Like bone broth, fermented vegetables are an essential part of the GAPS program. The process of fermenting vegetables enhances many nutrients, makes vegetables more digestible and creates an abundance of probiotics. Fermented vegetables are tangy, sour and, in my opinion, entirely delicious.
If you’re contemplating GAPS, you should aim to eat fermented vegetables with every meal. Eating ferments with your meals assists your digestion and gives your body probiotics to help rebalance your damaged gut flora.
If you don’t think you need GAPS, I would still urge you to incorporate fermented vegetables into your meals. Eating ferments is a traditional practice and offers benefits for everyone’s health. If eating a fermented vegetable with every meal sounds overwhelming, perhaps try to eat at least one per day or several times per week.
To get started with fermented vegetables you have two options: buy them or make or your own. If you are already feeling stressed over food preparation or other issues, buying ferments can be an excellent decision. Many natural food stores carry raw, traditionally fermented vegetables in their refrigerated section. You may also be able to find fermented vegetables at your local farmers’ market.
Keep in mind that you are looking for vegetables that are fermented with salt or a starter culture, not vinegar. Preserving foods with vinegar is a relatively new practice that doesn’t offer the same benefits as traditional fermentation. Traditionally fermented vegetables should always be stored in the refrigerated section, not at room temperature with vinegar-preserved vegetables.
While buying fermented vegetables can save you a lot of time and sanity when overwhelmed by other things, if you’re interested in keeping your expenses low I recommend transitioning to making your own ferments. Purchasing traditionally fermented vegetables is usually quite expensive so making your own can save you a ton of money. When you ferment the vegetables yourself, all you are paying for is the vegetables, salt and perhaps a starter culture if you choose to use one. Depending on the price of the vegetables, you may be able to make your own fermented vegetables for a quarter or less of the price you’d pay to buy them pre-made.
I was initially really intimidated by making my own fermented vegetables, but I can assure you that the process is really quite simple, especially once you’ve done it a few times. I think it is well worth the time and effort to make ferments yourself.
There are many different types of fermented vegetables. Some popular options include sauerkraut, pickles, beet kvass, gingered carrots, kimchi, cortido, and salsa, but I am sure that is only scratching the surface. Once you understand the basics of fermentation you can even invent your own combinations.
There are many good recipes for fermented vegetables online. A Google search for the recipe you’re looking for is sure to turn up a multitude of results. If you prefer working out of a book, I have made several of the recipes from Nourishing Traditions and Wild Fermentation. Both of these books are also great to have on hand for general reference.
I want to add that I think fermented vegetables can be an acquired taste. When I first starting eating sauerkraut for GAPS I didn’t enjoy it at all. After a few months, however, my taste buds seemed to change and now I absolutely love sauerkraut. If a fermented vegetable isn’t initially enjoyable I would urge you to keep trying it for a while before deciding whether you really like it or it.
If after a while you just don’t seem to care for a particular ferment, however, move on and try something else. Perhaps you just really don’t like that particular ferment. Personally I don’t think I will ever develop a taste for pickles; Jesse, on the other hand, loves pickles but hates sauerkraut. Given how many options there are to choose from, I think nearly everyone can find at least some fermented vegetables that they enjoy.
Do you eat fermented vegetables? If so, what are your favorites?
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