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History of Kefir, Kombucha, and Fermented Vegetables

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We all have trials and struggles throughout our lives and often these struggles have brought me to my knees. But without fail, each and every one of them has been a blessing in disguise. The pain turned to wisdom and I found myself so grateful for the struggle that brought me so much pain. Standing in the middle of the storm, all I can do sometimes is pray, quiet the voice of fear, and believe in the still, small voice that says, “Don’t be afraid. Hang on, help is coming!” It so happened to me almost two decades ago when I first found cultured foods. Desperate to find answers for my family and myself, I went looking for help with the ailments that were plaguing my family. I was wandering around a health food store looking for answers in the supplement aisle and then went to the book section and pulled two books off of a shelf. I sat down to read them and one of the books opened to a page entitled, “Kefir.”  I started reading about this ancient food and I picked up the other book and it too fell open, and I jumped when I saw the words on the page that said “kefir.” Right at that moment, a store employee saw me reading that book. He stopped, turned around, stood in front of me, and said, “That’s the most important book you will ever read. You should pay attention.” Chills ran over my body and I bought both books and this drink they called kefir. I brought all three items home, and the health of my daughter and I quickly improved drinking kefir, and so did the rest of my family. I would stay up into the wee hours of the morning researching this probiotic drink and all it could do, and it took me down roads that I never dreamed would change my life in such a dramatic way.

Little did I know that kefir would become my best friend and constant companion and I would become its voice for the billions of healthy life-giving microbes that are contained within it. It has a long history and this ancient food found its way to me when I needed it most. There is always help for all of us on this journey of life no matter what the problem may be. There is guidance supreme that lays within our hearts and all we have to do is ask for it. Our bodies are masterpieces made with precision and grace, and each of us is made with trillions of bacteria that compose more of our body than anything else. All around us we find bacteria  – one of the most dominant organisms on this planet. Since something loved us so much to create us this way, I made it my never-ending quest to find the rhyme and reason as to why nobody was really talking about this. What has occurred has been a journey back in time that has healed me, consoled me, and given me tools to live in this world that is ever changing. Never did I think the answers to my prayers lay inside a mason jar that was filled with billions of living organisms. But this is how the answers came to me. There is a blessing in every challenge, a door of opportunity for everything that brings us pain. And now I’ve lived long enough to see this truth. Here are the stories about the origins of the foods I love the most in this world.

Ancient Foods with Wisdom

History of Kefir

One of my favorite things about kefir is the many stories, legends, and history behind it. It has been around for thousands of years and the stories are many, as are the mystics behind this food. It would make a great documentary! One of the first stories I heard dates back to the time of Abraham. It is there in ancient scrolls found in Turkey that the patriarch Abraham credits his long life to this fermented milk. Another story passed around said that the manna that fell from the sky to feed the children of Israel was actually kefir grains; and still another legend, told in Turkey, is that kefir was given to Noah from an angel to sustain him. Even Marco Polo mentioned kefir in the chronicles of his travels in the East.

The most documented story about kefir took place in the Caucasus Mountains, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Legend has it that the prophet Muhammad claimed that the grains were a gift from Allah. He then gave kefir grains to the people and taught them how to make kefir. The “Grains of the Prophet” were guarded carefully since it was believed that they would lose their strength if the grains were given away to the wrong people, allowing the secret of how to use them to become common knowledge. Throughout the centuries, people occasionally heard strange tales of this unusual beverage which was believed to have “magical” properties. The people in the Caucasus Mountains have been drinking kefir for over a thousand years, and they are known for routinely living to well over 100 years old. Not many people outside the Caucasus region used kefir, and it was mostly forgotten about for hundreds of years until news spread of its use for the treatment of tuberculosis. Russian doctors believed that kefir was beneficial for health and the first scientific studies of kefir were published at the end of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, the kefir grains required to make milk kefir were extremely difficult to obtain.

Nikolaj Blandov

Russian doctors wanted kefir grains, so in 1908 a committee of Russian doctors, determined to get some grains, came up with a plan. They contacted the head of the Moscow Dairy, Nikolaj Blandov. He had connections in the Caucasus Mountains where the dairy made some of their cheese products. They sent a beautiful employee named Irina Sakharova to the court of a local prince to see if she could entice him to give her some grains. The prince was quite taken with her but had no intentions of giving her kefir grains, so instead he kidnapped her for himself. However, Tsar Nicholas II was not happy when he discovered what the prince had done, and he ruled that the prince was to give Irina ten pounds of kefir grains to repay her for the insults she had endured. The precious kefir grains were taken back to the Moscow Dairy, and the first bottles of kefir ever manufactured commercially were offered for sale in Moscow in September 1908. By the 1930s, kefir was made and sold on a larger scale and the rest is history. In 1973, the Minister of the Food Industry of the Soviet Union sent a letter to 85-year-old Irina Sakharova thanking her for bringing kefir to the Russian people.

