Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Bokashi Update

As I alluded to in my previous post, I am now living in a house, with a garden. This means that my little flat bokashi experiment has been hijacked. However, I did use bokashi quite successfully in my little flat for about a month and a half. I know you are all desperate to hear how that went, so I am selflessly updating you.

Bokashi is excellent waste management in a small space. I had my two bokashi buckets stacked on top of one another in our hall, just outside our kitchen. When I filled the first, I then swapped them around so that I was filling the most accessible bin.

It did not smell at all, unless I opened the lid to put more veggie scraps and bokashi bran in. The smell that the bokashi and food-waste mix did release was a sweet-sour pickly smell, and the bran continues to smell of guinea pig, but only ever so faintly. I kept the bran in a tupperware container because that's neater than a bag.

It took us about three weeks to fill one bucket. We are two people, but we eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and we probably cook at home 5 out of every 7 nights.

What did I pit in the bokashi bucket? Pretty much the same as what I would put in a compost heap, actually. Mostly fruit and vegetable scraps. In a compost heap, I would refrain from putting in onion and garlic, however I quite happily put this into the bokashi. I also eat a lot of citrus - probably five lemons a week - and oranges and mandarins every day. A few mouldy oranges and lemons went into the bokashi, without a hitch, even though people warn against throwing in mouldy veggies.

I have always put citrus peel into a compost heap, even though it is recommended not to do so. Usually, I refrain from putting citrus in until the worms are well established, i.e. when I open the lid, the critters are squirming everywhere (ew). Then, I will happily chuck in citrus peel because, they'll be fine. I would also occassionally, but not very often, throw onion and garlic skins into the compost.

An aside about worms:

When I was young, I used to believe that worms regenerated themeselves, so that if you chopped one worm in half, it became two. I think this belief may be my brother's fault, or the fact that I watched way too many horror movies in which creatures which were symmetrical in shape regenerated if you split them (on their symmetry axis). I also knew that worms were good, so whenever I found worms in the garden, I would cut them in half, expecting that they would regenerate and become two. There's still a bit of me that unthinkingly goes to halve worms that I find, in the expectation that I am somehow helping.

I did put some - but not a lot - of cooked food scraps in. Probably the main thing I put in was leftover minestrone soup, which I strained and then put the remaining cooked carrot, celery, potato, lentils and pasta into the bokashi. I put no meat scraps into the bokashi, nor bones of any kind.

I also put in a lot of tea bags. My bokashi leaflet told me not to put tea bags in, but I googled around (without much luck) and then emailed Al the Bokashi Man who gave me some great advice. (Thanks, Al!) I decided the warning not to put tea bags in was because of staples and the plasticated labels a lot of tea bags have. Very few of our tea bags are like that. Most of the tea bags I buy use recycled paper and are compostable. So I tossed in tea bags. Probably at least two per day, more on weekends.

You have to keep tamping the waste in, and topping up with bran. I would toss a little bit of bran in each time I put waste in, and then a layer of bran once a week or so.

I de-juiced the bokashi whenever I remembered to. This was usually every 2 - 4 days (give or take). Each time I de-juiced, I got about a cupful of liquid, which I diluted (very roughly 1 part juice to 10 parts water and oops, a bit more) and used this to water my windowsill herbs in pots and my one fern.

The fern was unhappy, but I think it's been unhappy for a long time (needs a new pot), whereas the herbs loved the bokashi juice. The leaves of my mint, oregano and laxoleaf became at least three times bigger. My rosemary, too, loved the bokashi juice. My chives did not - possibly because it was really difficult to water the chives without getting the diluted juice onto the chives themselves. I can now safely say that it is not the advent of spring and warmer weather which made my herbs (bar the chives) happier because I have never before seen them so abundant.

Happy mint

Happy oregano and rosemary

Just prior to our move, the first bokashi bucket was probably ready to be transferred ... somewhere. I deferred the decision, hoping our application for the house would be accepted because then I could just dig it into the yard. And that's exactly what I did.

The veggie etc scraps had been pickling for about 3 - 4 weeks, in pretty mild temperatures, and I had forgotten to dejuice for one and half weeks, while we moved. When I opened up the bucket, the sweet-sour smell was overpowering, but not unpleasant. This was lucky, because I managed to spill some of the waste all over our laundry room floor in trying to clean out the bucket. Note to self: clean bucket outside.

There was also a lot of white mould everywhere - on the lid of the bucket, on the tops of the veggie scraps, on the side of the bucket - but I had read this was not of concern, so I did not let it concern me. The Picky Vegan suggests using a layer of cardboard to deal with this issue, so I may try it next time.

In a few weeks, I will plant some late veggies, and some flowers. I'll let you know how that goes!

From here on in, I will have a yard and a compost bin to add my bokashi to. I intend to continue with the bokashi, because I think it could speed up the decomposing process and I like digging holes in the yard. However, even if I had not moved to a house, I would have happily tramped down to the local allotment on a nice sunny Saturday, looking for someone to take my beautiful bokashi waste.

Update to the update: I bravely put into the bokashi the bones of one whole baked Scottish rainbow trout. Let's see what happens...


Wandering Chopsticks said...

Do you want loofah seeds? You'll need to build a little trellis for it though. I've got some heirloom bell pepper and sugar pumpkin seeds too.

Oh! Email me if you want to do a food swap. I can mail you some Vietnamese, Asian or American goodies in exchange for some funny British goods. No spotted dick though. I already blogged about that. ;)

Anonymous said...


I'm glad I could help.

However, if you are drinking that much tea you might want to take a look at using loose tea for a better taste/flavour. From my own experience, loose tea tastes great!

Of course, the tea can go into the bokashi bucket too.:-)



Kirsty said...

Oh yes, do keep us updated on what happens with the bones.

Is now the time to tell you that I wasn't sure about bones, but thought I'd see what happened with chicken bones? The title of that post would be "When Bokashi Goes Bad" accompanied by ominous music.

I did a bit of searching afterwards and learned that bones were not recommended. So now I avoid adding them. But I had read opposite to the advice you had about teabags, so have been happily adding them and coffee grounds with no trouble. Although the teabags I use are Daintree teabags that are just paper with no strings, staples or bits of plastic coated cardboard attached. I figured tea bag paper fitted into the 'some paper' that could be added to the bin.

Re the white mould. I read somewhere that it was a sign of good things happening in your bokashi bin so shouldn't really be discouraged.

Anonymous said...

What is;

I googled it and couldn't seem to find any information about it.

Oanh said...

WC - Thanks :-)

Al - I drink all kinds of hot (and cold) beverages: tea bags and looseleaf. Tea bags are for when I'm lazy (most days), and a lot of the bags I have use pretty good leaf.

Kirsty - oh oh. I went straight to my bokashi bin and added another layer of bran onto the fish bones ... here's hoping! (they're looking okay at the moment ...)

I'm a bit bemused by the white mould, actually. And I've added cardboard to my current brew, so we shall see, we shall see.

Robert -

Hi! Thanks for your comment.

It's also known as Vietnamese coriander or Vietnamese mint. I looked it up on wikipedia and got this:-

I guess I don't like calling it V coriander or V mint, because it tastes like neither coriander nor mint.

When I first bought it in a nursery, the gardener there told me it was laxoleaf. Now, having a read of the wiki page, it looks like that should be "laksa leaf".

So I've been spreading misinformation all this time. Oops!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.