Flu Prevention and Cultured Veggies

It was a winter afternoon eleven years ago and I was sitting in a chair, wondering how in the world I got to this place in my life. My life was filled with sickness and disease and I thought my body had betrayed me. Doctors were telling me this was normal with age. I had high blood pressure and diabetes. This ran in my family so maybe this was the reason it had showed up in my life.

I remember that day quite well, because I decided that my story was not going to end this way. From a quiet place in my soul I begged for help and told myself that the answers would come to me. The answers did come and they came in the form of food that was teaming with micro organisms. These special bacteria cultures that made probiotics in my food and increase the vitamins changed me from the inside out.

I no longer have high blood pressure or diabetes. Instead, I feel like I’m aging backwards. I need less sleep, have more energy, and can run circles around people half my age. I am 52. I credit these special cultured foods for transforming my life and taking me on a journey to discover who I really am; 100 trillion cells of bacteria that were already living inside of me. When I ate cultured foods everyday at every meal, I transformed physically. Emotionally, it was like having a new life. Cultured foods make serotonin in the gut and give you those feel-good chemicals in the brain. It is no wonder that the Turkish meaning for kefir is “To Feel Good.”

These cultured foods: kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables (I call them the Trilogy) sit on my counter day after day super charging my food. They make my food more than it is in its original state. They are my friends. They came to me when I needed them the most. They are, after all the essence of what we are; bacteria. Eat them consistently, then watch and see what happens. Cultured foods are my constant companions. They have changed the world inside of me. This change reflects on the outside and through the joy I feel.

There are many recipes on my site for all these foods. Here is a special one that I eat often during cold and flu season because of the extra Vitamin C that is in it. The vitamin C is also increased by the process of fermentation. I call this my flu prevention program.  I try to have spoonfuls with each meal or often as a snack on sprouted chips or vegetables.

Take the journey and include some cultured food at every meal. It is the road less traveled, but for me it has made all the difference.

~Donna Schwenk


Carrot Chips and Cultured Veggies

Cultured Veggies for Flu Prevention


By Donna Schwenk Published: January 4, 2013

  • Yield: 2 quarts (64 Servings)
  • Prep: 5 mins

These are a little spicy, and a little sweet and sour. They are wonderful for digesting your food, building up your immune system, and helping your adrenals feel nourished. It is the flavor I love the best. I'm a foodie and it has to taste good! You can find Vegetable Starter Culture online or in well-stocked health food stores.


  • 1 medium jicama
  • 1/2 head cabbage
  • 2 handfuls fresh spinach
  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt
  • 1 large orange (zested and juiced)
  • 1 package vegetable starter culture (or 1/4 cup fresh whey)


  1. Shred or chop the first six ingredients and place  in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. You can also layer it in the jar instead of mixing.
  2. Firmly pack the mixture into 2 quart glass canning  jars or a half gallon vessel, leaving an inch or two for the cabbage to expand when it ferments.
  3. Then add the orange zest juice, and culture, and cover with water, leaving an inch or two at the top. Seal jar tightly and let sit on the counter for 6 days and then place in the refrigerator.

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    What people are saying

    1. cindy gutowski says

      You mention cabbage in the directions, but you don’t have it listed in the ingredients. Why is whey needed?

      • C.D. says

        I am curious about the cabbage too…looked up jimaca, as I have never used it, but it is a root vegetable, not a cabbage. Confused as well. I did, however, make other fermented foods, like ketchup, and I poured the whey on top, as the recipe instructs to do with the culture, at the end. Came out great in that instance.

      • Linda says

        Cabbage is listed as 2nd ingredient in the ingredients… you must have just “skipped” it as you were reading. :-)

    2. Wendy says

      ^ *teeming (not teaming)
      *organisms–these (not “organisms. These” otherwise you have an incomplete sentence)
      *foods with transforming (credit them with, not for)
      *really am: 100 trillion ( : not ; )

      (There are more, but I’m sure you–or an editor–can attend to them.)
      You have great ideas and content; thank you! (I extend my sincere desire that you be taken seriously, and that such errors–easily remedied by an editor–don’t needlessly distract from your credibility)

      Keep up the good work.

