Vegetables in a jar. The assortment of colors you find in brine is not just beautiful to look at, but also appetizing especially for those who enjoy making and eating fermented vegetables.
Fermented Vegetable Trivia
- The UK’s Joanna Webster and Katie Venner made the largest serving of sauerkraut, which weighed 359.6 kg (792.8 lb). This feat entered the Guinness World Records on October 26, 2018.
- It took 3,452 participants making kimchi simultaneously to make it to the Guinness World Records. This happened in Seoul, South Korea on November 4, 2018.
- Cucumber is the first vegetable man fermented. Food historians believe fermented cucumber was made in 2000 BC.
Fermented Vegetable Buying Guide
You can buy fermented vegetables in supermarkets and in groceries. Locally-made, artisanal, small-batch fermented vegetables are often sold in local specialty stores and farmers’ markets. You can also order online.
When buying fermented vegetables, check the packaging. Make sure there is no damage or anything that suggests the content inside has been compromised and rendered unsafe to consume. Check if the plastic seal is intact. Inspect the contents inside (jars are usually transparent or see-through, allowing you to see the contents of the jar).
Fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut are available all year long. It is good to buy enough, perhaps an extra jar or two, but there is no need to stockpile fermented vegetables since these are not seasonal hard-to-find commodities. You can always go to the supermarket or grocery to buy fermented vegetables if your supply has run out, so don’t let your refrigerator or pantry get too crowded with too many jars of fermented vegetables.
If you have a specific diet or eating restriction, don’t worry. You can find fermented vegetables that are vegan, gluten-free, kosher, non-GMO, fat-free, and low sodium.
Fermented Vegetable Production & Farming in Texas
Many Texas businesses produce fermented vegetables, like La Gorra Azul Ranch in Laredo, Texas, and Bucking Goat Farm in Frisco, Texas. Madge’s Food Company in San Antonio, Texas, has fermented okra and carrots. Austin Cultured in Austin, Texas, makes Fermented Garlic Carrots and Carrot and Onion Kraut. Barrel Creek Provisions, in Austin Texas, makes different kinds of fermented vegetable products. Happy Gut Foods in San Antonio, Texas, sells kimchi and sauerkraut. At Bernhardt’s Farm in Elgin, Texas, they use the fresh produce they harvest from the farm to make small-batch kimchi and sauerkraut.
If you want to buy artisanal, small-batch, homemade fermented vegetables, visit the vendors selling in various farmers’ markets in Texas, like Jones Creek Farmers Market in Freeport, Texas; Kerrville Farmers Market in Kerrville, Texas; Craftership Market in Amarillo, Texas; Live Oak Farmers Market and Legacy Farmers’ Market in San Antonio, Texas; New Braunfels Farmers Market in New Braunfels, Texas; The Local Farmer in Mansfield, Texas; and Downtown Buda Farmers’ Market in Buda, Texas.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals
According to the book Regulating Safety of Traditional and Ethnic Foods, fermented vegetables may contain different additives.
The jar you bought from the store may contain any or all of these additives typically used in making and preserving fermented vegetables.
- Acidifiers – Acidity is important for fermented vegetables to retain their quality and to remain safe to eat. Here are some examples of acidifiers:
- Acetic acid
- Citric acid
- Lactic acid
- Mali acid
- Preservatives – This is used to improve the ability to stay in good quality for a longer period.
- Sodium – Salt is important in fermented vegetables. The use of sodium for this kind of food is a cause for concern for people who are not advised to eat salty food for health reasons.
People from different countries and cultures all around the world ferment different vegetables. In the US, it is common to see fermented vegetables in supermarkets or groceries. It is also common practice to ferment vegetables at home, especially those with surplus produce harvested from the farm or backyard garden.
Fermented vegetables are known by different names. There are also slight variations to preparations; nonetheless, these are all vegetables fermented in a jar or vessel. Kimchi is from Korea although you can find kimchi in many parts of the world. The same with the European sauerkraut. They have something similar in El Salvador called curtido. In Croatia and many parts of Eastern Europe, they make kisela repa or sauer ruben, which is similar to sauerkraut. This is made using shredded turnips. You can find torshi or tursu – fermented carrots, celery, cauliflower, bell peppers, cabbages, aubergines, and green tomatoes – in Iran, Turkey, Morocco, and many parts of the Middle East.
Fermented vegetables are sold in glass or plastic bottles with a sealed lid or cover. An important part of the packaging is the label, which contains important information for the consumers, including the name of the manufacturer, expiration or best-before date, ingredients, nutritional information, storage instruction, etc. Check the plastic seal. It should be intact. If this is broken or damaged, the product may have been tampered with and the quality and safety have been compromised. Do not buy fermented vegetables with damaged safety seals. Do not buy a jar of fermented vegetables that has other signs of damage like cracks on the bottle.
Enjoying Fermented Vegetables
Why eat fermented vegetables? There are a lot of reasons. First, fermented vegetables are easy to digest. Second, fermented vegetables are delicious with their salty, tangy, sour, or even spicy, taste. Last but not the least, fermented vegetables are not just appetizing, but nutritious as well.
Fermented vegetables can be stored in a cool, dark location where they will keep for six months to one year. You can also refrigerate fermented vegetables. Many people do this because refrigerating fermented vegetables will help make the vegetables firm and crunchy.
When storing fermented vegetables, never keep the jar’s contents exposed without the lid on it. Close it after you are done scooping out the fermented vegetables inside.
Making fermented vegetables is easy. All you need are your chopped vegetables, herbs and spices, water, salt, and a clean jar with a lid. Simply put the vegetables inside the jar. Dissolve the salt in water and then pour this into the jar, making sure the vegetables inside are submerged with salt brine. Close the jar for 24 to 48 hours to start the fermentation process. Keep it on the counter or table at room temperature. Open the lid to check for the bubbles and then store them inside the refrigerator for one week. After that, your fermented vegetables are ready to eat.
If you are making soup, you can use fermented vegetables if you don’t have fresh vegetables. Just make sure to add fermented vegetables when the soup is almost done since fermented vegetables are already softer than fresh vegetables because of the fermentation.
Many people believe fermented vegetables offer a unique nutritional benefit different from raw or cooked vegetables. They believe that a fermented vegetable is an antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-atherosclerotic food:
- Conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) – It helps lower blood pressure.
- Bacteriocins – The benefit stems from its anti-microbial effects.
- Sphingolipids – The benefit from this is its anti-carcinogenic and anti-microbial properties.
- Bioactive peptides – The benefit from this is its antioxidant, anti-microbial, opioid antagonist, anti-allergenic, and blood pressure-lowering effects.
According to the study conducted by Eirini Dimidi, Selina Rose Cox, Megan Rossi, and Kevin Whelan, published in 2019 in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients, “there is very limited clinical evidence for the effectiveness of most fermented foods in gastrointestinal health and disease.”
It is important to remember that vegetables retain all their nutrients and vitamins even with fermentation and no nutrient is lost because of this process; some claim fermentation even improves or increases the bioavailability of vegetables. Remember that carrots, okra, radish, cabbages, and other vegetables that are fermented are very nutritious. Eating these vegetables – raw or fermented – allows the body to absorb nutrients and help in our well-being in many different ways, from improving our eye health to helping keep cancer away and everything in between.