Condiments & Sauces / Side Dishes

Fermented Spring Veggies: a pickle that ended up pickled

My last night at the farm there was a giant bin of vegetables that had been harvested for shareholders, but that hadn’t been emptied by the shareholders. Therefore little piles of chives, green onions, green garlic, and baby bok choy lay unwanted and abandoned. I dubiously asked Flip if we should try and cook them. Dinner was already in the oven, so it seemed like overkill. I stood stumped, but then Bob called over,

“Why don’t you just ferment them?”

As a fierce lover of pickles and ferments (multiplied tenfold by my time in a pickling household), I absolutely jumped at the opportunity, and spent a good portion of the night salting and pounding those slightly listless veggies into pro-biotic, salty, crunchy, wonder. This recipe comes late because I had to wait a week for them to actually ferment. Only then could I taste the concoction and judge whether or not it was worthy of sharing. Clearly it was.

Fermenting your own vegetables has numerous benefits. On the surface you have a delicious addition to any meal. But fermented vegetables are also astonishingly good for you, because fermenting them is all about getting good bacteria to have a field day and multiply like rabbits. All that good- nay, great!- bacteria helps boost your digestive health, immunity to disease, and keep your overall body in balance. Fermented foods were revered and consumed in all traditional cultures; only today do we shun good bacteria and eat “dead” foods, such as pasteurized milk and cheese, pickles in vinegar instead of brine, and grains that haven’t been broken down in any way.

A third reason you should ferment vegetables is that it’s fun, and easy, and there are infinite flavor and ingredient variations to explore. This particular pickle was born completely out of convenience and necessity, but damn it, if it wasn’t delicious then I don’t love rice.

Fermented Spring Veggies

  • 10 spring onions
  • large bundle of chives
  • 4 smallish bok choy heads
  • 3 green garlic stalks
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 tsp salt

Chop all your ingredients up into the pieces of your liking. I like texture variation, so I did this very roughly and had all different sizes. Put into a large bowl/container and sprinkle the salt evenly over the mixture, turning with your hands to get all the vegetables coated.

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Now for the fun part! Squeeze, pound, and overall decimate the greens in front of you. The salt is going to draw out moisture naturally, but it needs your help too (unless you want to let the whole thing sit overnight, making the whole squeezing process considerably easier. I didn’t have overnight). The volume is going to decrease dramatically as you do this, and liquid should collect at the bottom of the bowl.

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When your hands hurt and it seems like you’ve wrung every last bit of juice you possibly could out of the vegetables, pack tightly into a jar or crock. There should be enough juices to cover the packed vegetables. It is vital that this happens, because to ferment safely, the greens need to be UNDER WATER. To insure this happens, I take a plastic cover and cut out a circle that’s just smaller than the circumference of my jar, then place it in the jar and keep the whole thing weighed down by a glass of water. It’s not pretty, but it works. Let your jar ferment, uncapped, for seven days or more. You can start tasting at seven days, and if you like it, refrigerate. If you want a stronger flavor, let it go a little longer (since refrigeration slows fermentation).

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Serve on the side of any meal and every meal. Ferment away!

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