Magic in the Jar: Opening the Healing Powers of Kimchi

Korea's Magical Kimchi

You never know where your next memorable stranger encounter will occur. For me, it was at the Boseong Tea Plantation where I met June. She was an American ex-pat who had been living in the States for 41 years. She said she just “got tired of it” and moved back to Korea 5 years ago. I learned that she loved being back in Korea and that I, unknowingly, wasn’t eating enough of “Korea’s Magical kimchi”. I listened to her list of the healing powers of kimchi.

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Preserving Tradition, Promoting Health

The climb up the uneven staircase to the plateau overlooking the meticulously planted tea plants was a challenge. The view was breathtaking. Row after row of an undulating sea of green shrubs was hypnotic. We barely caught our breath before she practically pounced on us.

“Let me know and I’ll take your picture, she said”. It wasn’t long before we realized it wasn’t us she necessarily wanted to talk to, any “native-born” English person would have sufficed.

We talked about the differences in the two cultures, then took her up on her offer. She took a few pictures we have dubbed the Korean picture experience. What’s the Korean picture experience you might ask? It’s a picture where you have little to NO clue where it was taken and she even managed to cut off the top of Steven’s head. Suffice to say, we know there are beautiful rows of tea bushes behind us.

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Do You Like Kimchi?

Then out of the left-field (no pun intended), June asked me if I liked kimchi? You know how I feel about kimchi by now, and I hesitated to say yes for fear that she had a barrel of it stashed behind the bench we were sitting on. However, if you don’t know, I like kimchi, but I hesitate to tell anyone because I have enough to feed an Army in my 2nd refrigeration because I told my Korean friends.

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Don’t Tell the Neighbors You Like Kimchi

I have a bucket of it from my realtor, and three Tupperware containers from my husband’s coworker, and not one but two from neighbors. I’ll never be able to finish it before I take possession of the next shipment, so I just rotate them… one in, one out. But I said yes anyway. And as if she didn’t believe me. She went into a long soliloquy about how beneficial it is to health and longevity. She, like a lot of the articles I’ve read stop just short of pressing it into IVs or wrapping it around swollen ankles or broken bones.

However, if kimchi is the answer to every ailment on the planet? Why it’s not on the menu in other countries besides Korea? And as if I placed a challenge on the universe, I found it on my plate twice in as many days.

What are Some Suggested Health Benefits?

  1. Studies suggest it may improve cardiovascular health and aid in the digestive system;
  2. The antioxidants in kimchi exercise may have healing effects in combatting cancer, diabetes, obesity, atopic dermatitis, and gastric ulcers;
  3. The flavonoids and probiotic-rich kimchi can help to combat aging, maintain healthy levels of cholesterol, and strengthen the immune system.
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Now I know what an Asian continental breakfast is.
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kimchi as a side dish at lunch

What is this Miracle Food?

Kimchi or kimchee is a traditional fermented Korean salad made with vegetables like cabbage, radishes, and cucumber and seasoned with red pepper paste, garlic, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce. You can find it in soups, in dumplings, atop sandwiches and pizza. It is the national dish of Korea. And has been a staple of life in Korea for centuries. Kimchi is a low-calorie, high fiber, and nutrient side dish, is eaten morning, noon and night.  It is a storehouse of vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and vitamin C. Kimchi is also rich in essential amino acids and minerals such as iron, calcium, selenium.

What Does Kimchi Taste Like?

It’s hard to describe. It’s spicy, sour, and sorta pickled. The chili paste and garlic are overpowering at first, burning your nostrils a little. Some people make it spicier and no two kimchi’s taste exactly alike, but “kimchi” is a distinct flavor. You can also taste and smell the fish stock. The texture is firm, yet chewy, more comparable to our cabbage or collard greens than spinach. The aroma does not dissipate very quickly.

Tracing its History

Kimchi traces its origin in Korea around the 7th century. Initially, kimchi was nothing more than just salted vegetables. Gradually, several spices and flavors were added to kimchi and finally, around the 18th-century kimchi was modernized with the introduction of the red hot pepper as a major ingredient. The history of kimchi is apparently rooted in an agrarian culture that started earlier than the period of the three kingdoms of the Korean peninsula. Koreans decided to pickle it due to the extreme weather during growing seasons. The centuries have come and done, but the process to make kimchi has remained unchanged so it still retains the same attributed qualities and benefits.

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    1. duffelbagspouse

      LOL, I didn’t think so either, but it’s not so bad… not so good either. I’d eat it before I ate… say a live octopus!! Thanks for your comment.

  1. George

    I laughed all the way through reading this. I hear the same thing all the time about kimchi AND I am always amazed at the apparently ridiculous places I see people taking selfies here. I like kimchi too, but I live on post and no one brings me any, so you are lucky, but if you get too much, just toss it out they’ll never know.

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