Blood of the Earth

Last week, I went a little crazy on fermenting things. Luckily, only good things came out of it. I learned that radishes, a vegetables I don’t usually reach for, are nicer after sitting in brine for a week- maybe it’s partly the pretty pink water talking. I discovered that my adoration for brussel sprouts (or as Melissa from The Clothes Make the Girl would call them, “stupid-cute, tiny cabbages”) only grows stronger when you give them a few weeks untouched on a dark shelf. I thought I was pretty hot stuff when it came to fermenting until my beet kvass was ready. And then I knew I was hot stuff.

I was sold on Nourished Kitchen’s description of the stuff: “To drink beet kvass is to taste the blood of the earth -  sweet and salty with a mineral-rich undertone that speaks of the soil itself.”  Call me hippy, crunchy, granola, whatever it’ll be- but I had to taste the stuff and it had to be my creation.

Kvass is a traditional Russian fermented grain drink. It’s made from wheat or rye bread, water, starter culture, salt, and sometimes fruit, spices, or beets for added flavor. Beet kvass is just that but without the grain- so purely the deep red juice created from fermented beets. Here’s the deal about beet kvass. The many nutritional benefits of beets are heightened by fermenting them, and combined with the many benefits of fermented foods this packs quite the punch.

Just some of the benefits of the strong concentration of beets found in beet kvass:

  • Betaine is a nutrient rich in beets that is essential for liver function and fat digestion. Proper liver function and fat digestion are both currently personal focuses of mine as I continue on my leaky gut/autoimmune cleanse, because they are crucial for opening up the elimination pathways and setting the body up for success during any detox. The tops and greens of beets are the primary source of betaine.

  • Beets contain bile salts which stimulate peristalsis and therefor helps alleviate constipation.

  • Viruses and bacteria use bile (what the fat you ate is turned into and stored in the gall bladder before being excreted) to hitch a ride and spread throughout the body. This can causes the blood to be a shuttle for many various toxins. Therefor, thinning of the bile is crucial so it can be transported quicker and easier throughout the body, not allowing the toxins to remain in the body.

  • Beets are rich in folate, which is crucial for both women and men (wow!) to have adequate levels of prior to conceiving to support a healthy pregnancy

  • The red color from beets is caused by betanin and may not be easily broken down in the body for everyone. It can make your urine or stool a reddish color. This can be extremely unnerving to notice at first until you remember that you had a plethora of beets for dinner, so you therefor realize that it’s completely harmless. Some advocate that this phenomenon called “beeturia” is caused by a deficiency in iron, while I think low stomach acid can also like be the cause.

  • Ironically, beets contain a good amount of iron, so if you are suspicious that your red tinted urine suggests you need more of it, perhaps eating more beets isn’t a bad idea.

  • Also quite fitting is that betaine raises levels of stomach acid!

  • Beets contain many other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

  • Beets are high in Vitamin C, one of the most touted vitamins out there. But did you know that vitamin C converts toxins to a water soluble form, making it easier to flush them away? This makes Vitamin C a wonderful detox supporting vitamin, and fits in nicely with the beets other detoxifying properties.

  • The beets’ polyphenols and betalains encourage the production of more antioxidant enzymes, which help to prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, and more. Who doesn’t want that?

  • Folate and betaine also lower homocysteine levels in the blood, which is an inflammatory compound which may increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Nitrates from the beets are thought to have a direct blood pressure lowering effect.

beets benefits

Peel and chop some beets, put in a large mason jar with some starter brine (from a previous ferment), salt, water, and wait a week. Then drain the liquid from the beets and serve- either straight, over ice, or diluted with a little water. (OK Fine, you can find “real” instructions here. But it is that easy!)
Mmm.
Blood of the earth… 

beet kvass4beet kvass1beet kvass2beet kvass3

Note: The frothy foam at the top of the kvass is indicative of a healthy level of carbonation- this means the lactic-acid bacteria are very healthy.

We had friends over for dinner a couple nights ago and they were intrigued by my blood red concoction served over ice. When I said the words “beet kvass” my Russian friend perked up and began reliving childhood memories of fresh kvass in Russia. I got her a small glass of the stuff and she took a swig without hesitation. Her facial expression changed. “Oh,” she said solemnly. “This isn’t the same kvass I was thinking of.” Correct. I explained the difference between grain kvass and this one, made purely from beets. “I don’t think I’ll be able to finish this,” she admitted, her face guilt stricken. This made me smile with empathy. “Yes,” I said. “You have to really like beets.” Smile 


 

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