Get to Know Kohlrabi


A great way to regain your digestive and overall health is to continually add new gut-healing foods into your diet. One of my recent picks for a previously unknown food was kohlrabi, a root vegetable. Let me tell you, it was a hit with the non-adventurous carnivores that I live with. I roasted the kohlrabi up with some chopped garlic and olive oil. My son described it as “a cross between a marshmallow and a potato.” Since neither marshmallows or potatoes have great nutrition, it’s kohlrabi for the win!

But the gift of the kohlrabi did not just end with it being a delicious, family-friendly side dish. I was also able to enjoy the greens. Their flavor is quite mild and so I added them to both my green juices and my green smoothies. These delicious, nutritious drinks keep my skin glowing, my nails growing and my head pain-free! Always great to have another variety of greens to add to my repertoire.

Why eat kohlrabi? Besides being delicious, the root and the greens offer you a whole host of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. Remember the wider the variety of plant foods that you eat, the more nourishment you are giving to every cell of your body.

Because I am a digestive health guru, I was of course curious about whether kohlrabi has been found to be low-FODMAP. Several lists on the web say “yes”, but as far as I can tell, the ultimate authority, Monash University, has not yet tested kohlrabi. However, sometimes we need to guess. Since other root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, are considered low in FODMAPs, there is a good possibility that kohlrabi would also be. However, every body is different, so give kohlrabi a try and see how it agrees with your system. I roasted mine with garlic because my family can tolerate garlic. If you want to keep the dish low-FODMAP you could use a garlic-infused oil. 

What To Do With Garlic Scapes

I must share a bit of a back story before I get into discussing why you should be interested in garlic scapes. Back in 2012  Hurricane Sandy destroyed my backyard. Many people lost their homes, so I couldn’t really complain. But, my beautiful, shady, tree-filled backyard was now a sunny wasteland. For a long time, it looked like an abandoned lot on the side of the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn.

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Once my husband and sons finished chopping up our beloved oak tree for firewood, it was time to come to grips with my now-very-suburban-looking backyard. Fortunately, my friend Dylan, who owns a home organic gardening business, had just come back from Costa Rica with all sorts of ideas about creating an individual biosphere in regular backyards. He saw my yard as a blank canvas and the creative juices started flowing.

Dylan filled one side of the yard with berries – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. In the back of the yard, he planted two peach trees, two plum trees and a fig tree. He built boxes for potatoes, asparagus, squash and garlic. On one slope, he planted a bunch of pollinating flowers. I now have one of the world’s most interesting backyards.

One morning as I looked out, I said, “Do the garlic plants have flowers?” When I finally got back there to look, I saw these beautiful swan-like fronds. I thought, “Ooohh, these must be garlic scapes”, and immediately felt like a fool because I had just ordered some from my local Farmigo distributor. Newbie gardener mistake, as I was able to harvest about 50 of my own scapes. I cannot describe to you the giddy joy I experienced with this unexpected, gorgeous gift from my own backyard.

garlic scapes

What to do with garlic scapes? Apparently the best thing is to make pesto! I pulled up a recipe from my friend Kerry Michaels,:

Don’t tell Kerry, but I skipped the basil because I didn’t have any around! The pesto was super-easy to make and my freezer is now stocked. Scapes can also be sauteed or added to soups.

garlic scape pesto

Now for the best part. garlic scapes might just be low-FODMAP! I don’t think they have been tested by Monash, but the greens of scallions are low in FODMAPs and a quick Google search indicated that some FODMAP bloggers have been able to tolerate garlic scapes even if they cannot tolerate garlic. This means that you should be able to enjoy the garlicky taste that comes from the scapes without worrying that it will set off your IBS.

Why should you eat garlic scapes? Because they contain the same wonderful nutrients that you get from eating garlic – manganese, selenium and some key vitamins. Garlic consumption is thought to be good for your cardiovascular system and may help to protect you from cancer.

