Bokashi bit.

Last night, as I was poring through Richard Gianfrancesco’s excellent 2011 book How to Grow Food, I came across a reference to “bokashi composting.”  A quick glance online reveals that there are a considerable number of people practicing this method of breaking down food wastes, but I must say, it’s not a practice I’m familiar with.  Our municipal goverment is currently making moves to add a composting element to our citywide recycling endeavours, and I have long wondered exactly how they are going to deal with food wastes that don’t fall under the traditional composting categories of “greens” and “browns.”   A short turn on Google has led me to the website of the City of Ottawa, which practices a residential organic waste recycling initiative.  Ottawa residents can put pretty much any kitchen waste in their green bins – even dairy and meat – and once collected, it is heated to 55°C to kill harmful bacteria and then it is thoroughly filtered (to get rid of any potential smell).  The end product is aged for 21 days before it is sold for agricultural use.   The City of Calgary will likely follow a similar procedure once its kitchen waste recycling program goes into full swing, but what if you want to deal with ALL of your kitchen wastes on a really small scale, at home, for the benefit of your garden?   It turns out bokashi can actually break down wastes such as meat and dairy, unlike traditional composting or vermicomposting.

To clarify, bokashi isn’t actually the same as composting; it is actually anaerobic fermentation, which is basically (to my non-chemist brain) the decomposition of organic matter in a closed, airless system – or as close to airless as possible, given the limitations of the bokashi bin.  Composting, on the other hand, happens in an aerobic environment – you need the oxygen in the air to break down that green (nitrogen) and brown (carbon) matter you put in.  Bokashi doesn’t yield finished humus, either, as composting will – you should use bokashi in conjunction with traditional composting or vermicomposting and let the fermented product age before incorporating it in your garden projects.

You can purchase bokashi bins in stores that cater to eco-friendly living, and they’re widely available online, of course.  The Compost Guy has a description of how to make your own bin using a couple of plastic buckets.  It all seems very accessible, even for those of us who lack handyman genes and live in small spaces.  And, to make it even more attractive, the bokashi process supposedly doesn’t produce the foul stench of decomposing biowaste that I suspected it might…if you do it correctly.  Same as compost, really.

The only real drawback that I can see here is that you need a little supplement to get the whole fermentation thing going…it’s a special mix of wheat bran and beneficial microbes that you need to either purchase or create yourself.  You need the microbes on a continual basis, so you must always spend time and money to obtain the mix (it’s not like sourdough starter, unfortunately, and you can’t save over a little bit each time you “harvest” your bokashi buckets).

So, what do you think of bokashi?  Is it worth a shot?  Are there any of you out there using it, and if so, do you feel it is a successful way to deal with your kitchen wastes?

8 thoughts on “Bokashi bit.

  1. It is definitely worth a shot, yes! Bokashi is a great way of recycle ALL of your kitchen scraps. You don’t even need to have a regular composting system, or vermicomposting system either, you can just bury the fermented Bokashi compost in your garden (or pots) to let the process finish off.

    There is loads of great information at http://www.bokashicompostinghq.com including step by step instructions, and what to do with the waste after it’s finished in the Bokashi bin.

    You should definitely give it a go, and let us know how you find it.

  2. Hi Shernor,

    Landed here from a post on my friend’s Bokashiworld Facebook page in Dubai! The world is very small on the internet.
    Since I make bokashi and sell the buckets of course I am biased but let me add that Bokashi “fermentation” composting is actually better than traditional because more carbon and nitrogen are retained and it doesn’t smell bad! Your description of the process is right on – the composting finishes when you bury the fermented waste in your garden – it then goes aerobic and in as little as two weeks you have amazing nutrient rich dark black soil!
    Thank you for spreading the word.

    Craig Alger
    AAG Biotics (aagbiotics.com)

    • Thank you very much for stopping by my blog! I appreciate your comment, as traditional composting in winter – while it can be done – is certainly rendered more complicated by the severe weather.

  3. I stumbled on Bokashi less than 2 weeks ago, when I googled ‘kitchen compost’ and thought I was looking for a suitable hardware item. I went from ‘what the’ to ‘wow’ over a sceptical and dizzying personal research program. The more info I found the easier, simpler and possibly cheaper it got and the limits of the benefits to gardens, communities and … the planet seem endless.

    I looked at prices of ‘required’ equipment and EM-1 activated microbes (the powder you sprinkle on your scraps to commence the fermenting process – stands for Effective Microorganisms). I tried to think it through and did a bit more research. It was becoming a little daunting – with lots of online and youtube suggestions that you can add this and that, you can make your own powder in 50lb lots, etc. I just wanted something that didn’t stink in my kitchen so I could get back to not throwing out perfectly useful scraps.

    Then I found http://bokashiworld.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/it-can-be-done-bringing-home-bokashi-to-your-veggie-patch/ right here on WordPress. Suddenly this was easy as: Follow simple steps and throw just about anything in. It can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. I ended up buying the commercial bucket (lets face it, my initial plan was to buy something nice-looking to keep in my kitchen also hubby encouraged me to spend the extra as I LOVE gardening), Jenny is very successful, on quite a large scale, with just a lidded bucket. Highly recommended reading!

    I chose to also buy the powder. But have recipes for making the base and activating the EM inoculant (in smaller than 50lb lots). Plenty of youtube instruction videos – you probably need to buy the inoculant to start, though some will even explain how to do that also. The commercial powder contains a mixture of ‘good’ microbes in a wheat bran (or similar) base. It’s light, smells just sort of fresh and is easy to use – grab a handful and sprinkle.

    So far, I have had NO smells (I’m only on my first bucket remember, don’t hold me to it). It won’t be in the kitchen once it is full and going through it’s ferment stage. I will be using a normal bucket for a second bucket and sacrificing the liquid as I went crazy and re-established my previously murdered worm-farm – that liquid is more usable anyway. My second bucket is going on holidays and, as I don’t have to worry about a bit of paper sucking up the liquid, I’ll be collecting all the meat, vege, cheese, bread, cofee grounds, etc, etc, etc scraps from 4 families, sprinkling with Bokashi powder and bringing home. Can’t wait actually! This seems so much more user friendly than worm farms and even compost where my own family would have trouble working out what to put in.

    Once the scraps are fermented in about 2 weeks, I could just dig a hole and bury it (in the yard, in the garden, in a box of soil). I will use it to get my compost pile going faster and also introduce some to the worms. I feel Bokashi just makes all the processes come together and the garden should just come alive. The fact that ferment doesn’t stink like rot (but then make the rot better) is just a bonus so I can do this on the run, right where the scraps are created – in my kitchen.

    There’s people doing this that don’t care for gardening, just for waste reduction -giving it to the gardener down the road or the local community garden.

    Week 2 – I don’t know how I survived without Bokashi – guess I’m hooked!

    • Thanks for this! I really appreciate that you’ve stopped by my blog to let me know your experiences with Bokashi. It appears that this is a very workable solution for food wastes of all kinds – I’ve yet to hear from anyone who has anything bad to say about the process.

I'm delighted to hear from you - thanks so much for your comments!

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