Scientists can’t duplicate kefir grains

Kefir grains are so unique that scientists can’t duplicate them. Even though they know exactly what’s in kefir grains, they can’t make the real thing. Scientists have all the ability and technology in the world to alter molecules and make drugs; but they can’t create kefir grains, no matter how hard they try. Which adds even more mystery and intrigue to their origin. Kefir seems to have been around since time began and has written its own story on my heart and the lives of my family and friends. I’d like to believe that kefir came to me just like it has to the many people throughout time. And just like the prophets, patriarchs, and pioneers, I will carry on kefir’s legacy. The stories are quite astounding, and they still continue to grow; but none have meant more to me than my own story. Kefir came to me when I needed it most and my books and website are the results of this miraculous food.

History of Kombucha

Kombucha was the second probiotic food that changed me from the inside out. Kombucha is a fermented tea that is sweeping the country and it, too, is an ancient drink. Kombucha has been around for centuries, probably a few millennia. There are different stories about how Kombucha came into being.

The first story told was about Dr. Kombu, a Korean doctor who brought kombucha to the Japanese Emperor in AD 414. The Samurai, warriors of ancient Japan, were said to carry it in their wine skins as it gave them energy in battle and was a much-coveted drink.

Other stories written throughout history have been told about a fermented, vinegary beverage that filled the travel flasks of Genghis Khan and his armies. From Asia, it traveled to Russia and the rest of Europe. The most definite recorded history of kombucha began in Ukraine and Russia during the late 19th century.

Kombucha tea was attributed to saving Nobel Prize winner Alexsander Solzhenitsyn’s life while in exile in Siberia as documented in his book “Cancer Ward.” During the Second World War, the Russians were combatting an increase in cancer rates across the country. However, two regions were discovered to be nearly cancer free and this prompted a full-scale investigation. What they found was the people in these two regions had been drinking Tea Kvass (kombucha) ever since the Czar had introduced it hundreds of years before, and many claimed it was the fermented tea that had kept the people in this region cancer free.

In the 1960s, Swiss research confirmed the health benefits of drinking kombucha. They claimed that kombucha was beneficial for the gut in a similar way to yogurt. This fermented tea has a long history and after two decades of drinking it, my own life experience, the research and hundreds of stories that come to me through emails and posts have convinced me. I have written countless articles with research flowing in about this miraculous fermented tea. I encourage you to check it out for yourself, and not just to believe me. Your own life and internal compass will guide you and then you will know for yourself what is best for you.

History of Fermented Vegetables

The third ancient food that you may eat often, but may not know much about, is fermented vegetables. The earliest record of vegetable fermentation dates back as far as 6000 BC in the Fertile Crescent—and nearly every civilization from the Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Belarusian, Latvian, Estonian, Indian, Asian and African has included at least one fermented food in its culinary heritage.

The process of fermenting vegetables has been used for thousands of years in a number of cultures as a method of food preservation. Without clean water and healthy cleanliness practices, fermenting foods became a way to flood the food with healthy bacteria and keep out pathogens. Not only did it preserve the foods for months on end keeping them safe, but it also allowed them to keep their foods through the cold winter months.

Vitamin C and kraut

One such story of fermented vegetables starts with a sea captain by the name of Captain Cook. Captain Cook was one of the first people to make cultured sauerkraut a healing modality. When he took his first vessel and crew on a long voyage in 1768, a violent storm arose. The waves tossed the ship about violently, and many crewmen were injured. To save the men from gangrene, the ship’s doctor made poultices of the cultured cabbage on board to apply to their wounds. Cook was one of the first ship captains to recognize that a lack of vitamin C in a sailor’s diet (due mostly to a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables) caused scurvy, a terrible disease that killed millions of sailors in those times. Captain Cook always sailed with barrels of fermented cabbage (7,860 pounds of sauerkraut, to be exact) which he insisted the sailors eat. Scurvy was never a problem on his ships because the cultured cabbage contained lots of vitamin C. This is good news for you, too. We all need lots of vitamin C on a regular basis and fermented cabbage is a fantastic way to get it. Our immune systems are hungry critters and will gobble up vitamin C and cry for more, especially when we’re stressed or fighting an infection or virus. Vitamin C doesn’t last very long in the body, so we need lots of it and cultured vegetables has tons of vitamin C. Your immune system will thank you if you feed it cultured vegetables regularly.

The Trilogy

These foods have been keeping people well throughout history and they helped preserve their foods without refrigeration – and preserved them perfectly. Now they’re helping me, and thousands of others, to stay healthy in this fast world we live in. They are simple to make, delightful to eat, and I love them because they made me well and continue to keep me healthy and sane in this world that is crazy-fast paced. Is something trying to reach you and help you? Well then, if you’re reading this, it most certainly is. And let me tell you, it will keep showing up in your life until you listen. Believe me, I see this all the time. You might as well give in cause it’s gonna stalk you. Bacteria are all around you, inside and out, and it’s about time you started paying attention to these microbes. That’s why I’m here to help you connect with them and live a better life.

“The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.” ~ Hippocrates

Kefir the Champagne of Yogurt

Kombucha the Wonder Drink

Veggies Made with Microbes

Listen to My Podcast

Walking in the footsteps of those who lived hundreds of years before us, hear the legends and myths of cultured foods. These foods changed my life and health, they were profound stories of wisdom that felt like a hand reaching from the great beyond to help me in the here and now. Listen and find out how this wisdom can change your life too.

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