      • Noah Baade says

        It’s rude to be critical of someone’s well-meaning advice. She didn’t realize that in some circles, bad grammer apparently leads to INCREASED credibility. Butt youse folks shoore learned her, din’t u.

      • Carol Laney says

        Wendy I seriously think you are one rude individual. If you really felt the overwhelming desire to correct the author you should’ve done this privately! Who died and made you the “grammar police” anyway? I think you owe the author an apology!

      • Marlena says

        I don’t think you’re rude. You’re just tired of the way English has deteriorated. You’ve thanked the author for her excellent work and clarified your reason for offering the corrections: you want her ideas to be taken seriously. I’m with you.

    3. Alice says

      Yes – I second the question about cabbage. Can you be more specific? This looks really interesting. Thanks!

    4. Lynne says

      I second former comments: WHAT CABBAGE? Can you fix this recipe so it is complete? I’ve done the same thing. I’d just like to make this.

    5. Kate says

      Thanks for the great information. With all the flu out there, this will be so helpful. I believe I will start some tonight!

      @Wendy- Good Grief! Quit being the grammer police. Nobody is perfect and we all got the point of the article. Some folks have better things to do then edit someones blog. Go get you some fermented veggies and move on!

    6. Deborah Meade says

      I’ve heard that fermenting increases the deliterious effect that cabbage has on the thyroid. Can anyone verify this?
      I would love to try fermented foods, but as cabbage seems to be the beginner’s choice, I have yet to try.

    7. hala says

      The directions for cultured veggies mentions adding cabbage to the recipe, but there is no cabbage in the list of ingredients. Oops!

    8. Tammy says

      And, also for clarification, in step 3 should it read, “Then add the orange zest AND juice…”? Not to nitpick, but just want to make sure. Thanks! Sounds like a great recipe and one I look forward to trying. :o)

    9. says

      I’m lactose intolerant…does the vegetable started culture have dairy? I am also curious, as the others are, about the cabbage ingredient. Is it supposed to be cabbage instead of jicama?

    10. Crystalline Ruby Muse says

      @ Wendy ~
      “The answers did come and they came in the form of food that was teeming with micro organisms.”
      That is a complete sentence. Subjects: answers, they; Verbs: did come, came
      “These special bacteria cultures that made probiotics in my food and increase the vitamins changed me from the inside out.”
      That is a complete sentence. Subject: bacteria; Related verb: changed
      Maybe you misread the second sentence.

    11. Echo says

      I’ve never fermented anything, but this recipe may be how I start. Are we supposed to just “know” to put cabbage in it, and how much, since it’s not in the list of ingredients?

    12. Serita says

      Lol! Good heavens! 😀 Most of us are not new to culturing &even fewer are new to cooking. She gives the final size as two quarts or a half-gallon, so we’re not talking 12 heads of cabbage as being the missing sixth ingredient requiring shredding. All cabbages differ in both mass & weight, so your single head of cabbage likely renders the same amount as the three tiny guys I had on hand to fill the remaining space… Always the mildly irritating issue in any recipe calling for cabbage, lol! How many times we’ve all had to decide whether to find a recipe for the excess or fill a jelly jar with kraut! 😉
      (While I identify with Wendy as a former grammar Nazi, I’ve found more happiness in praising others for their effort &meaningful content than I EVER did in being brilliantly accurate… Maybe ill go back &misspell a few things, ignore improper punctuation &litter my text with hideous inaccuracies just for fun, mwahahahaha!!) 😉
      Thank u for the recipe &valuable personal experience, Donna!! :)

      • Erica says

        Thank you Serita… Reading comments helps me remember to relax, take a deep breath and let it be! Perfection is a condition of the ego that is relative to each persons perception…..

