How to make a simple ferment

Ferments are a superb addition to our diets and they are absolutely delicious - great in a salad, as a side-dish with a main meal, fabulous in a thin soup and awesome scooped straight from the jar. Fermented foods are excellent for our digestion and they boost the nutrient value of foods.

The first first vegetable ferment I learnt how to make was kim chi. Evan and I were teaching a permaculture course in the village of Shinde-ri in South Korea just a stones throw from the demilitarised zone with North Korea.  I was curious, so older village women, leaders of a local village association, invited me to join them in a big community kim chi making session. They spoke no English, and all I could say in Korean was hello (하세요 annyeonghaseyo) and thank you (감사합니다 kamsahamnida). We squated on the floor beside big tubs of cabbage, salt, chilli and spring onions and together made a huge batch of kim chi for the village. 

Kim chi is often made out of cabbage but a whole range of vegetables can be used - carrots, radishes, beets, 

Anyway, yesterday I came home to find a long white daikon radish sitting on my verandah table - the root with it’s abundance of foliage almost covered the complete table. A young local micro-famer growing Japanese vegetables at Crystal Waters dropped it off as a lovely gift. Time to make kim chi!!!

Daikon radishes (Raphanus Sativus) are huge! It is the monster of all radishes and so lovely and mild in flavour. The word daikon is directly from the Japanese 大根, literally meaning "big root”. Daikons remind me a bit of the story about the old man who couldn’t pull up the turnip, so he called for the old lady, who called the boy, who called the girl …. The long thick white daikon root goes deep down into the soil.

Because the root is so large, it really helps to break up clay soil. The famous Japanese no-till farmer, Masanobu Fukuoka, used daikons to keep the soil open and add organic matter - they have such masses of leaves. I often recommend using daikon to my permaculture students and clients wanting to simply, naturally and rapidly improve their soil. Daikons are self-seeding annuals, so once in your system, they keep coming back which is wonderful. 

I have a section in my food forest, near my dwarf citrus, that is looked after by daikons. I eat some, and leave some to improve the garden.

I eat the young leaves, the roots before they get too woody, and the seeds too. The leaf is often used as a green vegetable, the seeds are great for sprouting and have many medicinal beneifts. The roots are most commonly eaten as a pickle and to aid digestion. Diakon is really low in calories but high in Vitamin C. 

Daikon seed is said to be a powerful immune and circulation booster, to aid digestion, relieve fatigue, cleanse the blood and body. they can also clear congestion, ease migraines and soothe sore throats. They are also said to be effective against  the effexts of a rich diet - acne, diabetes, bloating, cellulite. Daikon seed oil can heal cracked dry skin. Because of the benefits it has, it is considered a superfood

I so enjoy eating the mild versatile daikon - freshly grated in a salad, chunked into a miso soup, thinly sliced into a stir fry, julienned with dips, but I think my favourite is fermented a kim chi.  

Kim chi has been a popular food in our household ever since we first went to South Korea in about 15 years ago to teach permaculture. On our fourth visit in 2010, we took our kids along to teach a permaculture design course at the Dandelion Community near the Ghandi Ecovillage. Maia and Hugh they were just 2 and  4 years old and absolutely loved it - the culture, the language, the rural landscape, the curious burial mounds, and of course the food. They learnt how to use chopsticks to eat sticky rice and eat kim chi soup. My daughter’s favourite meal of all was white kim chi soup made from daikon radish. 

Here's how I made a super simple vegan kim chi with this gifted daikon.



  1. Peel and cube the daikon
  2. Peel chop and grate carrot
  3. Mix in bowl with a tablespoon of salt.
  4. Let stand for 30 minutes. While waiting....
  5. Collect greens from the garden (this time I used Kale, Comfrey, Parsley, Garlic Chives)
  6. Make a paste of garlic, ginger, chilli, onion and water - I used my food processor. I used just enough water to make a paste.
  7. After 30 minutes, rinse the daikon/carrot mix thoroughly to remove salt.
  8. In a big bowl, mix daikon/carrots with the ginger/garlic/chilli/onion paste by hand. Make sure it is well worked through.
  9. Pack into a sterilised jar avoiding air pockets being trapped in the mix. 
  10. Ensure the top of the mix is covered with with liquid - you may need to add a little extra water if necessary.
  11. Let stand for at east 24 hours, then check for your taste. 
  12. Refrigerate and consume within a couple of weeks.

Cubed daikon radish and carrot being salted to soften them and remove excess water
I gathered some greens from the garden - kale, garlic chives, welsh onion, parsley and comfrey, and also a couple of long red chillies.  Only extra things I needed was garlic, ginger and I thought it’d be nive to add some organic grated carrot to the mix.

Collect a range of greens from the garden to add into he mix
Mix the rinsed daikon/carrot mix with the leafy greens.
Pack in a jar with no air pockets and ensure the liquid comes to the top.
This jar of kim chi will not last long. I am planning to take it to a permaculture kitchen workshop I am leading at a local neighbourhood centre early this week. I expect they will eat most of it.

Postcript: They did - they loved it!!

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