What are Cultured Vegetables?

DSC01129Cultured vegetables – what are they? They are one of my secret weapons. I am crazy for these foods. They are more than food to me. They work like magic. Here is my story of cultured veggies and the magic they have performed in my family’s health.

First, it was my daughter Maci and her terrible IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). She had cultured vegetables at every meal, about a heaping spoonful. They help heal her gut and help her digest her foods. They were huge in her recovery, and she eats them every day to this day.

It was many years ago that my husband, Ron, my daughter, Maci, and I ate some bad artichoke dip and food poisoning ensued. It was awful. As I lay in bed moaning, I began to get mad and decided that I was not going down without a fight. I dragged myself to the kitchen and ate 2 big spoons full of cultured veggies then went back to bed. About 30 minutes later, I was up doing dishes.  Maci and Ron were almost crying as they asked me how I could walk around and behave normally. It was those veggies. They work like a SWAT team inside your body. They will fight off all kinds of viruses and bacteria. Did you know that they gave these vegetables to the chickens with bird flu  and the chickens recovered? It’s because these veggies are awesome!!!  This is always in my arsenal for any sickness. Colds, flu whatever, just take them and they will work.

Now my latest discovery is what cultured veggies do for seasonal allergies. I have had allergies to pollen since I was 15. Every spring I stayed inside and suffered. These last few years since I discovered cultured foods, my allergies started to get better. Every year my 8 weeks of allergy misery was getting smaller and smaller. Last year it was cut down to 4 days. One of the things I discovered was that the more cultured veggies I ate, the better it got. I eat about 1/2 cup two to three times a day and I do great. I also take a lot of kefir and kombucha, as those are important too. I can go outside and enjoy the springtime. It is a beautiful thing. Cultured veggies are loaded with vitamin C and they fight inflammation – both are very important for your immune system when it is struggling with pollen.

 Super Food For Super Health

DSC01093.jpgNot pickled, fermented!

Raw cultured vegetables are powerful super foods and include sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles and many others. There is a major difference between the foods eaten today as compared to long ago. Years ago, fermented vegetables were used as a way to prevent spoilage in food. They were also used on the voyages of Captain Cook to prevent scurvy with his shipmates. The main difference today, as compared to long ago, is that cultured vegetables, such as pickles and sauerkraut have been pasteurized, thus in part, destroying the many strains of the health promoting bacteria and naturally occurring enzymes that help with digestion and a slew of other things. These foods are so powerful that in Asia, where they were experiencing the bird flu, they fed an extract of kimchi, a fermented food, to 13 infected chickens – and a week later 11 of them had started recovering. Many times when I or someone close to me has been sick I have given them a tablespoon or two of cultured vegetables and watched the remarkable speed of their recovery.

Click to Learn How to Make Cultured Vegetables

326 Responses to "What are Cultured Vegetables?"
  1. Hi,
    Really enjoyed the info on the cultured vegetables. I have tried culturing vegetables using just the salt and fresh vegetables. I would like to know if after the 7 days are up are the vegetables supposed taste sour? (ie.. like a pickle) Mine do not. What am I doing wrong?

  2. I live in Canada. Where can I buy caldwell’s veggie culture? Please let me know. I thank you very much. I love your websight. I also have lot of stomach bloating for number of years. Have taken lot of digestive enzymes and probiotics. It helps a little but problem is there. Medical community has no answer for it. So I am looking into doing formented foods. I have stated making kefir and combutcha. My first batch is just ready. I also want to forment vegetables.

  3. I have a question.
    I make sauerkraut using cabbage and mixed veggies.
    My cabbage is always fresh but can one use previously frozen veggies.
    Thank you for your response.
    Suzanne

  4. Hey there Donna.. my i ask if its okie to use powdered whey from a can.. and will whey affect me since im suppose to abstain from lactose due to candida.. thank you..

