In health care since 1977, but keenly aware of Western medicine's shortcomings, Rose Mary began exploring natural health in the late 1990s.
I have previously written a hub overviewing the basic principles of The Body Ecology Diet (BED). I have also written hubs on some of the specific recommendations of the BED:
Basic Principles of the Body Ecology Diet
The Body Ecology “diet” was developed by Donna Gates to improve health, with weight loss as a pleasant side effect. This statement appears on the cover of The Body Ecology Diet: “A must-read for anyone who wants to be healthy or who is exhausted, overweight or has digestive problems, candida, viral infections, cancer or neurological disorders such as ADD, Autism, Alzheimer’s, and Multiple Sclerosis.”
Making Cultured Vegetables
What Are Cultured Vegetables?
One of the cornerstones of the Body Ecology Diet (BED), is cultured vegetables, which Donna recommends eating daily. She refers to cultured vegetables as “signature…super foods”. Cultured vegetables are vegetables naturally fermented by friendly lactobacilli, which are present on the surface of all living things.
Cabbage is commonly used, or a mixture of vegetables including cabbage, although “marinara style” cultured vegetables are mixtures of mostly root vegetables. One of the basic BED cultured vegetable recipes calls for 3 heads of green cabbage and 6 large carrots to be shredded in a food processor. Also included are 6 cloves of garlic and a 3 inch piece of ginger.
Although the primary ingredient of cultured vegetables is cabbage, smaller quantities of dark, leafier greens can also be included, such as kale, collards, mustard green, or turnip greens. I like the contrast of the crunchy cabbage and chewy dark green.
Other common ingredients added to cabbage-based cultured vegetables include onions, squash, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, lemons, limes, celery, peppers, and Granny Smith apples. Many cultured vegetable recipes include fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, marjoram, lemon balm, and oregano. Herbs add not only taste, but additional nutrients. Another way to boost the nutritional value of the cultured vegetables is to add sea vegetables such as wakame, hijiki, arame, and dulse.
Vegetable mixtures are tightly sealed in glass or stainless steel containers, with a rubber ring seal and clamp down lid. Vegetables are kept at room temperature, about 72 degrees, for about 3 days.
Lacto-Fermentation Process and Benefits
Starches and sugars present in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid. The lactic acid acts as a preservative and deters bacteria that would decay or rot the produce. When clean shredded or chopped vegetables are kept at room temperature for several days, in a sanitary, airtight container, the lactobacilli and enzymes naturally present on the vegetables will multiply.
Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, in Nourishing Traditions, seem to agree. She notes “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 anticarcinogenic substances. Their main bi-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.”
Donna recommends the addition of Body Ecology culture starter to ensure you are beginning with robust strains of healthy bacteria. Many recipes for cultured vegetables on the web and in books call for BED culture starter. Many websites besides the BED site sell the BED starter.
The resultant cultured vegetables are super foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, and “good bacteria”. Fermented foods such as cultured vegetables aid digestion, get rid of toxins, eliminate yeast, and restore and maintain a healthy internal environment in our bodies. Cultured vegetables are crucial in alkalizing the body, making it a less hospitable environment for diseases, including cancer.
Nourishing Traditions Perspective on Lacto-Fermentation
History of Lacto-Fermentation
The Greeks recognized the changes that took place with lacto-fermentation, and called the phenomenon alchemy. The Romans described lacto-fermented sauerkraut in ancient texts, praising taste and medicinal qualities.
The primary fermented food in Europe is sauerkraut. Beets, turnips, and cucumbers are also traditional fermented foods. Fermented lettuces, peppers, and green tomatoes are common fermented foods in Poland and Russia. Lacto-fermented cabbage, carrots, onion, turnip, squash, eggplant, and cucumber are common in the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cultures. Korean kimchi is typically eaten daily. Likewise, the Japanese usually eat fermented vegetable with each meal.
Modern is Not Always Good
So can’t I just buy some pickles and eat them with meals to cash in on all the great health benefits of fermented foods like cultured vegetables? Actually, no! Commercial products are prepared with salt, and vinegar, and are pasteurized, effectively neutralizing any beneficial bacteria.
Fallon and Enig suggest that the wide-spread practice of pasteurization has contributed to compromised intestinal flora, making us more vulnerable to pathogens and disease.
My Purple Cabbage and Condiments
My Experience with Cultured Vegetables
I first tried commercially prepared cultured vegetables. I don’t recall where my first order was from. They were in pouches, in a decent variety such as sauerkraut, carrots, beets, and diakon. They were expensive, and I didn’t like the texture. I later placed several orders through Immunitrition. They have three vegetable combinations, and the texture was much crisper. They are about $20 per quart.
That’s expensive in my book, although the Immunitrition vegetables are tightly packed, so a quart goes pretty far. Donna recommends at least ½ cup of cultured vegetables a day. I’d say a tightly packed quart equals about double that in typical food servings.
Ultimately, I started making my cultured vegetables. I don’t know that I would have braved it on my own, but my sister was game, and helped me. Donna goes on and on about how “delicious” the cultured vegetables are, as do other proponents. Okay, I do not think they are delicious. I say not great, not awful. I think of them like medicine. They don’t have to taste great.
I can’t really tell a lot of difference in the taste of the different combinations, though apparently most proponents do. To me, they are all sour. It really helps to add some unrefined apple cider vinegar, stevia, Himalayan or Celtic sea salt, and healthy oil. I usually add ½ to 1 tablespoon of 2 different oils, such as hemp, flax seed, Udo’s 3-6-9, or pumpkin seed oil. The pumpkin seed oil is dark and rich, and tastes really good. I get it from Immunitrition also.
