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