  5. Hi Donna,

    Is it possible to use regular Fowlers jars with a clamp down metal lid or even a cheese cloth on top instead of a screwable plastic lid please? I have heaps of these, just not sure that I can get plastic lid to put on as there’s no thread to screw a lid on.

    Thanks! 🙂

  6. Donna,
    Thank You !!!
    Some one gave me some Kefir seeds one year ago after heart surgery. I found your site and it has changed not only my families life but some others in our community and beyond. We are always asked for seeds and scoby’s.
    I believe that you were selected by God to bring people back to healing their bodies.
    I am blessed to be a part of that. I will be returning to Africa in two weeks and will bring what I have learned to that community. They have left many of their culturing practices and I hope to help them return.. Blessings and keep up the amazing work you are doing. xoxo Maybe someday you can come to one of our Pastors Conferences and teach 😉

  7. Hi I am going to soon try to ferment cabbage. I was wondering how do you eat fermented vegs once they are done? Can they be heated up or does heat kill the probiotic benefit? What about mixing the vegs w other food – would that also kill the probiotic? Thanks.

  8. Hi Donna,
    My carrot, jalepeno, red onion ferment with Caldwells has been going for 8 days. There is a leaf of cabbage covering the veggies, weighted with a jar of water, & covered with a table napkin held snug with a rubber band…. as was recommended (as opposed to tightly covering with a lid) My concern, there is a white cloudy residue in the top 1-2 inches of liquid, it is sort of filmy on the top of the water, and the residue rests on the veggies about 2 inches down. I’ve only fermented cabbage before several times, it was easy & successful every time. Is this something to worry about? Still edible?

    I also see that you recommend only 3 days for veggies other than cabbage, did I go too long?

  9. Also, and this may be a dumb question, but when you say “will last up to 9 months” for example or some other period of time, does that mean as you eat some from time to time it will stay edible that long or did you mean if you just leave it in the fridge and only open around month 9 to finally eat it that it will still be edible then?

  10. I’ve looked and looked but haven’t seen this question asked on your site: Do the vegetables that you want to culture have to be organic? I know it would be best, but is it an absolute must?

  11. Hey there! What do you use for weights? I read in the Caldwell Starter packet to use weights just not sure what to use! 🙂

  12. I am fermenting potatoes using the Caldwell starter and brine.. My question is after I finish these can I use the same brine again with a new batch of potatoes?

  13. Hi, thanks for your great information!
    I feel much better without dairy and thus have been very successfully fermenting water kefir for some months now. I don’t know if the water kefir (which I assume has different bacteria and yeast cultures than milk kefir whey), would be appropriate to safely ferment my excessive amounts of cucumbers coming in now. Any ideas??
    Thank you!!

      • I like Body Ecology Veggie culture starter cause they have a bigger variety of lacto bacilli. Mercola’s new culture starter has even more. Have you tried it, Donna?

        • I have tried them but I like Caldwell’s better because of theses bacteria and the 15 years of research in designing them. (lactobacillus plantarum, leuconostoc mesenteroides and pediococcus acidilactici). Also the personal benefits I have experienced.

  14. If you have to store them out of the fridge or for longer periods when making more than you can eat in a month, and all the sugar gets eaten up, could you just add more sugar to make the probiotic effect continues since you gave it more food?

  15. Hello, thanks for this great information! I am wanting to start fermenting soon, probably with just the water and salt method. I am confused however with when to put the lid on tight? Is the lid loose (maybe covered with a light cheesecloth etc, to keep the bugs out) while it is sitting at room temp on the kitchen bench? And then put the lid on tight when transferring to the fridge? Also, do I need to burp the bottle once it has gone into the fridge? Thank you!

  16. Hi! I just found your website in search for some answers on fermenting. I’m hoping you can answer my question as it appears you know what you are doing and have experience. It was also nice to hear your positive results eating fermented veggies! I purchased the Kinetic starter culture on Dr. Mercola’s website. Long story short, I accidently used double the amount of culture starter than I was suppose to. Do you know how this will effect the veggies?

