If you have any digestive issues or want to boost your immune system, here’s a solution you might not have considered.
Eat some Super Veg every day. What is Super Veg? It’s my own name for lacto-fermented vegetables, a very traditional process of preserving vegetables for the winter and also enhancing their nutritional value.
Any type of fermentation, whether it’s sourdough bread or yogurt, involves encouraging the growth of friendly organisms to help preserve the food, improve the flavor and, often, add health benefits for you too.
Ok, I admit I changed the name of these veggies because the familiar name has a bad reputation. Depending on your background, you might know them as German sauerkraut, French choucroute, or Korean kimchi. Wait, don’t run away! I HATE sauerkraut too. At least I always thought I did. That’s until I started fermenting my own with a blend of veggies and seasonings. The soggy, vinegary cabbage which comes in cans bears no resemblance at all to yummy Super Veg. I promise!
Fermented veggies are very vintage
Throughout history, people have fermented veggies as a method of preservation. Apparently in the 1770’s, the explorer Captain Cook stocked his ship with 60 barrels of sauerkraut to prevent scurvy among the crew. Traditionally, Koreans eat kimchi with every meal, while Northern Europeans eat sauerkraut regularly – providing much needed help to the digestion and nutrients during the long winters!
For us, this means that making Super Veg is really flexible and easy. After all, our great-great-grandmothers didn’t have access to obscure ingredients, temperature controlled environments and precise scales. So you can relax about the process of making super veg and just experiment with it!
The health benefits of fermented vegetables
Adding more fermented vegetables to your diet makes the vegetables more digestible, preserves their nutrients and gives you lots of good bacteria in your digestive system.
No need to buy expensive, brand-name probiotic yogurts or supplements … just get your probiotics through these veggies!
Some people think that eating fermented veg like this improves your digestion, strengthens your immune system, increases nutrient absorption and acts as an antioxidant.
As with all diet changes, my suggestion is just to try it yourself! It only takes a few days to make a batch of super veg, then add it to your diet for a few weeks and see how you feel.
How to ferment vegetables
The basic process involves finely shredding veggies (usually containing some cabbage, but it doesn’t have to!), adding some seasonings and salt, possibly adding some whey (to introduce good bacteria), packing it in a big jar, and letting it ferment. Fermenting involves leaving it at room temperature for a few days to get the bacteria started. Then, just start eating it, and store the jar in the fridge. That’s it!
You can prepare a big batch of Super Veg in 30 minutes, which will give you enough to last for weeks!
What does Super Veg taste like?
These fermented veggies have a rich, tangy, slightly sour taste. You might not be used to the taste at first, because we don’t have these types of foods in our modern diets. But after a few servings, I started absolutely loving the flavor and complexity of these veggies. Yum!
The taste is not at all vinegary, because there’s no vinegar in the recipe! The veggies still have a nice crunch too. Experiment with veggie combinations that you like. I like adding carrots and ginger because it makes the veggies a bit sweeter than cabbage alone.
Experiment with the vegetables you use – you might want purple cabbage, radishes, different greens, onions … whatever you like to eat!
1 head cabbage, shredded
2-3 carrots, shredded
1 Tb. fresh grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
A few shakes of dried chili flakes
1 Tb. sea salt
4 Tb. whey (if available, or strain some yogurt to get it!)
A big, wide mouthed jar to fit the veggies with a little room at the top – very clean.
Another thinner jar, or sturdy drinking glass, which can fit inside the wide-mouthed jar lid – very clean.
In a large bowl, mix the cabbage, carrots, ginger, garlic and a dash of chili flakes.
Add salt and whey, stir to blend throughout veggies. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to soften a bit.
With a wooden spoon, start pounding the veggies in the bowl. This is going to crush them and start to release their juices. Pound the veggies for 3-5 minutes.
You’ll start to see some liquid in the bottom of the bowl.
Pack the veggies firmly into the large jar. Really press them in there with your clean hands or a wooden spoon. Liquid will start rising up above the veggies when you press on them.
Once all of the veggies are packed in, add the thinner jar/glass and push down. Ideally you want the liquid to cover the top of the veggies. (if it doesn’t right away, just proceed and check it again tomorrow. The veggies will continue to release juice. Mine is bright pink in the picture below because I used both purple and green cabbage.)
Cover with a cloth to keep out dust, and let sit at room temperature for 3-4 days. Check it every day to make sure the liquid is covering the veggies. If not, press down on the inner jar to release more liquid.
After 3-4 days, taste the veggies. They should be getting nice and tangy. Place the jar in your refrigerator. (Or if you have a small fridge like me, I transfer them into smaller jars and put in the fridge).
Try eating a few spoonfuls of the veggies before every meal, or 1/2 cup of veggies every day. As with introducing any fermented food, start slowly because it might speed up your digestive system!
Are you brave enough to get over your fear of sauerkraut and try these veggies? Let me know how it goes!!