If you’ve read Ruth’s recent posts about K2, you’ll know that it has the almost miraculous ability to move calcium out of blood vessels (where it is not welcome) and into bones (where it is definitely welcome). You might also remember that the best dietary source of K2 is a food called natto.
Natto, K2, and other nutrients
Natto is the name for fermented soy beans. It’s popular in Japan, often eaten at breakfast and accompanied with soy sauce, mustard, and sometimes fish and scallions.
Natto is made by adding bacteria (Bucillus subtilis) to soaked, then steamed, whole soybeans. The mixture of soybeans and bacteria then ferments over time. (Fermentation is the process of changing a carbohydrate to an alcohol or acid; the bacteria cause the fermentation in natto.) The Bacillus subtilis used in natto creates an enzyme that produces the calcium-shifting vitamin K2.
Surely there must be more to natto than vitamin K2? Indeed there is. It turns out that natto provides an impressive array of nutrients, including protein, manganese, iron, copper, magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, selenium, molybdenum, and more.
Walking the walk…
Armed with this information, Ruth and I both, separately, started to feel that we should walk the walk on natto, despite having read that it is an acquired taste. Not only an acquired taste and not all that popular with western palates, but something that left one adventurous eater we know feeling nauseated…
The notion of doing a natto taste test came reluctantly to us both, but once lodged in our minds, we couldn’t let go of it. After all, we ask people all the time to make changes in their diets. We ask you to switch to non-dairy milk, to eat kale and chard, and to cut out sugar. How could we ask others to make unwelcome changes in their diets and lifestyle if we weren’t willing even to try this worthy yet new and strange food?
So the grand natto taste test adventure was born. We phoned our local Asian food market and they confirmed that they stocked natto. We later located it in the freezer section. It was a real bargain: the 4 oz package cost just $1.29 and came complete with a little sachet of soy sauce and a tiny pot of mustard.
How did it taste?
With trepidation, we opened the carton, before the natto had thawed fully… I think I was expecting the smell of old gym socks or something equally awful that would knock me over. But, possibly because it was still a bit frozen, there was very little smell. A promising start… So then we poked at the edges of the container to get a little of the thawed natto onto a spoon. Still promising, not very slimy looking at all. We tasted it and looked at each other in happy surprise – it didn’t taste bad! In fact, it didn’t have much flavor at all. It was a bit like chewy tofu.
We kept on chewing, and slowly our looks of happy surprise changed to frowns of distaste… The flavor – the lack of which had pleased us at first – was developing rapidly inside our mouths. We didn’t detect old gym socks, but more the sense of eating ground up cinders, as if we’d burned a piece of toast to charcoal and eaten it. It was vile.
And how did it feel?
Worse than the developing flavor though, was the sensation of having duck fat smeared on our lips. Sticky and bad flavored, we couldn’t wash it off quick enough. And it did need to be washed off; no amount of lip licking could remove it. In fact, I didn’t feel completely clean of it until after I’d washed with soap and brushed my teeth as well, but that might just be me.
We cleansed our palates with a little wine. Feeling better and reinvigorated, I decided I’d try for a second sampling of natto, thinking that it might be all I needed to acquire the taste. Sadly it wasn’t – the experience was just as bad the second time.
I momentarily thought of including some natto in a smoothie, but why risk ruining all those yummy ingredients?
If you find a way of eating natto that isn’t vile, please share!