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Fun, easy ways to ferment fruits and veggies

Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN • Dec 11, 2019 at 4:30 PM

The fermentation craze is sweeping the nation, and this trend has come full circle back around to fermenting all your favorite fruits and vegetables. The fermentation process has been used historically to preserve foods and help cultures survive through harsh climates, frigid winters and severe droughts. Methods were often passed down through generations of family members and used to keep food from spoiling before refrigeration was widely available. The process not only keeps foods from going bad by slowing the decomposition of fruits and vegetables, but it also gives food a satisfying texture and delicious flavor.

Applying fermentation techniques to fruits and vegetables can be another great way to increase your daily consumption by adding variety and extending the shelf life.

A type of fermentation that is common for produce is lactic acid fermentation. This process preserves the quality, while introducing unique nutrients and probiotics. Typical probiotic strains developed in this process include Lactobacillus plantarum, L. pentosus, L. brevis, L. acidophilus and L. fermentum. Probiotic means “for life” because these bacteria can help to populate the gut to promote a healthy digestive tract and immune system.

Fruits and vegetables that do well with fermentation include apples, pears, lemons and bananas, root vegetables like carrots, turnips and sweet potatoes, as well as cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, peppers and okra. Vegetable juices can also be fermented.

While it sounds intimidating, the fermentation process is actually pretty easy! The main ingredients needed include salt, water, herbs, spices, and a fruit or vegetable. Here’s a simple recipe for savory fermented vegetables:

Combine 3 tablespoons of kosher salt with 1 quart of water. Place 3 cups of chopped vegetables like cauliflower, carrots and bell pepper in a clean, large jar. Add 1 clove of garlic, a bay leaf, one-half teaspoon of coriander seeds, and one-fourth teaspoon of black peppercorns. Pour the salt water over the top of the vegetables, leaving at least one inch of space at the top. Cover tightly with the lid and let stand at room temperature. Taste daily until desired flavors have developed then transfer to the refrigerator. Fermented foods typically last at least one month.

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