by Maria Cates
Have you ever heard of Bokashi? You say “bo” what? Bokashi is a little known Japanese word used to describe fermenting your kitchen waste into useable organic matter. It is a type of composting that breaks down waste 10x faster. Bokashi is an anerobic fermenting process, which means NO oxygen is allowed in this process.
I have experimented with Bokashi by purchasing a bucket for my counter top, or under the sink as an alternative. In Japan, all kitchen waste including meat scraps go in your bucket. I do not like putting in the meat scraps so do not. Actually in Japan they consume very little meat so no doubt there was not much in their buckets.
Here in cold weather Montana this is ideal for the winters. You can compost using this fermenting process all year around using the little bucket in your kitchen.
So let me explain how Bokashi works. You will need a minimum of 3 buckets with lids. One for kitchen waste, one 5 gallon bucket and one to fit inside the 5 gallon bucket. Drill holes in the bottom of the middle sized bucket called the nesting bucket. Fermentation liquid will drain off as it is composting. You can use this to fertilize plants. I dilute mine with water before using it on any plants. It will smell like vinegar.
The smaller container I purchased specifically for making bokashi. It is a small bucket inside a metal container but you can simply use a bucket with a lid. Make sure all buckets have lids that seal tightly.
The larger one I simply used a 5 gallon bucket with a lid. Make sure it is clean and food grade to keep your bokashi compost working. The middle sized bucket I purchased and drilled holes in the bottom. Be sure all have lids.
Ideally the 5-gallon bucket should be kept somewhere above freezing to keep the fermenting going. Fortunately, I have a heated garage. Perhaps you have a back entry or heated area in a shed.
Last Item is the Bokashi natural composting additive. The ingredients listed on my bag are rice and wheat bran, molasses, SCD probiotics technology, trace minerals and sea salt. This is a must!
Steps to Making Bokashi:
In the kitchen use your small bucket for everyday use. You can put a bit of bokashi on the bottom and top. Generally you should empty this small bucket every day or every other day depending on your waste.
In the 5-gallon bucket:
- Put in 2 to 3 inches of vegetable and fruit waste. Smaller pieces are best.
- Layer a handful of Bokashi product covering the produce layer.
- If you have more produce waste make another layer or two.
- Press the last layer down with a piece of plastic. Leave the plastic in place.
- Each time you add the kitchen waste bucket to the 5 gallon bucket lift the plastic and create your layers of produce waste then top with bokashi. Replace the plastic. Do this until your bucket is full.
Remember this is an anerobic, no oxygen method of composting so tight lids are imperative. When your bucket is quite full remove the plastic and cover the top with a good amount of bokashi. I used close to half a cup. Now let it brew for 2 to 4 weeks.
In my experience the longer time frame worked the best. At 2 weeks it just was not fermented enough. If there is black mold toss it and wash everything and start over. White mold is fine. Yes it will smell, simply like strong vinegar.
You can add this to your compost pile or bin to help it decompose or simply trench it into your garden beds. This is a wonderful way to dispose of kitchen waste and add nutrients to your soil. The bokashi fermented product will continue to break down in your soil or compost bin. In the winter you may end up with several nesting buckets of bokashi fermenting away. Do not put it outside until the weather is above freezing.
I hope you enjoy this process of making a rich compost!
Maria Cates will be teaching at the Copper K Fiber Festival, July 15 & 16, near Whitehall, MT . She enjoys working with wool and a variety of fibers in wet felting focusing on sculptural work as opposed to wearable functional pieces. Find out more about her class here.