    13. says

      I was wondering if I could simply add some whey and try this recipe to a cabbage slaw I made the other day which had vinegar, olive oil and orange juice as the dressing. How will I know if it is not a healthy culture (other than smell or discoloring)! Are there any no-no ingredients when you start a culture like this?

      • Charles B says

        Part of the point of fermenting food is to convert some of the sugars to acids. The oil shouldn’t ferment but it might get in the way. If it were me, I’d take that recipe, leave out the vinegar and oil and ferment the rest of it for a week. Then add the oil after and adjust with a little more vinegar if it’s not tart enough from the fermenting.

        • Charles B says

          Also make sure there’s enough liquid to cover the veggies. I make a lot of kraut. If it goes bad for me, it happens when the cabbage expands above the brine and grows white fuzzy mold.

          • Cathy says

            Thanks for that tidbit of knowledge! Living in FL, I’ve had trouble with mold when trying to ferment vegetables.

    14. Tiffany says

      I am newer to cooking, & have never fermented anything (2013 goal to start). Where or how do you get a starter or whey? Thank you, this sounds yummy & easy.

      • Jane says

        Tiffany: If you don’t want to order a starter, you can do what I do. I get a quart of plain yogurt, then line a sieve with a couple of layers of clean cheesecloth, and pour in the yogurt. Put it (and the container you’re draining it into) into the fridge overnight, and in the morning you’ll have something like slightly thicker Greek yogurt in the cheesecloth, and your whey will be in the container underneath, all ready to use!! It’s so inexpensive (and I’m so poor) that I’ve completely quit buying commercial starter! If you let the yogurt drain even longer, it will get almost as thick as cream cheese, which can be handy, too.

        • CD says

          I am sort of new to all this too! But I was motivated when my 13 yo was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes this summer to lower our family’s collective glycemic load and make the switch to traditional foods. My kids don’t like all the changes, but it’s worth trying! One pointer on making whey ( 3 months ago I had NO idea what it even was!): use a really high quality, full fat yogurt for straining out the whey. I use Hawthorn Farms and it works great! They have it at Whole Foods even…all the low-fat Dannon is out the window in my house.
          Good luck!

          • Lisa G says

            Change is tough, especially if you have picky kids. In the book “french kids eat everything” it says that the french require that their kids take at least one bit of everything they make for meal (and they makes a wide variety of foods). It takes several tastes before they develop a taste for it. It really works. My 5 year old granddaughter has announced that she now likes mushrooms. Two weeks ago the announcement was onions. We are happier and mealtimes are much easier and enjoyable (and more nutritious). I do need to start pushing the ferments more though. Good luck.

    15. erica says

      yes i would like to know about fermented cabbage and the thyroid as well – i have never heard that myself.

      and just a general question about fermenting vegetables with whey – do you end up with different microorganisms that you get from just eating the yogurt, etc the whey came from? i mean is there an advantage to setting the microbes in the veggies?

      thanks – i really want to try this! i’ve fermented my homemade mayo, ketchup, and mustard so far. tried fermenting daikon, potatoes, and parsnips but i think i let them sit too long =(.


    16. Julie says

      I have been on a fermenting roll the last couple of weeks and I am excited to try this! I like the thought of sour with a little spicy sweet I the mix. Can’t wait to try this.

    17. Jen says

      I am new to all of this. I have a son with autism so I picked up Nourishing Traditions, then started looking online for recipes for healing foods. I’ve never fermented anything. I’m afraid I’d do it wrong and make everyone sick :(

      • Jane says

        As long as you follow the directions, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. With veggies like sauerkraut, just be sure to keep them submerged in the “juice.” That keeps the bad bacteria from taking over. One thing to remember, however, is to start eating/drinking very small amounts, in the beginning. I’ve been drinking beet kvass and kombucha for quite a while, but almost felt like I had an intestinal flu when I got cocky and ate a little too much sauerkraut the first or second time! I advise everyone to start with a small spoonful at first, and if you tolerate that well, then increase a bit each day. If your gut isn’t already in an extremely healthy state, your good intentions can backfire even if you’ve got a perfect batch of fermented veggies.