  17. Great article and thank you ive made some beautiful cultured veggies using your recipes 🙂
    I was wondering would pink himalayan salt help the veggies go crunchy or only the celtic sea salt?
    I made some sliced pickles & they turned out pretty mushy, Ive got some nice small cucumbers now & I want them to be crunchy so Im checking with you first 🙂

  18. I know I’ve seen the instruction to use “filtered” water. I think I’m getting reverse osmosis water, will that work or are we to only use something like Arrowhead or Crystal Geyser? I tried kefir in the past and never had any success, so it just occurred to me that I might need water other than what I drink.

  19. Hi there……..
    Stories of kombucha and kefir aside..good stories..i’m just about finished my cultured sauerkraut done with kefir whey…..brilliant stuff…another lot I made was woeful..dunno why, maybe the garlic..anyway I chucked it……..but my question is..when making sauerkraut with the kefir whey, like how long can that whey have been in the fridge? The stuff I’ve got there in a jar with the curds is prolly 2 -3 weeks old.. is it still good to go…and how long can I keep the whey in the fridge .. thanks….oh, and hey, do you do gluten free sourdough?…chau chau..

    • Yes they are still good and they will keep many months in your fridge as well as your kefir whey. Except that the kefir whey should be used right away to make culture veggies. I don’t have a gluten free sourdough yet!

  20. How often do you need to burp your veggies and push them down under the water? I’m using clamp down jars with a gasket. Thanks and I’m so grateful for your website, it’s quickly become my new passion!

    • You don’t have to burp them at all. You can just leave them and they will be fine even if they do float a little above the water. But you can push them down too and it doesn’t really matter what ever you prefer.

  21. Hi Donna!
    I really want to do cultured veggie. The cadwell method sounds awesome but I was wondering if you had to use a new package everytime you do a culture? I am living in Belgium so I can’t order every day USA’s things Thank you so much.
    Blessings. Thank you for being such an inspiration and for all your enthusiasm about cultured foods. Thank you for you great and appealing recipes

  22. Hi Donna ,
    What do you think about using a teaspoon of probiotic dietary supplement (active ingredients lactobacillus Acidophilus, bifidobacterium lactis) for a culture starter?
    Thanks for your thoughts,
    Esta

  23. Hi Donna,

    Just wondering when fermenting vegetables, once they are able to go into the fridge should they still be totally submerged in the brine at all times?

  24. Hi Donna, I just made my first batch of fermented cabbage using the airlock system. I only let the cabbage sit for 4 days (that’s what my recipe called for). It doesn’t taste like sauerkrout , it’s basically just salty. Is that because I didn’t leave it for 6 days? Am I getting any probiotic benefit? AND, do i store it in the fermented water or do I drain? thanks so much.

  25. Hi Donna
    I live Australia and I have just started making cultured veggies. I am curious, how tight do I tighten the lids on my (balls/mason) jars prior to placing in the fridge and do I have to keep burping them once in the fridge? I am worried of jars exploding and veggies going every where. Also can you have too much fizz?
    Thank you so much for your lovely recipes.
    Regards Liz

  26. Donna – Can I use whole kefir (that I have shaken to mix the whey with the solids) instead of whey to ferment veggies? Thanks – Love your column and your knowledge.Peace – Locke

  27. Hi! I made a batch of kraut in a glass mason jar, using salt, and I added extra salt water to cover, because the cabbage was pretty dry. I had read a different recipe that said to leave it out for 3 weeks to ferment, and about the end of the second week, I opened the top (plastic lid) and removed my weight to check the flavor. To my shock, it was completely dry! I think it’s because I had a crockpot going right next to it all day one day, and that probably sucked the moisture right out. There was a little liquid towards the bottom of the jar. At that point, I scooped it all out into smaller jars, and made salt water to pour in each jar and stored them in the fridge. Is it a waste of time and space to keep the kraut? It doesn’t taste bad, I don’t love it, but wondered if I’m getting any good out of it? I have autoimmune issues and use the kraut for my medicine. I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you!

