Tibicos aren’t Typical

Ever wonder who was first? I do. The Colorado River Toad lives in our part of the world and is said to produce a chemical that belongs to the family of hallucinogenic tryptamines. These substances, present in the toad’s skin and venom, produce psychoactive effects when smoked or when one licks the back of the toad.

A Couple of Years ago after the Rain

So who first discovered that? Who found one of these guys trolling around after a rainstorm and decided to lick it’s back? I can’t imagine. Similarly, I can’t fathom who first discovered that granules produced on the pads of our opuntia cacti might produce a beneficial probiotic culture if set in water for a couple of days with dried fruit.

These granules are sometimes referred to as tibicos. In our house, we refer to them as water kefir grains but they aren’t really grains at all. They are a culture of bacteria and yeasts held in a polysaccharide matrix created by the bacteria.  We use them to make a fizzy probiotic drink by the same name – water kefir. Apparently it’s been around for centuries and it varies slightly all over the world.

I was first introduced to kefir via the author of the Table of Promise. Christa and I connected in the blogosphere over school lunches but quickly developed a friendship based on motherhood and working and a desire to feed our families well. She offered me milk kefir which has become a part of our daily routine.

A few months later, our milk kefir grains had grown abundantly and I shared them with many others. In return, my sister introduced me to water kefir grains. Many people claim health benefits from drinking it. While I can’t say that I’m aware of any personal health benefits, I do enjoy the refreshing carbonated beverage and slowly, my family is catching on too.

Water kefir takes from 48 to 72 hours to ferment. We make it a couple of times a week so that we always have a stash in the fridge. The kefir grains feed on sugar water.

Water Kefir after 48 Hours

I place 1 quart of filtered water in a large glass jar with 1/4 cup of organic sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, I add the water kefir grains and fruit. In the photo above, I’ve used 1/2 of a pineapple core with a few dried cranberries. Lemon and figs are a very popular combination.

After 48 hours, the water kefir is ready to strain. It’s important to use a plastic strainer as the kefir can react to metals.

Ready to Strain

Toss the fruit into your compost pile but make sure that you capture all the grains.

Tibicos

Rinse the grains prior to putting them into another batch of sugar water. I find that these stopper bottles work best. Sometimes I add another small piece of dried fruit to the bottled kefir. I let this sit for an additional 48 hours for a second fermentation before placing it into the fridge.

The result is something that will easily outpace the consumption of soda pop in your household. Water kefir is not sweet but has a fragrant taste and carbonation. It works to keep your intestinal flora healthy and some claim that it is best taken on an empty stomach. If you find that you are interested in water kefir, you’ll find many resources on the internet to get you started.

Now, I’ll ask again, don’t you wonder who went first?

Previous Post
Leave a comment

93 Comments

  1. Thanks for such an informative post! Personally I would not lick a frog!

    Reply
  2. I haven’t come across the drink or the granules before, so thanks for an interesting read.
    And yes I’ve wiondered about who was the first to find certain things out!! And I know I’d be at the back of the queue when it came to licking frogs or toads :)

    Reply
  3. I had no idea! Wonderful that you have a hand in saving and passing down knowledge that probably passed generation to generation for hundreds of years. Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Mands

     /  May 20, 2012

    Oh My Gosh Tammy I always learn the most interesting things from you! I have never heard of any of this…. have no idea if we have such things here in SA… however very well written interesting read. Thank-you!

    Reply
    • I’m certain you do have it but don’t know where. Now that you’ve heard of it, you’ll be more attuned.

      Reply
  5. This is such an informative & lovely post! i learned a lot here,..again! :)
    I love water kefir a lot! :)

    Reply
    • Sophie, from your recipes and blog it seems that you are moving more and more towards being vegan. I first learned about fermented drinks from raw foodists. I also make kombucha but think I’ll save that for another post some day.

      Reply
  6. entertaining AND informative! love this! one of my remaining reall bad habits is diet soda — love the carbonation. this could work as a substitute…

    Reply
    • So, you already know that there is plenty of reason not to drink diet soda and yes, I think you’d find this a great substitute. It’s a habit that I had for years so I totally relate. You might also like one of those SodaStream carbonators that Tracy mentioned. Then you’re creating your own beverages and know what goes into them.

