This week I made borshch from one of my favorite cookbooks, Mamushka by Olia Hercules.
Soups full of vegetables are one of my favorite ways to make sure I’m not focusing too much on meat and dairy. They get incorporated, but I don’t have the opportunity to overeat on them in ways I might sometimes like to. They are also nourishing and cleansing, providing hydration, fiber and if made with bone broth, all the benefits of collagen (skin and digestion), glutamine (protein synthesis) and proline (skin health). Borshch with some cultured sour cream is a filling lunch that covers a range of nutritional and caloric needs without weighing you down.
But I’m actually going to talk about beet greens today. Usually, when I get beets from the store, the greens have been demolished. Utterly smashed and over molested by shipping and manhandling and careless stacking. Cooking them down is a great way to use them without getting distracted by the cosmetic defects, if they aren’t just a muddy mush to begin with.
But the beets I bought this time around where beautiful. Crisp and largely unblemished. So I decided to pickle them. Lacto fermentation is not only a great way to preserve food, but also creates a delicious condiment that can help even out extremely fatty or protein heavy meals. Lacto fermented foods also provide beneficial probiotics which contribute to improved digestion, mental function and weight management.
These pickles are almost more of a kraut style ferment. This method can be applied to almost any greens, and most vegetables. It’s rediculously simple. For more information about the benefits of lactofermented foods and methods of preparing them, I highly recommend Sandor Elix Katz’s book Wild Fermentation .
A few things you should know about beet greens. Beets are well known for their nutritional excellence, but the greens are perhaps even more excellent. Aside from their antioxidant content in the form of beta carotene and lutein, they also provide great levels of vitamin c (wound healing) copper (connective tissue, bone and organ health)and manganese (connective tissue regeneration and blood sugar regulation.) They mostly shine in their insane levels of Vitamin K, which Weston A. Price called “The X Factor.” (TL;DR- You love it. You need it to be superman.) One cup of raw beet greens can have 774% of your daily recommended vitamin k. We dont get enough vitamin k in the modern diet, so I usually jump on it when I can.
However, beet greens are also high in oxalates. Oxalates can prohibit calcium absorption (though vitamin k is powerful in helping us absorb calcium…)and can also build up in the kidneys causing stones, if consumed in large enough doses. For individuals with kidney disease, they are not suggested. Actually, most sources suggest you avoid them if you have any serious kidney malfunction. Oxalate absorption is also increased with certain gut bacteria, including lactobacillus. However they’re effects are usually minimized if they are consumed in conjunction with non oxalate containing foods. My point being that these pickles are FULL of beneficial nutrients. Maxed out on the wonderous, illusive x factor. And should probably be regarded as a condiment, and not a side.
Pickled Beet Greens
1 bunch fresh beet greens
1 tablespoon of salt
unchlorinated, unfluorinated water
1-2 tablespoons lactofermented sauerkraut juice (optional- serves as a starter)
Wash the greens thouroughly, and chiffonade. That is, place thebiggest leaves on the outside, going progressively smaller to the center, roll into a tight bundle, and slice thinly into ribbons.
Toss with sea salt or grey salt. Shove them into a jar with a lid that will keep air out sufficiently, and press them down as far as they will go.
Fill the jar the rest of the way with water and if you want to jump start the culture, a couple tablespoons of sauerkraut juice from an active and healthy ferment.
Let it all sit in a dark place, tightly coverd to prevent mold contamination, for about two weeks.