      • Summer says

        If you go back up to the top of this page, and look for a header called “resources” on the right, you can find your way to all kinds of resources.

      • Carla says

        You can also make your own whey. Sally Fallon has the recipe in her cookbook Nourishing Tradition. However you can google it and find recipes online. It was fun and quite easy to do. Have fun!!!

    18. Christine says

      I am new to fermenting and surprised you can ferment spinach. I have mainly done beet kvass, coconut water kefir and krauts. Can I replace spinach with swiss chard???? I have plenty available from my CSA and would like to use it.

    19. says

      I make lots of fermented food & always have kraut with my meals. This recipe sounds different & interesting. I will be trying it. In the part of the country where I live we don’t see jicama’s in the stores. I would probably just leave it out or what would be good to substitute for it? Thanks for the great recipes!!

    20. Marg says

      Does sauerkraut have to be so salty? Maybe I do it wrong but I can’t handle the salty taste. I’ve been on a salt reduced diet for so long that most sauerkrauts are just way too salty for me except in the tiniest amounts. Have recently made kombucha which is much easier for me. Still have to try kefir.

      • Clare says

        I have seen recipes for reduced salt, and no salt sauerkraut in the book Wild Fermentation. I can’t recall the details now, but recommend the book – it’s a great enthusiastic read about fermenting.

      • Sybil says

        Salt to taste. Technically, fermentation does not require the addition of salt though salt does help with veggie crispness.

    21. Hx says

      For jicama: look for it in any “ethnic” market store, especially where Mexicans shop. We have a large Mexican population here in TX and WalMart carries the not-so-pretty root, but I go for the not-so-local Mercado. Once you break into the white part through the dirt part, it’s a wonderful crunchy texture. It really doesn’t taste. I slice red peppers, fill them with avocado, thin slice it, then eat a slice of “Christmas” with a slice of jicama. Even my junk food friends like it!

      Can I use water kefir in place of kefir or whey? It’s super sweet, but I have it (and kombucha, t00).

      Thanks for the idea. Except for the starter, these are ingredients I usually have on hand, which is often not the case with probiotics!

      • nancy says

        I’m in the Hill Country and haven’t seen any jicama for several weeks—thanks, will try again. I love jicama once it’s peeled (awkward and a pain :) thank you-

    22. says

      This looks awesome! I’ve tried fermenting veggies in the past but they never seem to ferment right – do you recommend a temperature for the room? Thanks!

    23. myrna says

      This says to seal the jar tightly while fermenting. Typically the instructions for kraut etc say to not seal tightly. Is this because of the orange juice in this recipe or just personal preference? Looks great. Thanks.

      • Michele says

        I’m wondering about that also. Curious why it is sealed and other ferment recipes call for covering loosely or with cloth. Anyone know the answer?

    24. nancy says

      Hi, jicama is hard to find this time of year even in Texas. I love it, but can it be left out or substituted? Would some jalapeno hurt the acid balance, or is that an issue….also, would some stevia be ok? I love slaw and pickled vegetables–thank you!

    25. says

      I loved this article thankyou so much for writing it. It really spoke to me as someone who has been forever sick in the last year. I’ve never tried fermented foods, they always seemed a little weird to me but the idea of building the immune system by supporting the gut resonates with me. I might get a little brave and give this a go. I do wish i hadn’t read the comments though! A little poor in spirit from some and suddenly the topic seems a lot more complicated. Thankyou again, i am grateful. xxx

      • rosy says

        start with something simple like sauerkraut. it really is easy – and delicious – and only two ingredients (hard white cabbage and sea salt). plenty of recipes on line.

    26. claudia says

      Hi! This sounds like an interestin ferment to try. Wondering if all the items must be organic?? My understanding is that non organic foods don’t ferment successfully. I often cannot find all organic, even after a two hour trip to whole foods and trader joe’s.

    27. karen fuller says

      I have made alot of fermented dill pickles this past summer. Can I use some of that liquid for my starter for the fermented vegetables?