  28. I love chutney but sugars are too high unless cultured. Other than Nourishing Traditions, I don’t find much on culturing fruits. Any suggestions? Does fermenting veggies vs. fruits differ much?

    thanks Trees

  29. Hi! Your site is great 🙂 I am finally doing this for the first time, fermenting carrots and ginger in a pickl-it, with no culture. How do I know when they’re done?? Thanks!

  30. I am in the process of making fermented cabbage and carrots using the culture. My airlock keeps filling with the liquid from in the jar. any ideas what I should do? of why?
    thanks again love your site!

  31. I love and eat fermented foods and I’ve been making them for some years but I always wonder if I let my vegetables ferment for a longer period, let’s say one month, will they have more probiotics than if I only let them ferment for one week. I leave them in a cool room and they taste very good but if the probiotic content is the same, then I can only let them ferment for a few days. I’d love to hear your opinion. I appreciate your teachings

    • The probiotics are at a higher level with shorter ferments.The longer it ferments the less food that good bacteria has to eat so the less probiotics you get. Shorter is better

  32. Hi Donna,

    So, I’m determined to make this kraut already! More questions: do you have to add water to chopped, salted cabbage, or just pack it in and leave a few inches on top? And does one need “weights?” And should the lid be opened daily? And how does one know when it’s “done” and when to refrigerate? This is without a starter – I want to start simple. I’m most afraid of an exploding jar. IF that happens – does it just break, or is there glass and vegetable, etc. all over the room?

    Thanks (again)

    Debbie

    • Pack it in and fill it with water leaving a few inches of room at the top. No you dont need weights and no you don’t need to open it daily just open it to taste it and after 6 days if it tastes like sauerkraut it is done. I have never had one break and I have never heard of cultured vegetables exploding.

  33. Hi Donna,

    I have struggled with IBS for years and recently decided to implement the Paleo diet 100%. After finding your website and reading all about fermented foods I decided to give fermented veggies a try and have been taking them for close to a month (upping the dose from 2 tbsp to around 4 tbsp), I was on Paleo a month prior to starting the fermented veggies. The healing crisis has lasted much longer than I initially thought and still causes some of the stomach issues you have mentioned. Is it possible I had so many bad bacteria in my system I am still experiencing symptoms or may something else be going on?

    Thanks.

        • If you have had IBS for years than yes this is a detox most likely and I would recommend taking a week off and then trying it again and allowing the body to rid itself of some of the pathogens and repopulate the good guys and let you have a little break. These can be pretty powerful and even a spoonful is a lot if you don’t have a lot of these good guys. They will try and dominate and kill the bad but it can be uncomfortable so go slower.

          • My partner has had IBS and GERD for His entire adult life. We have recently started drinking water kefir in the morning and cultured veggies at night. He has had the first week He remembers in YEARS without meds and sleeping through the night. His gas is minimal. In the beginning He had issues so we cut back on the kefir. though when we introduced the veggies, the results were and are amazing. He can’t wait to share with His daughter.

  34. I am trying to ferment cucumbers or any other vegetable without a refrigerator. My question is after a few days when the vegetable ferments do i have to eat the fermented vegetable all at once since I cannot refrigerate them?

  35. Hello there thanks for taking my question.
    I’m just in the process of fermenting my very first batch of vegetables,the cabbage leaves that I’ve used as a weight has gone dark round the edges and the liquid that has collected on top of the leaves has a cloudy film on top of it,does this mean it has gone bad?,there is no rotten or putrid smell though,please help
    Kind regards Lavern

  36. Hey there! I’m excited about this culturing business! I have tried four times now (without a culture) and have only gotten a tiny bit of bubbles, I tiny fizzy sound each day that I open them but nothing like I have seen on the videos I have watched. I really dont want to use a culture so I am hoping i can figure out why I’m not getting bubbles. my house is a little chilly. should i sit them in the window with sun shining on them? I also felt a little woozy after eating some carrots that fermented for only 6 days. Could they have turned into alcohol that quickly?? Thanks a bunch!

