The Secret Life of Fermented Foods

by Helen Marshall

The Secret Life of Fermented Foods by Rosemary Mason

I am a fermenting fanatic – but isn’t everyone these days? We all know these probiotic rich foods promote a balance of good bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts, which is essential for overall health. The benefits are touted far and wide, and we are all buying (or better yet, making) sauerkraut, kvass, kefir and kimchi.

But there are some little known and powerful properties of naturally fermented vegetable that more people should know about. Anyone healing a leaky gut, or simply looking to improve gut health, will be impressed and excited to know that fermented foods:

  • Are potent chelators – by helping to bind and remove metals and toxins in our digestive tracts they improve and supplement our natural detox processes.
  • Optimise gut flora far more effectively than any probiotic supplement can due to the enormous quantity and many varied strains of bacteria they naturally contain. The diversity of strains also varies between batches, making each batch unique in the benefits it can provide.
  • Contain probiotics that are active even when they are dead – they are still able to chelate toxins, helping to heal and seal a leaky gut. This is great news for those of us who love German Sauerkraut!
  • Can be used to partially ferment your meat before you eat it – this is great for people who have just started to heal the gut wall and have trouble digesting meat. Simply add some ferments in with your meat when you are stewing or slow cooking it. It will partially digest the meat for you and make many nutrients more readily bioavailable.
  • They are the perfect example of “food as medicine” and should be consumed in small quantities with a meal, just as you would take many medicines. This may be sad news for those of us who can down a whole bottle of kombucha in one go!

There are so many foods that can be fermented, including dairy, beans, vegetables, fruit, meat, fish and grains.

So how about a recipe? This one is a firm favourite from

Beet Kvass.


  • 3 medium or 2 large organic beets, peeled and chopped up coarsely (not too small)
  • 3cm (2 inches) of ginger. Slices into could
  • 2 – 4 teaspoons of sea salt
  • filtered water
  • Large glass jar


Place beets in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Stir to combine and then put this mixture into a two litre glass container. Add filtered water to fill the container. Stir well and cover securely. Keep at room temperature for 2 – 5 days until it tastes tart and to your liking, and then transfer the jar to your refrigerator.

The focus of this ferment is actually the liquid, and I recommend drinking between 30 mls (a shot glass) and 125 mls (1/2 cup / 4oz) per day.

When most of the liquid has been drunk, you may fill up the container with water and keep at room temperature another two days. The resulting brew will be slightly less strong than the first. After the second brew, discard the beets and start again. You may, however, reserve some of the liquid and use this as your inoculant for the second batch.

It is important for fermentation that the liquid is always completely covering the food. Any food above the liquid line will attract mould. 


  • Parsnips can be used as well as beets, but don’t contain the same phytonutrient benefits as beets do.
  • Fennel seeds can be added for a different flavour. Apparently mint can as well but I have never tried it myself.
  • Garlic can be added for immune benefits if fighting a cold or infection.



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