GAPS for Beginners Series: Fermented Vegetables

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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12 Responses to GAPS for Beginners Series: Fermented Vegetables

  1. Janis says:
    My beet kvass is fabulous! Thanks for the consultation. I started another jar.
  2. Richard says:
    Thanks for all the good info. I have been wanting to try fermenetation for some time but I came across the website below and it gave me pause. Can you tell me why he might be wrong?
    • Meghan says:
      Wow. I disagree with just about everything on that page. It's too much go into detail on everything--was there something in particular you were wondering about?
  3. Richard says:
    Yes, He sites several studies that disagree with fermentation, can you give me studies that prove this is good for you. I really want to try it along with salting and smoking meat. Also, how does it taste?
    • Meghan says:
      I'm sorry, Richard, but I just don't have time to look up studies on fermentation. I'm sure you could dig up some of your own through Google, though. It depends on what fermented food you're making, but I'd say the overall taste is sour or tangy.
  4. Richard says:
    Thanks, I will start out small. Cabbage lol
  5. true_foodie says:
    I am surprised that you recommend eating fermented vegetables. My son, who is now 29 years old, was born with all sorts of allergies as well as eczema, and fermented foods only serve to aggravate his skin condition. Perhaps we'll give the naturally-salted fermented vegetables a tray, and we'll get back to you.
    • From everything I've read, there are a few cases in which fermented vegetables are not beneficial, but for most people they are a fantastic addition to the diet. Maybe your son falls into one of those cases. But maybe traditional salt fermented vegetables will be different--I'd love to hear how it goes for you!
    • MD says:
      I developped the exzema/psoriasis later in life, and have a same problem... if I eat too much of fermeted vegetables, my skin goes crazy... BUT - I noticed, that adding it to food (just a tablespoon or two) is okay. So I never eat it alone, always mixing it with food... I even add it to scrambled eggs(right before eating), just a little bit.. I keep a glass container at work and eat a little bit with almost everything...
  6. Zedory says:
    Hi Meghan, I have been wanting to try making my own veggie garments at home for some time now. Do you have a recommendation on what type of salt I should use? I know that kosher salt and pickling salt are two possible options, but I have also heard of people using Celtic sea salt. Is pink Himalayan salt a viable option? What do like to use? I'm planning to try making pickles and sauerkraut. Thank you!

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