      Reply
  7. Wow, you never cease to amaze me with your informative posts. Thanks for the info.

    Reply
    • Thanks Hippy Dude. I think this would work with that paleo thing of yours too!

      Reply
  8. You always bring us something good! This is no different! What a wonderful discovery. That is one big toad though! My daughter . . .she kisses toads. Makes me wonder if that’s how someone found out! :)

    Reply
    • Yes, it is big. That was a couple of years ago and he wanted to keep it. Fortunately, we could talk about the toad missing it’s mommy!

      Reply
  9. I’ve sometimes wondered who figured out the good things and the bad things out there…you are right at some point someone had to lick the frog to know.

    Linda

    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

    Reply
  10. Intriguing! Thankfully, soda for me is a rare indulgence. We have a Sodastream carbonator so “bubbly” water is a staple in our fridge (LOVE it with pomegranate juice!) It is also nice that we can mix up a Coke Zero every now and again and simply enjoy a glass instead of opening up a large bottle (tho, I do praise the soda companies for their recent offerings of the tinier soda cans which are perfect for one).

    Reply
    • You know, I got one of those for Christmas and you just made me realize that I my husband must’ve put it somewhere and I’ve forgotten all about it.

      Reply
  11. Fascinating. Kefir has taken off around our community these days, although I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet (can make the first batch, but seem to go off track during the second fermentation). Anyway, I know a lot of people who will be very interested in water kefir. I’m a little unclear – do you need to use different kefir grains for water than for milk, etc?

    Reply
    • I have read that you can change milk kefir grains into water but they are VERY different looking and I wouldn’t try it for fear of losing the grains. The water kefir grains that I got were dried and I rehydrated them and then began using them. Not every batch is perfect. I have found that they seem to be a lot better with the stopper bottles though.

      Reply
      • Very helpful, thanks – I’ve already posted this article on our “Eating Local” Facebook page, and will share this as well.

        Reply
  12. Lisa H

     /  May 20, 2012

    Cool post! I’ve tried your water kefir, and I enjoyed it so much. We don’t drink soda in our house either, so it would be a wonderful alternative. Spritzers made from seltzer water and concentrated juice during the summer is a treat for us.

    Reply
    • As soon as these grains grow, I’ll give you some. They seem to grow more slowly than the milk kefir grains.

      Reply
  13. I always ask that question – speculation about taste pioneers is fascinating. But today you have introduced me to something completely new. I have never heard of water kefir! Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • It’s been really fun to experiment with. I need to start keeping a journal so that I know what flavors and fermentation times have worked best.

      Reply
  14. You’ve got me wondering about water kefir now! I’ve been drinking milk kefir since my friend Ben shared grains with me a year and a half ago, and it’s gone a long way to healing my antibiotic-damaged gut. I’m starting to feel like all this dairy is not so good for me, however. Maybe I should give water kefir a try? Thanks for the inspiration and info!
    Eleanor

    Reply
    • I was sort of in the same place – feeling like there was too much dairy in our diets and, with having to make milk kefir daily, it was hard to keep up with. Water kefir is more forgiving.

      Reply
  15. we’ve got a soda Stream but I’d like to try kefir. I want someone else to make it for me first though

    Reply
  16. Yes, I do wonder! One woman who is in our Master Gardener club always wants to know about things like wild and unusual edibles, not because she intends to eat them, but because she wants to know in case she was ever desperate enough to need them.

    I’ve been thinking about getting some water kefir grains, but hadn’t quite decided to order them. Your endorsement might just nudge me into finally doing so. Any suggestions for a good source?

    Reply
  17. That’s so funny – I have wondered about the first person my whole life. Toad licking definitely fits the curious discovery bill : D

    I don’t make kefir, but I have a friend who makes lemon kefir that is amazing. It’s on the list of things I think about wanting to try…

    Reply
    • Lemon and ginger are really good. I’m going to start keeping track of what works and what doesn’t.