    28. Danielle Lawrence says

      Can salt be substituted for the vegetable starter culture and if so, approximately how much salt would be needed?


    29. says

      Thank you for this informative post. I have a fascination with fermented food. I started brewing Kombucha about nine months ago. I was imagining as I read your blog, eating fermented vegetables with every meal and what a difference that would make. I just drink the Kombucha a couple of times a day and not with meals. You have got me thinking.

      Is the kefir starter better than just fermenting with salt? And is it dairy free?

      Kathryn at LoveAndLettuce.com

      • Evie says

        While I haven’t tried this specific recipe, in general using salt w/o whey works just fine but just takes a few days longer. For the lactose intolerant, this is best. Using pickle juice as a starter works great. When I finish a a jar and can’t bear to throw out the good juice, I just add daikon radish or garlic or…let it sit on the counter for days/week and “voila”, I have another batch of veggies. I’ve not tried mixing fruit (oranges) with veggies so looking forward to trying this. The beauty of fermenting is that one can be creative once you have the technique; if you don’t have jicama, skip it or substitute. If the ferment doesn turn-out right, you’ll know by smell! Don’t worry…enjoy!

    30. Mary Claire says

      Why do you put the orange juice/zest and culture on top rather than mixed through the vegetables? This is my first time trying to ferment veggies, so any help is appreciated. I’m afraid I may not have left enough room at the top for the kraut to expand and stay in the brine. What is the best way to know if the veggies are good? I’m so afraid of this going terribly wrong!

    31. says

      What a great post…I am feeling down with tummy trouble today and this makes me want to dig into the fridge and pull out our Bubbies sauerkraut! I need to incorporate more food like this into my diet, thanks for inspiring me.

      — Katie

    32. john says

      I have made the cultured veggies, followed the directions but noticed on one of the lids on my jars that it poped up, think they will be fine or go bad. Thanks

    33. Traci says

      New to fermenting, but excited to do it! Made the ketchup and this flu-prevention slaw last week.The ketchup required only 3 days, so it’s been moved to the fridge already (and smells and tastes great). This slaw, however, calls for a week of fermenting time. It’s day 4, and the tops on the quart Mason jars are bulging. Did I mess up? Should I crack open the lids and refrigerate them now? Should I crack open the lids, screw them back down and let them continue to ferment for the full time (i.e., 2 or 3 more days)? Thanks for the help, fermenting friends!

      • Bill says

        Traci, the fermentation process releases gas. That’s why the tops are bulging. You have to allow room in your jar for the gas to expand. Gently crack the tops to let the gas out and then tighten down again. The reason for a tight top is so that you keep an anerobic (without air) enviroment that keeps that white yeast from growing on top—which is harmless, and can be scraped off, but it’s messy.

        I’m fairly new to fermenting veggies, but I’ve been making milk Kefir for several years now. If you want to make things easy, get a Harsch fermentation crock. They are expensive, but they will last several lifetimes and they make an anerobic enviroment easy to maintain.

        I’ll also share that the first batch of fermented veggies that I made (not from this recipe) I thought at first I had ruined. Fermenting cabbage stinks! It smells of sulfur, kind of like an out house. I’d be very surprised if this recipe actually ferments down in a week. It might, because of the small quantities, but a larger batch is going to take a while. And if you use red cabbage, it will probably turn everything in the jar red—carrots, cauliflower, everything is a reddish/pink color. And yep, for a starter, I stirred in 1/4 cup of milk Kefir.

        Anyway, I”m glad I found this site and I think I might just make up a batch using this recipe after I finish what’s in the crock!

    34. Debbie says


      Thanks so much for providing the link to Chris Masterjohn. The information was very helpful. I’ve discovered, among other things, that a low carb diet is not really good for the thyroid – at least for some. It also resolved my question about fermentation and cruciferous vegetables. Thanks you so much for all your work.

    35. says

      I made the fermented veggies as the recipe states – leaving room at the top for expansion. My top popped this AM after only 3 days. Do I had more water for what was lost and just keep going?