Where to get garlic scapes if you are not growing garlic in your backyard? They can be found in your local Farmer’s Market. Ask the farmers when they will be in season in your area.

Low FODMAP Bone Broth

Bone broth is an old-fashioned dietary staple that is enjoying new-fangled popularity as a way to promote gut health. For my medically reviewed article on the science behind bone broth and gut health see:

If bone broth sounds like something you would like to try for your IBS, I think you will find that this recipe will surprise you as to how easy it is to prepare. If your system is super-sensitive, you could prepare your broth using just the bones and water. But if you think you would enjoy some extra flavoring, you can have confidence that all of the ingredients in the recipe are low in FODMAPs and therefore should not set off unwanted symptoms.

Please note that this recipe has been designed with FODMAP information available at the time of its publication through the use of the Monash University Low-FODMAP app, but the broth itself has not been tested for its FODMAP content. Once your broth has been prepared, please start with sipping a small amount to make sure that it sits well with your system.

Adapted from: “Gut-Healing Bone Broth Recipe

How to Make Homemade Kefir

Straining kefir grainsIf you have been reading my digestive health articles, you will certainly have heard me recommend fermented foods. Fermented foods are filled with a wide variety of strains of probiotics – so, so good for your digestive and overall health.

After I read Chris Kresser’s article on the health benefits of kefir, a fermented milk product, I have been a fan. I was particularly interested in the vitamin K2 of kefir – because it appears to be important for vitamin D to do its thing – and I always test low on vitamin D. I started buying store-bought brands of kefir, but didn’t always love the ingredients label. However, I read in so many places that it is simple to make your own kefir – so I thought I would give it a try.

I ordered my grains from a company called Cultures for Health as they got good reviews on Amazon. I followed their directions exactly. The first few days, nothing happened  and I poured a lot of milk down the drain. This is apparently normal as the freeze-dried grains need to become activated.

But on day three, the milk thickened up – I was ridiculously happy about this – I am not sure why – but it gave me such a thrill. Don’t laugh at me – but it felt like I had created life! Here is what it looked like:

kefir in mason jar

Then I ran into a snag. The grains no longer seemed to be thickening up the kefir and I was afraid to drink the milk, fearful that I was drinking milk that had gone bad instead of kefir itself! I wrote the company – their customer service was fantastic! They helped me to understand that part of the problem may have been that my house is too cold (It is cold! I once had a goldfish that lived nine years!) Once I moved the jar into the warmest room of the house, it has been consistently giving me delicious kefir each morning! My green smoothies have never tasted better:

kefir green smoothie

As you know, I am a pretty busy person. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it only takes me about two minutes each morning to strain the grains out of the kefir and place them into some fresh milk to create tomorrow’s kefir. It feels a bit like taking care of a pet – and it makes me ridiculously happy to see the grains growing and thriving.

But as a digestive health expert, I know health is all about bacteria. One of the reasons that I love composting is because I know that my kitchen scraps create bacteria for my garden soil that then nurture the plants that nurture my body.  When I say making kefir makes me ridiculously happy, it is because my feeding these pet-like grains gets rewarded with them feeding me health-enhancing bacteria. Circle of life…

Hopefully, I have inspired you to start making your own kefir. Learn from my mistakes!

  1. Kefir cannot be cultivated from ultra-pasteurized milk. I had to search high and low to find pasteurized milk. I eventually found some at Trader Joe’s.
  2. Kefir needs a warm, stable temperature, somewhere in the range of 68°- 85°F. You can click here to buy the heating strip that works wonders for me in my cold house.
  3. As soon as it smells sweet, it is kefir and not rotten milk!
  4. I like the taste better after it has been chilled. So each morning I put the new batch in the refrigerator and drink yesterday’s batch.

NOTE:  The wonderful researchers at Monash University tested milk kefir and found that in spite of the fermentation process, it still tests high for lactose. So if you have lactose intolerance, you may want to try making kefir with water,  coconut milk or coconut water. Cultures for Health offers starter kits for all of these.