Kombucha for digestion

Over the last year or so I’ve been making Kombucha (about a gallon per week) and I’ve enjoyed the process along the way. I began doing this to avoid the $2.34 per liter cost of kombucha when buying in bulk at costco. Now my cost is about 50 cents per gallon (for sugar and tea). I first tried ordering a scoby online but it was too hot here in September (in Phoenix, AZ) and I think it died in the mailbox on a 118 degree day. Then I found someone nearby on craigslist who I could buy a live scoby from.

I actually had to buy a scoby twice because the first time I was trying to use raw sugar and the molasses contained in it caused the kombucha to smell like puke, especially after a few weeks. Since then I’ve been strictly using white sugar and haven’t had trouble.

Kombucha ready to harvest

Kombucha ready to harvest

My weekly process goes something like this:

  1. Make about a gallon of black tea (I use 4 bags) with 2 cups of white sugar mixed in
  2. Wait until tea cools or put ice in it to cool it to room temperature
  3. Get 6 glass quart jars out, and a bowl for holding the scooby while harvesting kombucha
  4. Take the scoby out into the bowl from one of the gallon jars of kombucha, and peel off any old layers of scoby. I used to throw this away, though I had thought of making a foot scrub as described in Kombucha Revolution. But this time I fed the extra scoby to my worms.
  5. Pour the Kombucha into smaller jars and seal them
  6. Rinse out the gallon jar before filling it about halfway with sweet black tea
  7. Add about half a quart of kombucha back in before gently placing a scoby on top.
  8. Cover the lid with a dry paper towel secured by a rubber band. This allows the kombucha to breathe while keeping flies (and kids) out.

The small jars contain kombucha which is becoming carbonated in the second phase of the process. I usually leave them on the counter a day or two before putting 1-2 jars in the fridge at a time. I like mine cold, but you could drink it without refrigeration.

Harvested Kombucha in the quart jars and extra scoby in the bowl to feed my worms.

You can open it up and stick a straw in it to taste it every couple days to tell when it’s done, but I noticed that it always tasted sweeter after being in the fridge so I stopped doing that and just try to keep to a schedule (+/- a day or two).

When you procure a scoby from craigslist or from amazon, the first batch will be smaller based on the size of the scoby and how much kombucha starter you get. But a healthy scoby can double in size over a week or two depending on the temperature (In the summer it grows faster than the winter at my house).

Beet Kvass for Post Nasal Drip

I learned about a great way to find relief from sinus allergies recently. It started with home delivery of local organic produce from Natures Garden Delivered here in Arizona, which gave me easy access to a much wider variety of fruits and vegetables than I even knew existed.

One day I was looking through the list of items I could exchange in my box the next week and I saw beets. This reminded me of the beet kvass I made years ago when we lived in Portland and had raw milk delivered to our cohousing community. One a side note, I think red beets are better suited for making beet kvass than either chioggia beets (which I call zebra beets because of the stripes inside) or golden beets. I’ve tried all 3 kinds, the chioggia beets make a light pink color kvass and the golden beets make a pale yellow kvass.

We’d been getting raw milk for several months from saveyourdairy.com, a local organic dairy farm in the Phoenix area (visit realmilk.com to help you find a source local to you). One week we didn’t use as much so there was leftover milk, so I decided to make whey by taking some raw milk out of the fridge and letting it sit in a jar on the counter for a couple days until it separated into curds and whey, then pouring it through a cheesecloth to separate the curds from the whey. Then I think I ate the curds and put the whey back in the fridge. More details and instructions for producing whey are on page 87 of Nourishing Traditions.

Once I had whey ready in a jar back in the fridge, I then added locally grown organic beets to my next delivery of the organic produce box using the user friendly order customization interface (at az.naturesgardendelivered.com).

When I first started doing this in January I drank about a gallon or two per week of beet kvass so I could keep ordering beets every week in my produce box (and because it felt so good to have relief from post nasal drip). I ended up getting a urinary tract infection and passing 4 kidney stones one day because I had effectively replaced my water intake with beet kvass for several weeks.

