vegetables than their non fermented counterparts. Fermentation has also been shown to release proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and antioxidants from foods. This is not only the case with the actual fermented vegetable that you are eating but also any food that you are eating with it because the enzymes from the fermented vegetable will act on other foods that you are eating as well. Also, the microorganisms in the fermented vegetables will generate nutrients during the fermentation process such as Vitamin C, K, and B vitamins.
5. Reduced carbohydrate content
The bacteria in the vegetables will consume the sugar in the vegetables during the fermentation process reducing the carbohydrate content of the vegetable. In turn this can also reduce flatulence and digestive problems that can be caused by these carbohydrates.
6. Neutralize toxins
Vegetables contain various amounts of toxic substances such as cyanide, phytates, and saponins. These toxic substances are neutralized by the fermentation process of lacto-fermentation. For example, fermenting cassava root can decrease the cyanide content of the root by more than 70%.
7. Extended shelf life
Vegetables can start to go bad rather fast. By fermenting your vegetables you can extend their shelf life from 1 week to up to 6 months. Also, this is a healthier alternative to canning.
Fermented vegetables from the store
The name “kimchi” is derived from the Korean word chimchae, which translates to “vegetables soaked in brine.” Kimchi is typically made from cabbage, radishes, and other vegetables and is seasoned with red chili pepper flakes, garlic, and ginger. It is usually colorful and, traditionally, is also flavored with salted shrimps and anchovies.
Not all pickles are fermented. Most store bought pickles are not fermented. Pickles can be either pickled cucumbers or fermented cucumbers. Traditional dill pickles are fermented. Check the label to see if it is fermented or not, it should say.
Sauerkraut is a German dish and translates to sour cabbage. It is finely cut raw cabbage that has been fermented.
How to ferment yourself
1. Create fermentation brine
Combine 1 Tbsp of salt per 1 cup of water and mix until the salt dissolves
Salt prevents mold from growing and also produces probiotics
Tip: use chlorine-free water
Tip: use non-iodized salt such as sea salt, himalayan salt, or pickling salt
2. Fill a jar with your chosen vegetable; good vegetables to ferment include carrots, radishes, beets, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, and cauliflower
Tip: The smaller you cut/shred your vegetables the faster that they will ferment
Fermentation Time Table
- Add any desired seasonings and herbs; common seasoning include garlic, ginger, bay leaves, dill, fresh thyme, caraway seeds, and red pepper flakes
- Pour your fermentation brine over the vegetables leaving 1-2 inches of head-space and being sure they are completely submerged. Anything exposed to air will rot.
Tip: use fermentation weights to keep floaties down and not exposed to the air
- Put the lid on the jar, tightening it just a little to prevent oxygen from entering but still allowing carbon dioxide to escape. Pressure can build up and explode if the lid is too tight and does not allow air to escape. Or you can use a special fermenting lid.
- Store the jar in a cool, dark pl
ace at 65-70 degrees fahrenheit. They should be out of sunlight. A cupboard or pantry can be a good storage option
n of fermentation will vary depending on what vegetable, how fine it is cut, temperature it is kept at, and preference. Fermentation can vary anywhere from 3 days to 6 months.
- Once it has reached optimal flavor and crisp based on your preference, move the jar to the refrigerator to stop further fermentation. Fermented vegetables can be stored in the fridge for up to 6 months.
Tip: the best way to know when they are ready is to taste it