Monday, March 28, 2011

Slow Living: Bokashi Composting

Inspired by recent posts on local blogs ADHDCanuck and Girls and Bicycles, I bought a bokashi composting kit a couple of weeks ago at my local eco-store.

Bokashi isn't technically composting (which needs oxygen); it's anaerobic fermentation. It's a super simple process. You layer your food scraps with bokashi bran, which contains the starter culture for the fermentation, cover the mixture so no air can get in, and repeat until the bucket is full while using the tap to remove any extra liquid - which you dilute and use as plant fertilizer. Then you wait a couple of weeks for the microbes to do their thing. At the end of the process, the food scraps will look like they've been pickled; you mix them into your regular compost bin (or a vermicomposter) or bury them mixed with soil in a pit in your garden to allow the decomposition to complete and get nice black compost. My plan, since I have no room indoors (until I get the basement organized) for a worm bin, is to save my bokashi-treated scraps until springtime, then add them to our outdoor compost pile. They can apparently be frozen, so I'll just transfer them to another airtight container and put them in our (detached, unheated) garage until the composter emerges from the snowbanks.

Being me, I had to do some extra research before I got started, so I did some hunting online. Here are some great sites that describe the bokashi process in detail:
I'm a little disappointed to learn that I could have made a DIY bucket for a fraction of the cost, but I'm stoked to get started right away! 

Day 1 (March 8th): Unfortunately the stuff I had set aside - limp salad, forgotten brussels sprouts - had started to grow black mold, so can't be used in the bokashi (At a future date I'll experiment with killing all the mold spores by baking it in the oven, then cooling it and adding it to the bokashi - but I was not feeling that brave for my very first bucket). So I layered in some bokashi bran and what turns out to be a pitiful amount of leftover pasta. Hmm, I need to have more stuff per layer.

Day 3:  I waited a couple of days and deliberately made fruit salad so I could get a decent layer of peels down. When I opened the box, there was a little condensation on the lid, and some white fuzz on top of the bokashi bran layer, which I fervently hoped was yeast and not an aerobic mold. Just in case, I added three generous handfuls of bokashi bran on top of this layer (which is probably 2/3 banana peels). And made a mental note that the resulting mixture is still quite dry, so I should aim for more veggies and moisture in the next batch of scraps.

I used an extra-large freezer bag partly filled with dried peas as my top layer to limit air exposure:

Day 4: husband threw in the fruits of an experiment in making whole-wheat bagels that went horribly awry. No bran, very dry, no effort to cover completely with my bag of peas. (Sigh.) He did report a pleasant yeasty smell in container.

Day 5: made fruit salad, so had lots of peels to add to the bokashi. Woohoo!

Day 6 through 15: a car accident (I'm okay, just mild whiplash and lots of paperwork), plus out-of-town guests, meant we've done lots of eating out and nothing has been added to the bin. Some of our food scraps went to regular garbage, some into the freezer for storage.

Day 16 (24 March): opened the bin at then end of our week of benign neglect to find no mold and a smell pleasantly reminiscent of pickles, so my improvised bag-o-peas is doing the trick at excluding air. The mixture is really dry still, so when I added my scraps I put in an extra cup of water to help things along. Also: we've spied a compost tumbler at Costco for a paltry $120 or so. How wonderful that they've come down in price! We'll snag one for ourselves next trip for the post-bokashi-pre-garden processing.

Day 20: Drained my first batch of compost tea: two-thirds of a cup! W00T! And hit publish on this post, which I'll continue to update periodically...

Who else has tried bokashi composting? How'd it go for you?

1 comment:

  1. Wordpress login keeps eating my comments. Wah! I wrote one epic reply, one shorter one, and now I'm leaving this with my google login just to say "I read this post and I tried to respond!" Maybe I'll have another go in a bit.