      Reply
    • You should. If your friend lives nearby, get grains from her!

      Reply
  18. Fortunately I was too young to lick frogs, try strange mushrooms, etc in the 60s! My problem with anything cultured is keeping it up. But this sounds really interesting–especially with summer on the way.

    Reply
    • I have the same problem but have found that this one is the easiest for me and I also like it the most.

      Reply
  19. I suspect that there was some kind of hallucinogen involved before the first toad was licked.

    Reply
  20. I haven’t seen one in person before. Such interesting creatures. As for the water kefir, swept me off my feet. We need more of these to replace the unhealthy sodas in can or bottles. Thanks for always trying to make a huge difference . You are an inspiration. Health is wealth…

    Reply
  21. Sally Mom

     /  May 21, 2012

    Oh Tam, I love my kefir grains that you passed on to me. Today on my birthday, I gave all who would dare, water kefir with mango, and it is the best.
    Like the best champagne without alcohol, and so healthy. I have enjoyed the different fruits, mango and ginger my favs.
    Thank you and it is flora and fauna favorable!!

    Reply
  22. Thanks so much for sharing this information, Tammy. I have enjoyed milk Kefir, but now that I have eliminated dairy from my diet, this will be a nice alternative. It sounds tasty!

    Reply
    • That was the first reason that I began exploring this and that milk kefir is harder to keep up with.

      Reply
  23. Interesting post, Tammy. Licking frogs has never been on my bucket list. :lol:

    Reply
  24. Tammy, this is a very cool and informative post. Never heard of water kefir. Wondering where one might buy the water kefir grains? (Or maybe I didn’t read this closely enough?) I could check at our co-op. It sounds like a refreshing possibility.

    Reply
    • I will talk to my sister because I think she lives near you and see where she gets them. Otherwise, go online.

      Reply
  25. I’ve always known about licking a toad for DMT, but I have yet to meet someone who’s actually done it! That water kefir does sound like a better alternative to Coca Cola. Thanks for the post :)

    Reply
  26. Oh my golly, I had no idea about any of that toad-licking-chemical craziness! Still, I’m glad I didn’t lick the frog that kept coming up through our toilet a few years ago ;)

    Reply
  27. This sounds really cool. I’ve had dairy kefir and coconut milk kefir, but I’ve never heard of water kefir. I always learn something new from your posts. Thanks!

    Reply
  28. Certainly, licking a toad wouldn’t be my first impulse when I saw one. However, frogs have always been my favorite animals (next to turtles and geckos, now), so cuddling doesn’t seem so weird to me. :D

    Some mysteries may remain unresolved …

    Reply
  29. Sally Mom

     /  May 22, 2012

    Fun! I know that the big slugs we have here in the northwest also have the hallucinagenic effect and I am glad I am not even tempted! The water kefir though is my new favorite even over kambutcha. Thank you Tammy.
    I find organic raisens and lemon wonderful in starting the batch and then when bottling it I like best mango and also pear! I also add a small slice of ginger to both kinds. I let it sit twenty four hours. It is magnificient. Much better then soda pop by far.

    Reply
  30. Great post! This reminds me of brewing beer (well, OK, many things do) because of the specialized yeast. Using different strains of yeast can make batches of beer taste remarkably different. I’d be curious to try your recipe with a variety of yeast strains that might highlight the flavors of the fruit ingredients. Because you’re brewing with washed but presumably not sterilized equipment (home autoclave anyone?) your flavors will also be helped out by the natural bacterias and yeasts that exist in the air of your kitchen. This is one of the things that makes many Belgian beers – and now your kefir – world famous!

    Reply
    • Interesting. I didn’t know that at all. That’s probably why kefir grains vary so much.

      Reply
  31. Ha! I love love love that photograph. Who was first? I wonder that about so many things that we eat and drink—or avoid eating and drinking. Some adventurous–or foolhardy–or desperate–or inquisitive soul paved the way on more than we can imagine.