This recipe is in the “Tonics and Superfoods” section, not the Beverages section of the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, and now I understand why. The Tonics section starts with this paragraph:

The following tonics are offered for their medicinal rather than epicurean qualities. They are useful for fasting and detoxification. Caution: Fasting should only be undertaken under a doctor’s supervision. Consult a qualified health practitioner for the treatment of all serious disease conditions.

I had gotten carried away and drank the tonic like it was water, which is why I got into trouble. So I took a month or two off from drinking beet kvass before making a new batch, which I only do once every other month or so now. I am careful to stick to a small cup of it per day (when I’m most congested) and drink plenty of water throughout the day now. Last night I had some after dinner because we had pizza.

This is a great way to help resolve post nasal drip when I’m not experiencing other sinus issues. I’ve written other articles about how I reduce nasal congestion and deal with sinus infections.

Stopping Hiccups

A couple nights ago Kayin (our 6 year old son) came down after we put the kids to bed and he had a bad case of hiccups. I remembered finding something for Demitri about 8 months ago that worked great, so I looked up hiccups in my Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing book (the one pictured to the right). Here is what I wrote back in April about our experience with Demitri:

One day last week our four-year-old son Demitri had the hiccups when we were getting everyone ready for bed. I remember reading about a recommendation for hiccups in my ayurvedic-cooking book, so I decided to give it a try. Here is the recommendation:

“To stop hiccoughs, eat 2 chopped bananas mixed with 1 teaspoon of ghee, ½ teaspoon of honey and 2 pinches of ginger powder.”
-Ayurvedic Cooking for Self Healing by Usha Lad and Dr. Vasant Lad, page 189

I already had half a banana left from one of my children on the counter so I put it in a little bowl, cut it up with a butter knife and fork, used a spoon to put in a little bit of ghee, used the knife to add a little bit of honey (the honey we use has never been heated so it is semi-solid), and added one shake of ginger powder. Then I mixed everything up and gave a spoonful to my son. Although it tasted sweet to me he was in a sad mood and said he didn’t like it, but after one bite he didn’t have any more hiccups! He hasn’t had any hiccups since then, but I won’t forget this remedy – it brought us great relief, since hiccups at bedtime can keep everyone up late.

This time I didn’t have any leftover bananas and Kayin said he was hungry so I used one whole banana, broke it into pieces, then added half a spoonful of ghee, half a spoonful of honey, and a few shakes of ginger powder. After mixing it up I gave it to Kayin. He liked it and dug in, but halfway through he stopped and said he was done eating and done with hiccups, and proceeded to go lay down and go to sleep. I got to eat the rest, it was Yummy!

Oatmeal for Breakfast with all 6 Tastes

After our first son was born we experienced many health issues that we didn’t understand, which caused us to launch many desires for health and the understanding of health issues. We learned about Dr. Westin Price, who was a dentist that traveled the world to study primitive cultures about 70 years ago. He wrote a great book about what he learned, called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. You can follow the amazon link to the right to learn more about that book.

I read the book cover to cover and was fascinated by the pictures and stories of people in about ten different primitive cultures where he traveled. In every case the vibrancy of the people was directly correlated to the quality of the foods they ate, and the pictures are a very dramatic illustration. I’m a visual learner so I appreciated all the pictures:)

Later we were introduced to another book called Nourishing Traditions, which is a cookbook based on the lessons learned from Dr. Price and his studies. I was excited about this book and spent a couple years trying out different recipes and learning about foods I had never heard of before.  This is the book I’m referring to:

I wrote about a dozen of my favorite recipes inside the front cover with page numbers so I could refer to them often.  One thing I began cooking everyday for breakfast was some type of grain prepared like oatmeal.  I bought about eight different types of grain and tried a different one everyday for variety.  I narrowed down the list based on what the most people in our family liked to eat (and what was a better price), until I got down to rice, wheat, and oats.  Candice didn’t want the babies to have wheat because it is harder to digest, so then I had rice and oats.  For the past year or so I’ve stayed with oats because they provide more calories than rice (due to their fat content).

I learned from the Nourishing Traditions book that all seeds and grains have built in protection against deterioration (like being digested in your tummy) that is designed to preserve the nutrients until germination.  But if you soak them you can remove this “protection” just like warm, wet soil does.  So I got a hand grinder and ground about a cup of grain at night so I could soak them in water with a little apple cider vinegar (later I changed this to raw milk or whey instead) overnight before cooking them.  The hand mill I had is pictured to the right:

I later got a Nutrimill to save me about 20 minutes of grinding every night.  The result is closer to oat flour than oatmeal, but I appreciate the time savings and the cooked result looks about the same. I use the Nutrimill, as pictured on the left:

During this time Candice began a 3 year apprenticeship with Dr. Shamosh in Phoenix, AZ to learn Chinese Herbology and Indian Ayurveda.  I learned a few things from her studies, including the importance of the six tastes to digestion.  We got a poster that we put up in the kitchen which detailed the energetics of food, including many spices.  I experimented with many different spices in my oatmeal and tried to cover all the tastes, and we all enjoy it now.  It’s still a bit different everyday because I don’t measure anything, but I think that’s part of the fun:)

So here is my latest oatmeal recipe, with estimations as to how much I use of each item:


  • 1-1.5 cups of oats
  • 2-3 cups of water
  • 1/2-1 cup raw milk
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Creme, Ghee, or Butter
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Molasses
  • 1 tsp Raw Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Ginger powder (only in the winter when it’s cold, because ginger is warming)
  • (optional) Handful of raisins

First grind the oats and cover them with water and raw milk in a pot or bowl, and stir them up to make sure they all get wet. Cover the pot or bowl (I use a big plate for this) and let it soak overnight. When you’re ready to cook it, put it in a pot, add some more water (if needed, depending on how thick you want it), and stir to get it mixed up again. Turn on the stove to medium or medium-high heat and mix in all the other ingredients. The higher you turn the heat, the faster it will cook, but you’ll need to stir more then. Even on low you’ll need to stir every once in awhile so you don’t get uncooked clumps in the mixture. I’ve learned that I can get it cooked and ready in 15 minutes if I cook it on medium-high and stir almost constantly. If the heat is too high then you won’t be able to keep it from sticking to the bottom and burning a bit no matter how fast you stir, but if the heat is medium or lower it may take 30+ minutes to get to a good consistency (this is based on a typical electric stove in the USA, gas stoves will likely cook faster).

I know it’s done when the mixture thickens and looks more like lava than soup – the thickness will depend on the water/oats ratio – if it’s too thin you can cook it longer, if it’s too thick you can add more water. I like it best when the bubbles combine and cause the oatmeal to “burp”.  When I serve the older kids I put a little honey or maple syrup (we call maple syrup “waffle sauce”) on top, but when I feed or serve the babies I don’t add anything.

If you’re wondering about the 6 tastes, they are sweet, salty, sour, astringent, pungent, and bitter. The sweet and salty tastes are well covered in the list above, but here’s how I get the others:
Sour – Molasses
Astringent – Cinnamon
Pungent – Cardamom, Cinnamon, Nutmeg
Bitter – Cardamom

You can learn more about the importance of the six tastes to our healthy digestion (from an Ayurvedic perspective) by reading an article Candice wrote on her site at http://phxherbs4kids.com/nutrition-articles/1-our-digestive-experience-an-ayurvedic-perspective.html.

Last night we were up late and I didn’t grind any oats.  So when the kids woke us asking for food I made scrambled eggs and chocolate milk (not necessarily the best combination, but I was tired and that’s what they asked for).  Our five children (mostly the older three) ate nine eggs and asked for more but that’s all I had so I gave them some toast.  I appreciate my oatmeal:)