We made some “marinara style” cultured vegetables. They were firm textured, and made with a great variety of root vegetables. So why didn’t I like them? The marinara vegetables seemed too “rich” to me. I know that sounds crazy, since it’s just vegetables. Too dense? Too heavy? I just haven’t found the right word.
The Versatile Vegetable
The best recipes are from The Versatile Vegetable. My favorite is the Ruby Recipe, which has purple cabbage and red beets. With the “doctoring up” above, it reminds me of German purple cabbage. I appreciate the texture aspects of some of the combinations. I like the chewy contrast of the dark greens added in, such as in the “Bitter But Delicious” recipe. I like the crispness of the corn in the “Summer Succotash”, but for some reason, my cabbage was mushy.
I highly recommend The Versatile Vegetable, available on The Body Ecology website. It has great tips for making sure your cultured vegetables retain their crispiness. It covers many vegetable topics with recipes, including sea vegetables.
Recipes for Cultured Vegetables
Spiced Gundruk recipe on food.com features daikon radish, napa cabbage, carrots green onion, garlic, and ginger.
Kimchi and pickled turnip recipes on Care2.com.
Two cultured vegetable recipes from the Body Ecology website. One features cabbage, kale, and dill. The other features cabbage, carrots, ginger, and garlic.
Patty’s Sauerkraut on NaturalNews.com features cabbage, kale or chard, carrots, daikon radishes, and Granny Smith apples.
PennyThoughts blog features Marinara Style cultured vegetables with carrots, beets, onions, garlic, shallots, and fresh basil, oregano, and marjoram. Also garden style cultured vegetables with red and green cabbage, carrots, red bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, celery, garlic, and dill.
Talk to Your Health Care Provider
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you think you might want to try The Body Ecology Diet, pick up a copy of the book, and do your homework, including talking to your doctor.
My Diet and Nutrition Hubs
BODY ECOLOGY DIET
NUTRITION- Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements
DIETS & WEIGHT LOSS
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on August 13, 2016:
I make my own cultured vegetables. I have a large jar of sauerkraut in the storage area and a small jar of cucumbers on the kitchen countertop. Eating them helps my digestive and skin issues. I've never heard of pumpkin seed oil. I'll have to check it out! I like the idea of the way you doctor up the veggies so they taste better. Thank you for sharing.
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on October 21, 2011:
Thanks for the visit Sally. I haven't made any cultured vegetables in a while. I need to get back with the program!
Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 05, 2011:
A few days ago I watched a very long video on making kimchi, and was fascinated by watching the variety of foods and spices that go into it. Unfortunately, the video was not in English, and I'm sure I missed a lot of important info about what goes on in the fermentation process. So thanks for this wonderful Hub on what's happening in that jar! Up and useful.
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on November 09, 2010:
Thanks Dr Mike. Our culture's over-reliance on prescription and OTC drugs is very frustrating to me.
DrMikeFitzpatrick from Sandpoint, Idaho on November 04, 2010:
my best friend was the executive director of research for the wold naturopathic health orgainizaton-he said everything you did about the time the Internet got going-great stuff for sure. This is what many cultures that don't give people chemical pills all day that don't heal or cure anything. We also keep cabbage juice on hand in case we need it. wonderful work! Dr. Mike
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on August 23, 2010:
Thanks for the high praise katiem!
Katie McMurray from Ohio on August 21, 2010:
Super info on Ecology Diet Cultured Vegetables Fermented Foods as I learned some new and interesting facts. Book marking and voted up. Refreshing THANKS!
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on July 23, 2010:
Thanks angel. The fermented vegetables have robust "good bacteria", whereas pickling with salt inhibits the good bacterial growth.
Angel Ward from Galveston, TX on July 22, 2010:
I am not big on kimchi, its ok, but rather expensive.... I love cabbage, beats and I love them fermented, or pickled which ever...sauerkraut is sooo yummy with a meal, and fresh beats, cooked, peeled and pickled with onions and ACV are so pretty and tasty, if you add boiled eggs in the pickled beats for a day or so, the juice turns the outside pink and are very pretty cut in half fora dinner party!!!
Very cute hub, I really enjoyed it!!
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on March 30, 2010:
Paradise, interesting that cultures around the globe regularly consume fermented foods except us, don't you think?
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on March 30, 2010:
Sandy I might have a few "cultured vegetables" of another kind in the back of my frig too.
JenD I guess I failed my mission.
rmcrayne (author) from San Antonio Texas on March 30, 2010:
If you like fermented vegetables BkCreative, you should get The Versatile Vegetable. It has 6 really good cultured vegetable recipes, including the purple cabbage and beet one.
Paradise7 from Upstate New York on March 30, 2010:
That's some really interesting information. I heard of lactic acid fermentation and maolactic referementation from my time at the winery. I didn't realize it's beneficial, really.
ladyjane1 from Texas on March 30, 2010:
Very interesting and great info.
JenDobson27 on March 30, 2010:
Interesting hub, I have never heard of cultured veggies. I think I will stick with the regular stuff!
Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on March 29, 2010:
Never thought of fermented food before. I wonder if the food I forgot about back in the refrigerator count? Nicely written hub.
BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on March 29, 2010:
I love fermented food - like kimchi - it does make me feel soooo good. I'd love to try the fermented cabbage in the photo. It's so important to forget calories and think real nutrition.
Great hub - thanks so much.