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Why Are Fermented Foods So Good for Us? Plus: Recipes

By Kim Robson:

Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and pickled veggies are some of the best ways to ingest natural probiotics. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, that live safely in the digestive tract. Probiotics are vital for proper absorption and digestion of food, and for actively synthesizing various nutrients such as vitamin K, pantothenic acid, folic acid, thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12), and various amino acids and proteins. When tested, people with gut dysbiosis always seem to have deficiencies in these nutrients.

85% of the body’s immune system is found in the digestive tract. An average adult carries 2 kg of bacteria in the gut. Believe it or not, there are more microbial cells in our digestive tract than there are cells in our entire body. It is a highly organized micro-world, where certain species of bacteria need to predominate to keep us physically and mentally healthy.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have found evidence of a relationship between “good” bacteria and a healthy immune system. Certain gut bacteria influence aspects of the immune system, correcting deficiencies and increasing T-cells. Exactly how this interaction works isn’t well known yet.

When we think of pickling veggies, it’s usually produce like cabbage, cucumbers, green beans and tomatoes. But you might be surprised to find that all sorts of fruits and veggies can be pickled – including ones you might never have thought of pickling before.

Well, maybe not quite that many things. But check out these recipes below for inspiration:

Watermelon Rinds

Don’t throw those rinds away. Pickled watermelon rinds are a classic southern summertime treat.

IngredientsWatermelonPickles

  • Watermelon
  • 3 tablespoons kosher or sea salt (not iodized)
  • 4 cups water
  • Whole cloves
  • Cinnamon stick

Directions

After dicing up the red part of the watermelon, set aside the rinds.

Mix salt and water to make a brine.

Add the rinds to the brine with seasonings.

Ferment in the refrigerator for about a month and a half.

Pickled Garlic Cloves

Ingredientspickled garlic

  • 40 to 50 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-1/4 cups white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh dill
  • 4 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • Lemon slice

Directions

Combine white wine vinegar, water, kosher salt, bay leaves, fresh dill, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, and peppercorns. Once the salt is dissolved into the brine, add the garlic cloves and top with lemon slice.

Let ferment in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

If the garlic begins to turn blue don’t worry. It’s a reaction between a compound in the garlic (anthocyanins) and traces of copper in your water.

Pickled Cherries

Pickled cherries are great in grain-based salads. The pickling brine can be used in place of vinegar in salad dressings for a slightly sweet and mildly cherry-flavored dressing.

Ingredientspickled cherries

  • 1 pound cherries, pitted
  • 1-1/2 cups white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Directions

Place pitted cherries in two heat-proof pint jars.

Bring vinegar, sugar, salt and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt.

Pour over cherries and let cool. Cover and chill.

Pickled Carrots with Fennel Seeds

This sweet and savory snack looks its most exotic with red carrots, but if you can’t find them, orange carrots will work just fine.

Ingredientspickled carrots

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup grapefruit vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon fennel seeds

Directions

Pack the carrot sticks tightly into two clean, wide-mouthed pint jars.

Bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan.

Pour the hot liquid over the carrot sticks, right up to the rim of the jars.

Put the tops on the jars and let cool on the counter.

When the jars are cool, store in the refrigerator.

The pickled carrots will be ready in three days and will last up to a month in the refrigerator.

About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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