Beets and Shrooms
No, I didn’t misspell “beats”. This has nothing to do with music or hallucinogens.
A few years back, due to poor health, my family was forced to re-evaluate our ideas of healthy eating. My mom spearheaded this transformation, but I was also interested and invested. One of the things we discovered was that fermented foods are not just good for you, they are really, really good for you. We began to drink kombucha. If you have never had kombucha, you should. My whole family enjoys it. It is an experience, even if you don’t like it. The problem is that it costs $4-5 a bottle. In a house where water and iced water were the primary beverage options, this was too expensive to buy all the time. I began to research the process of growing kombucha myself.
Making your own kombucha sounds really sketchy. You have to acquire a “mushroom” which looks like a pancake. It is a “SCOBY” which stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.
I say acquire because you can buy them or you can find someone in your area who already has some – there are a couple of online networks that help you do this. You put this shroom with its starter batch kombucha in a container with slightly sweetened tea, cover it with a cloth, and let the fermentation happen. You can then drink the majority of the kombucha alone or you can ferment it a second time with some fruit juice. You also save some of the kombucha for your next batch. Your shroom will produce a baby. You have to separate the baby from its mother. The mother can be re-used and the baby is ready to start another batch. (This explains the kombucha mushroom dealers.)
This is a “simple” never-ending process. You just keep removing the babies or mothers, pouring off the majority of the kombucha and adding sweet tea.
I was sold. I was ready to order my kombucha starter kit.
My parents didn’t think this was the best idea. I saw the benefit – it was cheap kombucha. They saw all the other possibilities. If you don’t feed it sweet tea regularly, it dies and you have to buy another mushroom. If the temperature isn’t right, it won’t grow. The mother can get moldy and poison you. They kept reminding me that if I killed it, I would have wasted my money. Parents are crafty like that. They know your weaknesses, and they use them to their advantage.
I hated the idea of wasting money, so I decided to make beet kvass instead. It was cheaper and simpler. I assumed that once we were all enjoying my fermented beet drink, I would be able to make a convincing argument that I could successfully cultivate kombucha and not kill it.
The recipe said I should add water, salt and lemon juice to a jar of fresh, cubed beets. I was to let it sit for a few days and presto! Beet kvass. There were some complaints online mentioning that the kvass was too salty, but I made the decision to stick with the recipe.
The recipe recommended that I use organic beets, but those weren’t available so I settled for average beets. I mixed my ingredients in mason jars and impatiently waited the required number of days.
The result was beautiful.
Well, it looked lovely.
It tasted like seawater. I tried to let it ferment a few more days, but it just managed to become saltier. I wretched every time I tasted it and eventually threw it out.
Thanks to that salty kvass, I have never again attempted to ferment at home, even when I moved out and didn’t have parents around to tell me it was a bad idea. I just suck it up and occasionally pay $4 for a nonlethal, store-bought kombucha.
Picture credit: healthyvillage.com, ediblevineyard.com, and defyingagewithfood.com