Fermenting vegetables is an ancient form of food preservation, and one of the easiest to pull off. As a Licensed Clinical Nutrition Specialist, I am super excited to walk you through, step by step, how to ferment a selection of common vegetables: cauliflower, carrots, beans, and radishes with garlic and chili's, to create a delicious and nutritious side that's beneficial for a healthy gut.
This easy fermented vegetables recipe results in veggies that are crisp, and tart. What a nutritious way to enjoy and preserve a variety of vegetables!
What are fermented foods?
We often hear about fresh foods being the best for us (and rightly so). But these days, we're hearing more and more about the health benefits of fermented foods.
Lacto-fermentation of foods is an ancient art. It's been practiced for thousands of years as a way to preserve different foods. The process breaks down many vitamins and other nutrients into more easily digestible forms.
Additionally, Lacto-fermentation increases the palatability and nutritional quality of food.
Most Lacto-fermented foods are made from raw vegetables - without heat. To those who are unfamiliar, Lacto-fermentation may sound complicated and confusing. It really isn't! And no, it has nothing to do with dairy.
Lactic acid is the acid produced by lactic bacteria. On the surface of all fruits and vegetables, there are good bacteria such as Lactobacillus. These bacteria convert the sugars in food into lactic acid in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment. It's this compound that inhibits harmful germs while also acting as a preservative, which protects the vegetables from spoilage.
Are fermented vegetables good for you?
More than 1012 microorganisms dwell in the human digestive system. This complex ecosystem protects against infections, absorbs nutrients from meals, and controls the immune system.
The gut microbiota is also highly resilient; however, several factors such as antibiotics, stress, and illness may disrupt it, resulting in dysbiosis. The capacity of food and dietary components to modify the gut microbiome, redress dysbiosis, and enhance human health is now well-established
Dysbiosis generally means "disbalance" of the commensal microbiota (bacterial community). This usually implies a shift in the relative abundance of specific bacterial species within the digestive system. Disruption in the bacterial community is often associated with illness, specifically autoimmune conditions and metabolic diseases, like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
There are many things that can influence the types of bacteria in your gut. Fibers and prebiotics that are fermented can help certain types of bacteria grow. You can also change the types of bacteria in your gut by taking probiotics.
Probiotics, however, are short-term dwellers in the microbiome. Therefore, you need to be taking them frequently to reap the benefits.
Lacto fermented vegetables involve a process that's thought to help increase the bioavailability of certain nutrients. This means they are more easily taken up in our bodies.
The process also destroys some anti-nutrient components of certain raw foods, such as oxalates and phytic acids. Antinutrients have been shown to reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients.
Scientists believe that the possible health benefits of fermented foods are because they are a source of probiotics; a which help to maintain gut health. Furthermore, recent studies suggest that microbes in our gut play a role in diabetes, heart disease, and immune function.
How to Ferment Veggies
Using raw vegetables as the starting ingredient increases the vitamin and mineral content of fermented vegetables.
Fermented vegetables made with raw veggies have a higher vitamin and mineral content than those prepared in other ways. Grating, shredding, chopping, slicing, or leaving whole are just a few of the methods to prepare the ingredients for fermentation. It's entirely up to you. Carrots, radishes, and beets are dense vegetables and lactic acid can penetrate these veggies more easily when they are chopped.
To get a range of nutrients, I picked some of my favorite colorful ingredients for this fermented veggies recipe. Some I chopped, while others I left whole.
Preparing salt water and vegetables:
Step 1: Start with a clean, dry glass jar. Wash the jar and lid in warm soapy water.
Step 2: Prepare saltwater by combining sea salt with water.
Step 3: Stir the salt and water, ensuring the salt granules are fully dissolved.
Step 4: Prepare the vegetables by washing them in water. Remove any visible dirt and debris. Now add the chopped vegetables to the jar.
Setting up for fermentation:
Step 5: Pour salt water into the jar until it is full. You want to make sure that the vegetables are completely submerged in the brine. If necessary, you can top up with more water and stir. Place the lid firmly on top.
Step 6: Remember to label the jar with the date you started the fermentation, as it prevents confusion. It's important not to wing it and guess. A simple post-it note does the trick.
How do I know fermentation is complete?
I leave my jar out on the counter for 2-3 days (around 72 degrees Fahrenheit), then transfer it to the fridge. The following signs will tell you whether your veggies have fermented successfully:
Step 7: Look for bubbles. The lactic acid fermentation process produces bacteria that release gases when they feast on the vegetables. These gases are often visible as bubbles after a few days at room temperature. It's time to trust your nose! A sour, vinegary odor is released if the jar is opened after a few days.
Step 8: Taste the tanginess! Tasting your veggies will also confirm if they are ready to be moved to the fridge. They should taste tangy and DELICIOUS!
To store lacto fermented vegetables you will need a cool and dark place. The ideal temperature is between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You can either use a refrigerator or a root cellar. Fermented foods need to be kept in a dark place because light will deteriorate the nutrients in your veggies.
One serving of these fermented vegetables is:
An excellent source of vitamin C
An excellent source of vitamin A
Low carb, 6 g of net carbs
Source of probiotics
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet
Rinse the vegetables in un-chlorinated water rather than tap water.
Use salt that is free of iodine and/or anti-caking agents, which can inhibit fermentation. Chlorinated water can inhibit fermentation, so use spring, distilled, or filtered water if you can.
Wash your vegetables thoroughly under cold water
Use a 2-quart mason jar that's clean and dry
Ensure that all the vegetables are fully submerged in the saltwater. You can add some more on top to cover the vegetables completely.
Label the jar with the date you started fermentation. That way, you're not left guessing
In the summer, the veggies will ferment faster than in the winter, which might take up to 7 days.
Remember, the top of your vegetables (in the jar) is exposed to oxygen, which can promote the growth of yeast and mould – but everything below the brine should be fine because of an oxygen-free environment. If you notice any mould, discard the layer.
Always use a clean spoon when serving, versus eating out of the jar. You want to avoid contaminating the entire batch with germs from your mouth
Once in the fridge, these will keep for several months. Enjoy!
Prep Time: 20 min Cooking Time: 2 - 3 Days Servings: Approx. 8
2 Tbsp Himalayan Sea Salt
1 Liter of Water
1 ½ Cups Cauliflower Florets
6 Radishes, cut in quarters
1 Large Carrot, cut in strips
1 Cup Green Beans, ends trimmed
10 Garlic Cloves, whole peeled
5 Green Chili’s (or your preference)
1 Tbsp Black Peppercorns
Combine salt and water in a measuring cup and stir until the salt is dissolved. Let it come to room temperature before adding to the vegetables.
Place the Vegetables, Chili’s, Garlic Cloves, & Black Peppercorns remaining ingredients in a clean, dry jar.
Pour the Salt Water over the Vegetables, leaving at least 1 inch of space at the top of the jar.
If necessary, add more water to cover the vegetables.
Cover the jar tightly and let it stand at room temperature for 2-3 days. If any mold or scum has formed on the top, simply remove.
Check for the 3 signs (as above) to assess if the fermentation process is successful.
After the fermentation process is complete, transfer the jar to the refrigerator.
These fermented vegetables will last for at least a month or longer in the refrigerator.