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The Mindful Foodist: Get More Culture in 2011

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By Kristen Boye on January 11, 2011

Happy 2011 foodists! I admit I’m a little behind the eight-ball on my New Year’s post, but just the same, thank you for all your blog-love this past year. It’s truly been a pleasure to have the forum to connect, learn and share ideas together on all things food — I really appreciate each one of you.

So, I’m sure we’ve all made our food resolutions for 2011. Mine are to do a cleanse in the next few weeks (you’ll be hearing about that later), grow a less-lame garden this year, track down some more pasture-raised meats to put in my brand new freezer (thank you Mom), AND to eat more cultured vegetables – which brings us to today’s topic!

If you haven’t heard of cultured vegetables before, they are a tasty combination of veggies that have been fermented using a very simple at-home process. No fancy equipment needed.  

The main benefit of making and eating these vegetables is their magical effects on naturally regulating the digestive tract; this is thanks to their strains of beneficial bacteria which produce friendly flora in the intestines. This is especially important this time of year as 80% of our immune system is in our gut, it makes sense to boost its defenses. I often think how much money we shell out for probiotics when, nine times out of ten, we could just eat more cultured foods and get the same benefits! In addition these vegetables have a wonderful alkalizing effect on the body and, since most cultured vegetable recipes are cabbage-based, they pack a wallop of anti-cancer phyto-nutrients, courtesy of the cruciferous vegetable family (for a cool study, check this out). In fact, they have done several studies on the low-incidence of breast cancer in countries where women consume saurkraut on a daily basis.

Every culture throughout history has enjoyed a version of cultured vegetables to sustain health. The Japanese have kim-chi and miso, Italians have Giardiniera, the Russians have pickled beets, green tomatoes and peppers, Indians have chutneys, Moroccan’s have preserved lemons, Egyptians have preserved turnips, the Germans have sauerkraut – even Captain Cook took 60 barrels of sauerkraut with him on his second round-the-world trip…the list goes on and on. The point is, we have all but forgotten the health rewards of these simple fermented side dishes, and our nation’s GI tract is suffering for it (despite the number of people buying Activia!).

These veggies are super easy to make. I have included my recipe below but I will also include this link to the Body Ecology website where you can browse their recipes (all very good) and also purchase a starter culture if you choose. I’ve never used a culture and mine always turn out great. Also, they do not call for salt in their recipes, I use it because I like a very “pickly” taste to my vegetables, but you can experiment and see what you enjoy best.

Cultured Vegetables for an Iron-Clad Immune System


1 Head Organic Red or Green Cabbage (6-8 leaves reserved)

2 Carrots, peeled

2 Large Beets, peeled (if you’re not a beet fan, try using a bunch of kale, spinach or any other iron-rich veggie)

1 Cup Filtered or Spring Water

1 Tablespoon of sea salt


–In a food processor fitted with a grater blade, grate all the vegetables together and place in a large stainless steel bowl (if you do not have a food processor, just chop them finely or hand-grate).

–Refit the food processor with a steel blade. Remove a couple handfuls of vegetables and place in the food processor with 1 cup filtered or spring water (you may also use a blender for this). Process everything together to form a soup-like consistency.

–Add the pureed mixture back to the shredded vegetables along with the sea salt. Mix well with your hands or a wooden spoon.

–Pack mixture into a large mason jar leaving about 2 inches at the top. Roll some left over cabbage leaves like cigars and place on top of the mixture. Screw on the top.

–Let sit at room temperature for 5-7 days (I like to put mine in the laundry room but anywhere not too cold is ideal. The colder the room, the longer the fermentation takes).

–After 5-7 days, open the lid, remove the rolled leaves and scrape off any veggies that have turned brown (it is normal for the top inch or so to turn brown, just discard that part).

–Refrigerate (this now slows the fermentation process) and enjoy 1/4 to 1/2 cup with your meals.

Here’s what the finished product should look like:

*Keep the mixture refrigerated from now on.

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