By Nicola Callan, Bsc Health Science (nutrition), Adv. Dip. Of Naturopathy
Fermented foods have been a major part of the human diet since Neolithic times. Each culture around the world has incorporated fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kvass, yoghurt, cheese, kefir, kombucha and kimchi into their mealtimes to support digestive health, as without good digestion we have impaired overall health. The symbiotic bacteria and yeast cultures present in the ferment assist in several ways:
• They help to keep the large intestine acidic, which reduces the ability of unfavourable organisms from making their home in our guts
• They help to improve the environment for our own bacterial species, increasing our ability to metabolise and absorb many nutrients
• They help to support the production of short chain fatty acids, which then feed the cells of our large intestine, keeping it healthy
• They communicate with our immune system to help keep it balanced and strong
At New Life Foundation we have been making fermented foods and drinks to support our mindfully vegetarian diet of healthy Thai fare. Below are two examples of fermented recipes, one for vegetables and the other for a drink. Both are very easy to make. This type of fermented vegetable recipe can be adapted to whatever vegetables are available and in season, and different herbs, fruits and spices can also be added. In the below recipe, you could add caraway seeds, juniper berries, ginger, mint – the list is endless – to make your ferment even more nutritious. Good quality Celtic sea salt can also be added. I personally prefer mine without the salt.
Fermented Vegetable Recipe
1 Chinese cabbage
1 rose apple
Small bunch of parsley
Take the outside 1 or 2 leaves of the cabbage and place to the side. Finely slice all ingredients. In a mortar and pestle, pound the ingredients until they are mashed and have released their juices. Alternatively, a food processor can be used – I would do short pulsations to get the correct consistency. Put the ingredients into a jar, fold over the top cabbage leaf and place in the top of the jar, then fill with chlorine free water to the top. Place the jar lid on loosely, as gases occur with fermentation and this will allow the gases to be released. Place the jar on a tray in case any water overflows during the fermentation process, and place the ferment in a warm spot. Temperature affects length of fermentation, so I recommend checking it every day as you may need to top up the water to stop mould from growing on the top. Once the ferment is sour enough discard the top leaf, and if there is any mould on the top layer discard this too. Place the fermented vegetables in the fridge and enjoy a small amount with every meal. Bon apetit!
Probiotic Ginger Drink
1 very large piece of ginger (roughly the size of your palm) or 2 medium pieces
2 heaped dessert spoons of sugar (raw, white, muscavado, rapadura, or coconut)
1 cup of chlorine-free pure water
Peel and finely chop ginger. Place into a mortar and pestle and pound until soft and mushed to release juices. Place ginger into a jar, then add the sugar and water. Place the lid on very loosely so gases can easily escape, and place the ginger in a warm spot. Check every day and when it is ready it will have bubbles or be a bit fizzy. The water can then be strained and you can reuse the ginger to start the process again adding more sugar and water for a second batch. The first batch of fermented ginger water can be taken straight or added to many things. Be adventurous! I like to add mine to soda water with cold peppermint, rose, and fennel tea for a refreshing drink.