      • Hi Donna,
        What have I made!!!??
        Autumn harvest: grated beet and apple, celtic salt, teaspoon of probiotic (as culture). After squeezing there wasnt’ enough liquid to cover 1 cm above, so I juiced remains of apple cores and added this to the top. ‘Fermented’ for 3 days then took white mould off. After another 3 days was ready to eat but there are a couple of white round furry mold spots. Haven’t tried it. When I opened it, it smelt more like wine than tart. Is it ok to eat? Many thanks Donna.
        Esta
        Oz

      • Hi Donna,

        I was reading your post about carrots. I fermented 3 jars for 6 days and they were a little bubbly. After after 9 days, in one of the jars the fermentation is causing continuous small eruptions of bubbles coming through the top of the carrots and smells slightly alcoholic. In addition, when I remove the tops, they is built up pressure like taking the cap off of a soda. Does this mean there is no probiotic value? I put the other 2 jars in the fridge. I am trying to find the balance of bubbles…can you elaborate? Thank you!

        • The bubbles mean that there is lots of fermentation and probiotics and this is a good thing. The pressure in the jar is a product of fermentation and again is a very good thing. There’s a lot of sugar in carrots which is probably why they sell slightly of alcohol but this subsides as it ferments in the fridge.

  37. I made qt of cabbage and qt of shredded carrots. left the on counter 3 days, both had a slimmy
    texture . but taste ok. where did I go wrong? is this ok to eat?

    • It can be several things. Did you add salt and did you use a culture. Old kefir whey that is not fresh can do this. Also were the carrots fresh? If they weren’t the sugars break down quickly and make it slimy.

      • I had the same result once with jicama… Slimy. I threw it out… I’m thinking that some things ferment better than others.

  38. Hi (again!) Donna,

    I just finished my first batch of sauerkraut (WOW! So delicious!!) and I have all of it packed in Mason jars in my fridge. I had about 1/2 gallon of liquid left over, and I’d like to use it to make your flu prevention kraut. Can I use this liquid for that coming batch? Is it OK if I leave it in a clean fermenting jar with the water lock on it till I can process the vegetables tomorrow? It’s got water, salt, and Caldwell’s starter in it.

    Thank you so much for all your help!

  39. Hi Donna, I’m getting ready to make your orangeade kraut recipe and it calls for filtered water. Can I use spring water to ferment w/the Caldwell’s culture packets? Thanks!

  40. I have been using the airlock lids and have made sauerkraut that we have loved. The instructions for the airlock say to fill it to the max line. I have looked all over the airlock and haven’t found a max line. Could you please tell me how to find it?
    Thanksenny

  41. Hi Donna,

    I am about 3 months in at creating kefir and cultured vegetable creations. I read through all your Q & A’s to try and seek an answer before bugging you. I came across a statement in your latest blog and stirred up another question. When I make cultured vegetables I was told to really pound them down in the jar. When I do this they do not move or rise up at all. I notice in your photos all of your veggies float up. Should I be concerned. Also, is it necessary to pack them in so tight. I recently purchased the air lock jars and glass weights.

    Thanks a bunch!

    Tracy

    • I don’t pound them or pack them in tightly but you certainly can. As long as the veggies are under water they are good and if they float up this is ok too.I just push them down or leave them and it works great both ways.

  42. Hi there, thanks for this awesome page. Can you explain to me the difference between good fermentation and bad fermentation? I had always avoided fermented foods because I don’t do well with vinegar, pickles, etc. Tears up my gut. But a friend recently introduced me to the good fermented veggies (like sauerkraut) and I would like to understand why some fermentation is good and some is bad so that I know what to look for and what to avoid. Thank you!

    • Lacto Fermented or cultured foods aren’t made using vinegars just water and a culture. Cultured foods make their own probiotics and are refrigerated. Foods that are made with vinegars and canned are the ones to avoid if they bother you because they don’t have probiotics in them.