    Reply
  32. I have never heard of this stuff in my life, Tammy! Wonder where I can pick up kefir to try? Sounds like it would be worth the experience and preparation…

    Reply
  33. Great post!
    I love that first photo ;-)

    Reply
  34. I was drawn into this post by the adorable photo, but kept reading for the very interesting information. I’d never heard of water kefir. You do have to wonder who was the first to try something that might seem questionable, but hungry or thirsty people might not have had a choice. Our refrigerator once had a faulty thermostat. It varied wildly in temperature. After a couple of days, the skim milk formed a sort of yogurt-like substance. It smelled sweet. I tasted it. It was delicious! But I dumped it out, because I was unsure of whether I should drink it. Had I been desperately hungry, I would have drunk it. And if I lived, I would have tried to make more!

    Reply
    • I agree that it probably depends a lot on your condition. But still, the idea that these grains which apparently appeared on a cactus. Did they fall of into someone’s sugar water and this tradition was born? It’s just difficult for me to imagine.

      Reply
      • True. How do these strange combinations get started? And then tasted? Here’s a toast to those who tasted before us!

        Reply
      • Prickly pear fruit and pads are a staple foodstuff in Mexico and South America. They are also used to brew an alcoholic beverage. Prickly pears are native to the Americas, and did not go to the rest of the world until the Columbian exchange. I hope this clarifies for you the origins of tibicos: it was invented by Native Americans. Prickly pear has many culinary uses, including this one.

        Reply
        • I would like to try the beverage that you are referring to.

          Reply
          • Do you mean colonche, or tibicos? Tibicos is what you call “water kefir.” They’ve been drinking it in Mexico for thousands of years. Colonche is the alcoholic beverage :)

            You can also eat prickly pear pads, they taste kind of like green beans. Raw prickly pear pad is a good way to prevent dry mouth on long hikes or rides. And prickly pear fruit is tangy and delicious :)

            Reply
  35. That first picture is just adorable :)
    anne

    Reply
  36. Sapna

     /  May 25, 2012

    Thanks for the post, Tammy – I had never heard of water kefir before and will have to give it a try.

    Reply
  37. I cannot wait to try this drink it sounds amazing and so healthy. I am with you, I have a growing list of who was the first person to try this and why such as the puffer fish, and I wrote once about the Sicilian maggot cheese and again for the life of me, why, why, why?

    Reply
  38. This sounds very refreshing. I wonder what its called in India. Never heard of anything like this.

    Reply
    • I don’t know what you might call it in India. I’ll bet you can find it though.

      Reply
  39. Richard Rosales

     /  June 18, 2012

    I think our dog was addicted to Colorado River Toads. Our dog, Chewbacca, came in from outside with cloudy eyes and foaming mouth. The first time we did not know what it was and $250 later the vet told us. He went after them a few more times, each time we just washed out his mouth with water, but I swear he enjoyed it, even though he acted really strange.

    Reply
    • I have a friend and this also happened to her dog! When she walked through the vet’s door, one look and they said, “he licked a toad”. I think that’s very bizarre.

      Reply
  40. WOW! How and when did I miss this write up. I love this Tammy. Infact that frog thing also appeals to me although I’d choose other ways to get my psy-cho self active. I am trying to find all about Kefir- I’m pretty new to the concept. And yes, coming to think of it, Frenchie bottles would be perfect to bottle these. Agreed. :)

    Reply
    • Let me know if you have trouble finding these. My brother in law travels to Penukonda fairly frequently (don’t know how far that is from you) but he has taken care packages to other friends of mine.

      Reply
  41. Nice article, i have just got my first batch of water kefir grains and milk kefir grains too. Me and my hubby drank the first batch this morning, i gave it ginger and piloncillo :)

    Reply
    • I just gave up on milk kefir. It was too much work for me but I love the water kefir.

      Reply
  42. Karla amezcua

     /  September 8, 2012

    Hi Tammy, nice to see your blog. I am from México and i start to drink Tibicos during three weeks and they are fantastic!
    I am in Miami beach now, so i would like to know where or who have Tibicos around.
    Thank u ;)

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: