Having just returned from an enriching weekend at Systemic Formulas‘ headquarters in Utah, learning in-depth about the causes and effects of Leaky Gut Syndrome, as well as having the opportunity to share on the importance of cultured foods to recover from this very real and very damaging digestive concern, it just seems fitting to share a recipe on…sunchokes.
While this may seem a stretch, it’s really not. After my presentation, I was gifted a bag of sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) by a very thoughtful attendee, who’d brought them fresh from her father’s garden! And, given that so much of what we taught and learned on over the weekend involved building and maintaining a healthy gut flora, the sunchokes were a very welcome gift.
Most are very aware that beneficial bacteria are an incredibly necessary component to our health and well-being. In fact, the bacteria that reside in our bodies outnumber our cells by about 10 to 1! Researchers have come to understand that so much of what makes us human, from our emotional expression to how we feel in our bodies to how we relate to one another, is intensely dependent on the state of the bacteria that live in and on us. (See the June 2012 edition of Scientific American magazine for more information.) But these little powerhouses are no different than us–they need food to survive. Enter the prebiotic.
Prebiotics are non-digestible components of foods that nourish these beneficial bacteria. And when the bacteria are healthy and well-fed, we reap the benefits. Studies have shown a diet supplemented with prebiotics to be a boon to mineral absorption as well as the immune system; they show promise in improving regularity in bowel patterns and reducing inflammatory patterns of the bowel and decreasing the incidence of colorectal cancer; they even appear to offer benefit in hypertensive patterns.*
But what does all this good news about prebiotics have to do with this recipe? Well, one of the main ingredients in this stew is the versatile and nutritious sunchoke. I would enjoy it for its taste and texture alone, as it’s a delight raw with a sprinkle of sea salt, or sautéd in ghee, but its nutrition is the clincher. It turns out that the sunchoke is a terrific source of a prebiotic called inulin, thus elevating this rather non-descript root vegetable to the ranks of superfood in my estimation.
And in this recipe, it is paired with other foods that further enhance and benefit gut function and form. The pastured bone broth is rich in GI-soothing and nourishing gelatin. The beans have been soaked and mildly fermented, making their stored nutrition much more digestible and bioavailable. Even the onion is an additional source of prebiotics, too.
So, enjoy the savory flavors of this very nutritious stew. It is well-accompanied by a chunk of fermented grain bread slathered in butter, and like most soups and stews, tastes its very best a day after preparation, when the flavors have had an opportunity to meld. And as you indulge your tastebuds, you can feel good about all the good you are doing for the bacteria in your belly!
White Bean, Sunchoke and Kale Stew
Makes approximately 10-12 servings
- 2 cups White Beans (Flageolet or Great Northern are good choices), sorted, rinsed and soaked overnight **
- 2 quarts plus 2 cups Pastured Beef Bone Broth
- 3 cups Kale, washed and coarsely chopped
- 2 cups Sunchokes, washed and cut into 1/2″ wedges
- 2 large Portabella Mushrooms, sliced in 1/2″ chunks
- 1 small Yellow Onion, diced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Rosemary Leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground Sage Leaf
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Fresh, raw Parmesan Cheese, shaved, for topping the finished stew
**I like to soak my beans in warm water (105-110 degree Fahrenheit range), with a splash of water kefir to prime the culturing pump. For this recipe of 2 cups of dry beans, place the beans in a glass bowl, cover them with 6-8 cups of warm, chlorine-free water and 2-3 tablespoons of water kefir. Next, cover the bowl and rest it on top of a yogurt maker that has been turned on, or inside a dehydrator set at 105 degrees, to keep the fermentation process very active (if you don’t have either of these devices, you can place the bowl inside an ice chest that has two or three large jars filled with hot water). Check periodically to ensure the beans are staying submerged under the water. After 24 hours or so, gentle fermentation is happening, and small sprouts are generally visible from the beans, which should be at least double their original size. Rinse the beans and they are now ready for cooking.
Add the broth and soaked beans to a large stock pot, and set on a medium heat. Once a gentle boil is reached, reduce heat to a mild simmer and add onion, rosemary and sage. Cook for about 20 minutes, then add the remainder of the ingredients and cook for an additional 45 minutes to an hour, until the beans and sunchokes have softened.
Ladle into soup bowls, top with a twist of freshly-ground black pepper and shavings of Parmesan cheese. Store additional stew in a covered glass or ceramic bowl in the refrigerator for up to four days.