  43. Love your website!
    I just made my first batch of veggies. I made carrot and ginger, and daikon radish. 2 qts.
    I followed the directions for the Caldwells starter, but the liquid was not enough to cover the veggies. So I added more water to cover them. Is that ok?

  44. Hi
    I am 52 years old going through menopause.
    I have trouble burping any food and I have a burning sensation in my stomach and above.
    I eat very healthy.
    I don’t eat fried food , sauces , sugar.
    I don’t eat any processed foods.
    I do eat fresh raw garlic in the morning and hot water with lemon.
    I do drink mate and red wine only at night.
    Please let me know if cultured vegetables are a good idea for this symptoms.
    I don’t want this to get worse.
    Thanks

    • Hi there Silvana! exactly as you said above for me, the fix was no more raw garlic and drink the wine away from a full stomach and sometimes I just can’t drink it. I have recently started eating fermented foods of all kinds, the juices do help me with a stomach ache but I have been having a lot more gassiness in the evening, not sure if that’s from eating miso for the first time ever, or from some coconut kefir I made a few days ago. I do feel great though! Also, research NOT having enough stomach acid, I read that can cause a burning feeling in the stomach and or heartburn. Hope you figure it out! April

  45. Hi Donna:

    Thank you for your book! It is wonderful. My family and I are enjoying kombucha and kefir daily, and I’m trying to break into cultured veggies.

    I started with beets, which I cooked and put in a jar with fresh, homemade kefir whey as per your guidelines in your book. It has been nearly 6 days now, but there seem to be no bubbles whatsoever. It’s at least 71 degrees in the kitchen where it is sitting. Is something wrong, and If so, any ideas what?

    Many thanks!

  46. Donna,
    I made 3 jars of the Dilly Purple Cabbage from your book. (LOVE the book, btw!!) For experiment’s sake, I put one jar in the fridge after 6 days, one after two weeks, and have yet to put the 3rd in the fridge (coming up on 21 days). The cabbage rose above the water (My Bad!), and developed that white mold. I scraped it off, (like you said!) and weighted the veggies to keep them under. I now have a very thin white film on top of the ‘brine” (eventhough there is no salt). I have been thinking about scrapping that 3rd jar, but it smells fine, good even!! What is your experience here?

  47. Hi there Donna! I live in New Zealand, and have started eating live cultured foods. I’m very lucky as my Mother makes my Sauerkrout for me, but I would love to experiment with other veggies too. It it next to impossible to find the Caldwell’s starter that you were talking of here…… Are there other brands you know of that I could use? I want to do what’s best for me, otherwise I could just use my kefir whey, but I would like to use the better stuff.

    • Hi Terrilee
      I also live in NZ and getting into Cultured verges. Have you found a culture supplier here that I could contact?
      Many thanks Sue

        • Hi Donna
          I also live in New Zealand and I ordered the Caldwells Starter Culture from that link in Australia. I figured it ended up costing $15 for a teaspoon. But I wanted to at least try it. I have made Shelley’s Cultured Veggies with it and this is day 6 and the veggies are not fizzy at all. It was the same when I used kefir whey so that’s why I wanted to try the Caldwells starter. I can’t figure where I’m going wrong. The veggies that I have made previously keep fine, are tart tasting but not particularly tasty but I eat them anyway because I believe they are good for me but I’m not sure now if there are extra benefits in them. Maybe they are not really fermented properly. Is being fizzy the sign that they are properly fermented?
          Sorry for the long question.
          Sandy

          • If you are using Caldwells they should have at least a couple days where they are fizzy when they are fermenting. Usually day 3 or 4 and even a few days after that, but it subsides after refrigerated but contains there probiotics at a higher level longer in the fridge that other cultures.
            If they did not get fizzy at all was you kefir whey fresh? Did you culture package get hot in shipping? It should be bubbly around day three.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *