Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sour + Bitter

Sour and Bitter. These can be two dirty words when it comes to describing our food and drinks. It's really too bad because they are both important tastes in a well balanced diet, and they are definitely under consumed in a "typical American" diet. These two flavors are considered to have yin, cooling effects in the body that can balance a diet that is full of roasted, baked, grilled, and spicy foods. Sour foods have an astringent quality that can be beneficial to the body and the mind (it is thought to counter act scattered mental patterns). Bitter foods are cleansing, and can counter over-consumption of rich foods.

Here is a list of some of my favorite sour and bitter foods. If you think your diet is lacking these flavors, try adding a few of them into your weekly meals.

dandelion root tea

sourdough bread
pickled foods
aduki beans
some cheeses

Vinegar is both sour and bitter, and very versatile in the kitchen. I probably have seven different types of vinegar in my kitchen at any given time. It can be used to create depth to a dish, or most commonly, to make salad dressings, dips, and marinades. 

Today, I used the most common vinegar found in most any home, distilled white, to make pickled carrots. I love adding pickled veggies to salads, or alongside sandwiches, and they are great for a snack. Best of all, you can get very creative with pickling because just about any vegetable can be pickled with most any herb or spice. Pickled carrots, red onions, jalapenos, and beets are some of my favorites. I kept these pickled carrots pretty basic by just adding red pepper flakes and whole peppercorns to the brine. 

Also to note: 
Pickles are beneficial for aiding digestion after meals. Properly fermented pickles like sauerkraut and kimchi are a good source of the probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus. However, eat within reason, over-consuming pickled foods can have harmful effects as well. 

Source: Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2003