Beet green kim chi? You bet.

September 30, 2010

Author: Neighborhood Farm Initiative

Category: General News Recipes

So now you know the basics of pickling from the pickled okra post, but have you tried old school fermenting? Well, have you? I was a bit hesitant to write about how wonderful fermented foods were until I’d tasted a batch I made myself. And others had tasted it. And nobody had died.

Last night my friends Vinnie and Jenny stopped by for dinner and the appetizers I put out on the dinner table included my first ever batches of fermented pickles and a jar of beet green kim chi — experiments that I’d started about two weeks ago with some greens from the Petworth farmers’ market and cucumbers from the Ft. Totten garden. These two are among the more adventurous eaters among my friends, even tolerating the watermelon radish on shallot bread finger sandwiches that I’d been fiddling with, so I figured they would at least try them and give me some feedback. Try things they did, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Hooray!

According to Wild Fermentation, one can ferment just about anything. Should you want to try out an easy recipe, I recommend beet green kim chi — a spicy, vegan variation on the Korean classic inspired by my fridgeful of beet greens and a little fresh ginger I had lying around. I don’t actually have a copy of the book, so this recipe is loosely based on the more traditional napa cabbage kim chi we made at a fermentation workshop I attended at nearby Common Good City Farm a few weeks ago….

“If You Can’t Beet ‘Em, Join ‘Em” Kim Chi


- the chopped greens from 8 -10 beets
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 inch of ginger, peeled and minced
- 2-3 green onions, finely sliced
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- salt (maybe 2 tsp total)
- water, as needed

The basic process is as follows: combine, mash, cover, wait, enjoy.

In a glass pint jar (or other glass/enamel container), combine the ingredients, mashing ingredients with a wooden spoon as greens are added in roughly 1-inch layers. (See that picture of my first addition of ingredients? All of those beet greens mashed down to about an inch. True story.) Make sure there is a layer of liquid covering everything when you’re finished. If you mash intently enough — c’mon, rise to the challenge — you won’t even need to add any water, as the salt and mashing will draw a sufficient amount of liquid out of the greens. Then cover with a glass or small plate (some folks like to weight the lid to keep veggies submerged) and keep on the counter for a few days. Then dig in. See? Now how easy was that?

A few notes:
- It is critical not to use metal containers or utensils while making fermented foods, and plastic has the possibility of leaching chemicals into the food.
- Unlike traditional pickling, when fermenting one can use any kind of salt. Sea salt, iodized salt, kosher salt.
- I like to layer beet greens between sections of the various other ingredients to be sure they get nice and infused with the spicy flavors.
- After about 2 days, start tasting your fermented foods. Once they taste the way you want them, put them in the fridge to slow fermentation. (In fact, I had to head out of town for about a week and a half, so I had mine on the counter for a day, then in the fridge for 10 days, then back out on the counter, still covered, for about 2 days. I transferred things to smaller jars, though, as my fridge couldn’t accommodate the flower vase I initially used. That gave me the opportunity to layer in a bit more minced ginger and garlic….)
- If a layer of mold develops on the surface of your fermenting foods, just skim it off — no, really — and add a little more liquid. Unless it smells like a dead animal, the kim chi should be okay to eat (or so I have been told).
- Once in the fridge, you can enjoy your fermented goodies for up to a couple of months. But, really, they’re so tasty I’ll bet they won’t last a week….
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