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The Wholefoodie: Ferments to help combat the stress on your body


Fennel. Photo: Susan Jane White

Fennel. Photo: Susan Jane White

Fennel. Photo: Susan Jane White

Our digestion can really suffer under stress. According to biologist Dr Giulia Enders, when we are stressed, we sense it in our gut. Our very clever gut will then DM our brain about feeling iffy or anxious. Commander Brain picks up the DM, and, in response, may redirect blood flow and energy away from digestion and to more vital organs to prepare us for 'fight or flight' mode. I definitely relate to this.

When I'm stressed, food passes through my system faster than grass through a goose. So the nutrients probably don't get much of a chance to be absorbed into the body. Gah! What a waste! No wonder stress can rob us of nutrients, irrespective of whether you've been mainlining polytunnels of kale.

So how can we help our gut during bouts of stress? Stock up on fermented foods - they are easy to digest, crazy-nutritious, and replete with good bacteria to help your inner eco-system. That's right, folks - a bonkfest for your plumbing!

If you haven't tried fermenting your own veggies yet, this week's recipe - the third in my fermentation masterclass series - is one of the easiest. Plus, it will save you the stress of standing in long supermarket queues when you run out of fresh veg. That's because fermented foods last for weeks and weeks in the fridge. Fist. Bump.

Fermented fennel

For 1 medium jar

You will need:

½ tablespoon fine sea salt or pink Himalayan salt

400g fennel, shaved or thinly sliced

1 In a non-metallic bowl, sprinkle the fine sea salt or the pink Himalayan salt, whichever you are using, over the shaved or thinly sliced fennel. Toss and tumble, then leave the salt and fennel to fraternise for 10 minutes.

2 When you return, massage the salt into the fennel for two minutes. Then leave for another 10 minutes, then massage for another two minutes or until the fennel feels floppy and is practically swimming in its own natural juice.

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3 Push the fennel (and all the brine) into a spotlesly clean glass jar, pressing the fennel down to submerge it fully in its own juice. Put on the lid, and allow to sit at room temperature for three to five days. You can pop a weight under the lid to weigh the fennel down and help prevent air pockets. I use a shot glass, or similar small glass jar, for this.

4 Taste and decide whether it needs an extra day of fermenting. Transfer to the fridge when you like its taste. Eat within three weeks. This ferment is fantastically juicy and tangy alongside any meat or curry dish. It can take a simple plate of salmon to another stratosphere.

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