Since joining the Eat Local Challenge last year, I’ve focused on growing, harvesting and eating local food. The fun stuff.
But not all the food I buy or grow ends up on my plate. I cut off carrot tops, cull the cauliflower and peel the potato. And then…?
“Keeping food waste out of the dumps is very important. In the dump, food waste decomposes and produces methane, a greenhouse gas.”
I emailed Eatwell and asked what I should do with my scraps. The answer? A stern “Compost! And if you fail, try, try again!”
My husband looked with unease as I hauled out white 5-gallon buckets for my annual “what the hell” compost attempt.
But this time, I decided to do something different: bokashi, or “effective micro-organism” compost.
I’m deeply unhappy with our current means of dealing with garbage and plastics. I wish I had a family pig or cow to feed the organic tasty scraps to, but that isn’t practical, desirable or lawful for me. Most importantly, I enjoy being married. My soulmate, lovely man though he is, doesn’t share my secret ambition to be a homesteader.
For the record, let me assure you that I’ve tried making compost the good old-fashioned way several times. I created a lot of garbage and made a lot of insects happy. If one more person tells me about how easy it is to make compost ... I’ll spare you the stories. Finally, I faced facts: I have a job, a kid, 2 gardens, and several hobbies which bring me pleasure rather than frustration. To make traditional compost work, I would have to spend time and effort that I’d rather spend in other ways (I know! It’s easy! Don’t email me!).
But Tom’s email motivated me to try it again. I dusted off the Gardening issue of Natural Choices (my coop’s excellent newsletter) to read about composting my options. Worms? Rotating bin? …. Ah, bokashi!
Bokashi composting immediately appealed to me. You don’t need a lot of space, you don’t need to figure out green: brown ratios – in fact, you don’t need brown scraps at all. The bokashi system works inside and recycles all your food scraps, including dairy and meat. Of course, you can still save your gardening snippets and leaves and put them in a cold compost pile outside your house.
The system is straightforward. You put food scraps into a bucket, then dust them liberally with bokashi, a powdery substance that smells like soy sauce. Bokashi consists of bran flakes inoculated with beneficial microorganisms that break down the scraps into liquid and solids. It works on principles of fermentation rather than putrefaction. Every few days, drain off the liquid and use it immediately on your plants, at a ratio of 1 tablespoon: 1 gallon of water. Once the bucket is full of scraps, don’t open it for 2 weeks while the solids ferment. Then fold the solids into the soil.
You can order a custom-made bucket (the “Happy Farmer”) that drains off the liquid for you. I didn’t like spending money on an untested system, so I bought 2 5-gallon white buckets, drilled holes in the bottom of one and nested it in the other. The bokashi powder cost me about $15 online. So far, so good. I’ve been doing this system for about a week and will post results here. But others are using it and I’m encouraged. This might be a compost system that works for me.
Whatever your system, composting is the best thing to do with your food scraps, local or otherwise. Our topsoil is disappearing. Plants pull nutrients out of the soil and we need to figure out a good way of returning them back rather than in the dump.
As a battle-scarred veteran of composting, I encourage you to work some element of composting into your Eat Local Challenge.
Suzanne M. lives in Davis, California.