Fermenting vegetables at home is a great way to reduce your food waste, improve gut health and save money. It is incredibly easy too! The process of fermenting vegetables begins with lacto-fermentation, which is essentially a method of food preservation that also enhances the nutrient content of the food. The process inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, and increases or preserves the vitamin and enzyme level and digestibility.
Research also indicates that lacto-fermentation is beneficial to our digestive and immune system too. Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions: “The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.” Essentially lacto-fermented vegetables are no more than grated, sliced, chopped or whole vegetables placed in a brine of salt and water for a period of time at room temperature to let the beneficial bacteria develop.
Almost any vegetable can be fermented - cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, chilli, beetroot, celery, cucumber, watermelon rind, baby eggplant, capsicum, green tomatoes - the list goes on. Ferment one vegetable alone, or create a mix vegetables, along with complimenting herbs and spices (peppercorns, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaves). The only types of vegetable that fermentation is not recommended for are those with lots of chlorophyll, like kale or spinach. Shop organic vegetable seeds here>
How to ferment vegetables
Choose your fermentation equipment: Fermenting vegetables does not require a lot of specialised equipment. Vegetables can be fermented in a dedicated fermenting crock, or in a clean glass bowl or glass mason jar.
Prepare your vegetables for fermenting
- Grate: This works well for hard or crunchy vegetables, such as zucchini. Grated fermented vegetables often have the texture of a relish once finished.
- Slice: Slice firm vegetables thinly and soft vegetables thickly to preserve their shape during fermentation. Sliced jalapeños are a great addition to any burger!
- Chop: What size you chop the vegetables is up to you, but bite-sized pieces work well. Chopped fermented cauliflower and carrot pieces make an easy and healthy snack.
- Whole: Small vegetables, such as radishes, brussel sprouts and green beans work best if left whole. Pickling cucumbers are also fantastic.
Use salt, whey or a starter culture: Salt and water are or you need for lacto-fermentation, with sea salt being the best option. Many recipes call for fresh whey as a ferment starter, but it isn't necessary. Using salt will give the same result. You can also use a vegetable starter culture for a faster fermentation, but it isn't essential.
Use water to prepare the brine: You will need enough brine to be able to submerge the vegetables completely. The best fermentation results are achieved with a 2% brine. The easiest way to think about this is in grams. For every 100 grams of vegetables, you need 2 grams of salt. Filtered water is essential, in particular, water that is free of chlorine, chloramines and fluoride. Chlorine and fluoride will not support a healthy ferment as they kill the microbes. You could purchase bottled filtered water, but a ceramic water purifier with fluoride filter is a fantastic waste-free option. It will also give you beautiful filtered drinking water year round.
Weigh the vegetables down under the brine: Once the vegetables have been prepared, place them into the chosen fermentation vessel and weigh them down under the brine. Keeping them in an anaerobic environment during the fermentation period is important. Our fermenting crocks come with a weight, however if you are using a bowl or mason jar, you can keep the vegetables submerged using a small glass or ceramic cup or plate.
Leave the vegetables to ferment at room temperature before moving them to the fridge: The fermentation time will depend on numerous factors, including temperature, the quantity of salt and the nature of the vegetable. After leaving the vegetables to ferment at room temperature for 3 days, taste it. If they are not as acidic as you would like, leave them and taste after another 3 days, and so on. Once you are happy with the taste, move them to the fridge. The finished product will keep for months in the fridge.