Wild Sodas are a fun and easy way to make living, medicinal, naturally probiotic beverages. They can be made with 100% local ingredients, making them a wonderful example of “localvore medicine” that reflects the true terroir of the land while having a super small carbon footprint. I mostly make them in the warmer months, but they can be made year-round. They can be made purely for taste preferences and pleasure, or the herbs can be selected based on desired medicinal effects- the choice is yours! Below I've shared a recipe for beloved Tulsi Wild Soda, but this same recipe will work for any aromatic herb like Anise Hyssop, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, and so on.
Tulsi Wild Soda
12 tbsp fresh Tulsi/Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) Flowering Tops- Leaves, Flowers, and non-woody Stems
1/2 cup Raw Honey (preferably local)
1/2 Gallon un-chlorinated water (well/spring water best).
Put your herbs in a half-gallon mason jar and fill the jar with cold or room-temperature water. If you are on city water and you aren't sure if it's chlorinated, it's worth a call to the town as not all town water supplies are chlorinated. Next add the 1⁄2 cup raw honey and mix well. It’s ok if it doesn’t all dissolve right away if your honey is crystallized, as it will dissolve on its own in a day or two. Cover with cheesecloth or a bandana or thin cloth so it can still breathe but bugs can’t get in, like fruit flies. Now you wait for it to start fermenting! The wild yeasts found in the air, on your plant material, and in the raw honey are working now to turn the sugars in the honey into CO2 (this is what makes it fizzy) and ethyl alcohol, but don't worry- this fermentation will be strained and refrigerated well before it reaches a high alcohol percentage. It’s important to stir it a few times a day during this time, and when it starts fizzing/bubbling when I stir it I know it’s started fermenting. Time to initial fermentation can be a few days to over a week depending on temperature. Once it starts bubbling, I usually let it ferment for another 8- 12 hours, and sometimes longer. It’s best to taste a little bit every day once it starts fermenting as a litmus test for when it’s time to strain. I like it start to taste sparkling and effervescent before I strain. Then I strain out the herbs, cap it, and let it sit out at room temperature to build carbonation. This timing can vary, but often 12-24 hrs is a good amount of time to build-up good carbonation. Then I put it in the fridge where it will last for months!
Tulsi is a calming nervous system tonic, digestive aid, and uplifting, mood-enhancing herb. While a Wild Soda isn't the most medicinally-concentrated way to prepare medicinal herbs, it certainly captures the essential oils and essence of the herb and in my mind is a way to enjoy your herbs as food as medicine. I consider 1 cup to be a medicinal dose. When I drink Wild Sodas I often add flowers to make a what I call a "fairy cocktail." I also often add a dose of tincture or elixir to it give it a medicinal boost and enjoy as a fermented herbal mocktail. Some Wild Rose Elixir added to Tulsi Soda is divine!
I make Wild Sodas the same way I cook- I rarely follow a recipe and things never come-out quite the same way twice! I encourage you to approach wild sodas similarly. This recipe is meant to get you started. The water: honey ratio should always be followed but you can play around with herbal amounts to your liking! It’s fine to use a combo of fresh and dried herb too. Experiment and keep notes as you develop your favorite combinations. Keeping a kitchen journal of your fermentation adventures is highly recommended. Happy fermenting!
If you're interested in learning more about Kitchen Medicine my winter class series, Spice Rack Medicine, is OPEN for registration! Class meets 1 Sunday/month January-March. Topics include medicinal uses of the culinary herbs, food and herbal energetics and eating for your personal constitution, medicinal mushrooms, cooking with the tonic herbs, food as medicine, and more!