    36. Merideth says

      I made this according to the recipe, using whey from my kefir for a starter. It is beautiful in the jar, just like the picture. I know it has fermented due to the slightly carbonated liquid. I am eating it for my health, but the taste is nearly unbearable. I keep a glass of water at hand to chase it down. I want to eat well and be healthy, so I will consume it, but did I miss something here? Is it an acquired taste? There is no way I could get the kids to eat it.

    37. Wendy says

      How many servings/size of servings of cultured vegetables should one have on a daily basis. First to eliminate some candida problems and then for maintenance. Thank you for all this valuable information – great website!

    38. Sharon says

      Hi Donna,

      I just made my first lot of fermented vegetables. I have not idea what they are supposed to taste like.

      I do know that after tasting some, I was tempted later on to go back for more. I used a saline solution and kept them in the cupboard for a week. I cracked the lids for the first three nights to let off the pressure. The cabbage, celery and carrots are still crunchy, tho the capsicum and cucumber are soft.

      Is this how it is meant to be? I have put them in the fridge now.

      I guess I am looking for an idea of texture and flavour.

      Cheers :)

    39. Brenna says

      Im from Vancouver and trying so hard to find veggie culture starter here… it’s impossible. I resorted to online shopping, only to find that no where ships to Canada, and if they do, the shipping costs twice as much as the product! Can anyone help me? How can I get my hands on the stuff??

    40. erica says

      I’m wondering if a starter is really necessary. When making kimchi there is no starter used. Can this recipe be made sans starter? Thanks! :)

    41. says

      Hi Donna – how long will this last in the fridge?

      Can you eat too much good bacteria? I am a huge fan of kombucha and drink it daily just curious if you can over do it.


    42. Carol Laney says

      Seriously Wendy you need to get a life! I believe you are one of the rudest people I’ve ever encountered. First if you just felt the overwhelming desire to correct the author you could’ve done it privately. Secondly, who died and appointed you the grammer police? I think you owe this lady an apology!

    43. Verity says

      I just made a batch of these last week and am sampling today – one of the most delicious ferments I’ve made so far! Thank you for this great recipe!

    44. India says

      VERY new to fermenting. Sounds divine. Making first KVASS today. Can I make the cultured veggies and keep on the shelf in the pantry until winter? THX. CHEERS!

    45. Rashelle Gillett says

      Can this ferment in the refrigerator? I don’t really feel comfortable leaving it out at room temperature. I understand it would probably take longer if refrigerated.

      • Jenny says

        No. You need to keep it at room temperature. It will not ferment at all in the refrigerator, as those temps halt the proliferation of lactobacillus bacteria.

    46. Melissa says

      How long does this keep in the fridge?
      How do I know if it goes “bad”?

      I made as directed and put in refrigerator at the end of Sep, but yet to eat it as I’m scared. Never fermented anything before and am pregnant. Afraid of getting sick.

    47. Jean says

      I don’t think that vitamin C is created in the fermentation process. I know that vitamin K and certain B vitamins are created or increased by the fermentation process , but I don’t think that vitamin C is increased. Are you sure?


    48. Lucy says

      I purchased Caldwell’s starter culture. The package says that each pouch is good for 4.5lbs of veggies. How much do I use? The recipe says 1 pkg. and the Nutrition Information on the starter culture box lists one serving as 1/20 of a pouch. Is this sufficient for this recipe?


    49. Alan says

      I am interested in making the cultured veggies for the flu and cultured beets with orange and ginger. Both list starter culture as an ingredient. Can probiotic capsules from the health food store or salt replace this item?

    50. Shay says

      I made this and it turned out great – thanks for the recipe! My kids and husband aren’t too wild about it yet; I think it will grow on them after a while if I can figure out a better way to serve it (other than just plain, as a side). Does anyone have any ideas on what to serve it with? For instance, we love sauerkraut on German Meatballs, hotdogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc. Has anyone found a yummy way to serve this as a topping rather than a side? Thanks!

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