Saturday, July 10, 2010

Healing Foods: Beet Kvass

In my continuing effort to keep up with blogging, I've decided to create a new series based on my deep love of food as medicine. I love the medicine plants that we use as teas, tinctures and salves, but I also love the food plants, and believe that the deepest most effective healing begins with NOURISHMENT, and we nourish ourselves with food three or more times a day. I'm entitling it Healing Foods, and will cover one food or preparation method in each post that you can use to create nourishing and delicious food medicines! If you have anything you'd like to see in particular, please let me know and I'll try to cover it!

For now, let's begin with Beet Kvass!
Element: EarthTaste: Sweet
Thermal Nature: Neutral to warm
Pitta -
Vata -
Kapha +

Beets, an often disliked root vegetable is sweet, earthy and rich in betaine, folate, beta carotene, vit C, iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Betaine, a compound found in beets (also inbroccoli, spinach and shellfish) protects the liver from damage and aids in the production of antioxidants in the liver. It is also protective for the cardiovascular system. Not suprising then, that Chinese food energetics say that the sweet, mineral rich root clears the liver of stagnant or congested qi and blood. I use beets frequent
ly when addressing liver congestion or digestive weakness related to the liver. Beets will help stimulate the liver to produce fluids, and flush old blood out. Beets are a wonderful food to support the liver and digestion and they help maintain regular elimination. Some people find that eating beets turns stool or urine bright pink or red (this is called Beeturia), and is nothing to worry over. Beets are excellent for building healthy, rich blood for those with "blood deficiency" or anemia. I like to eat beets around the time of my moon cycle to aid the liver in detoxifying estrogen and other end
ogenous hormones, and to replenish my blood with iron and other minerals.
Beets are considered detoxifying and cleansing to the blood, strengthening to the heart and cardiovascular system , calming the spirit or "shen", moistening to the digestive system and other mucous tissue.

Beets are sweet and thus are rich in natural sugars, which for some people, especially those with insulin resistance, need to be taken in moderation. Beets also contain oxalic acid and if eaten in large amounts can inhibit calcium absorption. So, eat beets, but don't over do it.
My favorite way to eat beets is when they have been lacto-fermented! The process for beet lacto pickles in not much different than making kvass, but for today, we will just cover Kvass. Kvass- fermented beverage traditionally made with bread, comes from Russia, but for many of us, fermented or not, bread is not an option. Plus beets have such wonderful properties on their own, thus emerged Beet Kvass. Lacto-fermentation of beets frees up the minerals and vitamins into a h
ighly bioavailable form, helps to populate the digestive tract with beneficial flora, and changes the sweet flavor of beets into a refreshing blend of sweet, sour and salty. Fermentation also helps to break down some of the
sugars in the roots. Sour and salty flavors
are cooling and refreshing, and help the body hold on to fluids. Beet Kvass is a wonderful way to use excess beets, and provide your family with the benefits of healthy lacto-fermented
foods and the minerals and healing properties of beets. I recommend starting with just 4-6 oz of Beet Kvass per day, until your body gets acquainted with it. The sign you've had to much is loose stools. We used to joke in my family after drinking fresh beet juice "look out below." Kvass will keep you regular, and is a simple, healthy and
gentle remedy for occasional constipation safe for all ages, a daily support to improve liver health and digestive function, and a rich source of highly assimilable nutrients and probiotic bacteria.
Beet Kvass

  • 1- 1/2 gal canning jar
  • 3-4 medium beets (more makes a stronger brew, less a weaker brew- this is flexible)
  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • 1/2 gal clean water (not chlorinated)

  1. Clean your beets to remove any traces of dirt. Remove the greens and reserve for cooking.
  2. Chop the beets into quarters or eighths- smaller pieces will ferment faster. You may leave the skin on, and use the long, skinny root tip as well.
  3. Place beets and salt in the jar.
  4. Top with enough water to fill the jar and stir briefly to dissolve the salt.
  5. Cover the jar loosely with a cloth and rubber band, or clean paper towel underneath the ring portion of the jar lid.
  6. Place in a warm spot in the kitchen where it will not be disturbed.
  7. Let ferment for 3-5 days. You may want to taste test your kvass after 3 days (I use a metal bombilla). It should be salty and sour, and a little bit fizzy. If it isn't sour yet, let it continue to ferment. Keep in mind that warmer temperatures and small pieces of beets will speed up the fermentation process. If it is chilly out it will take longer.
  8. Once it has reached your desired level of tartness, you may place the jar with a clean lid in the fridge, or strain the beets from the liquid and store. There may be a layer of white slime or mold on the top of the liquid. Just skim it off and the liquid beneath is delicious and healthy.
  9. Eat the beets- chop them into salads! Healthy lacto-fermented beets. Alternatively, you can make a second batch of kvass with the beets, which will be milder.
  10. Serve cool, in small portions 4-8 oz. 1 or 2 servings a day according to tolerance. May also be diluted with water, and a splash of lime juice added.
Variations: Some people use whey from raw milk or yogurt to inoculate their kvass. I find this is not necessary and not ideal if you are dairy free. You may need to favor using more salt if you do not use whey. If you prefer a less salty drink, you can use less salt (2 tbsp) but you may have more slime develop on the top. Often I innoculate my kvass with the juice from lactofermented sauerkraut instead. I also like to include digestive supporting carminative spices in my kvass during the fermentation to add variety and further stimulate the digestion. My favorites are cardamom or fresh ginger, but you could use fennel, anise, caraway or dill seed, black pepper, star anise, or allspice.


Healing with whole foods: Asian traditions and modern nutrition. Paul Pitchford


Anonymous said...

Must try making kvass soon! I read that raw beet juice helps with gallbladder issues. Do you think the kvass would help as well? We have a booth at our farmer's market that sells the most delicious garlic beet kvass! I could get that down much easier than raw juice.


Shamana Flora said...

Yes, beets benefit the gall bladder too, especially with all the betaine, and helping to moisten and increase bile flow. I certainly think kvass will work too, plus it has all the benefits of friendly flora too. I'd say give it a whirl. that is one I haven't added to it yet. YUM!

Natalie said...

Hi Darcey, I've yet to make Beet Kvass, but I'm going to do it the next time I come across some nice beets. Thanks for the article. Always great to get the scoop from someone who has tryed it first.

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~