Bokashi composting

Bokashi is a strange name for a strange way of composting kitchen waste. When I moved away from a house with a garden and a huge compost heap and into a top floor flat with a balcony, I decided to have a go at this indoor way of breaking down food waste ready for the allotment.

Wiggly Wigglers very kindly sent me their Bokashi Value Pack to have a go with, along with some instructions. The pack consists of two sealed bins with taps, and a large bag of Bokashi bran. It is this bran that makes Bokashi magic, as it contains micro-organisms which kickstart an anaerobic process which “pickles” the waste.

The appealing thing about Bokashi is that it composts all kitchen waste in a way that conventional compost heaps cannot without attracting vermin. The bins are airtight and so you can’t smell a thing as the waste rots down. I chuck meat scraps, cooked pasta and all sorts of other leftovers in there. You sprinkle a layer of bran on top of every thin layer of food, and press it down.

As the food pickles in the bin, it gives off a brown juice which drips into a collecting reservoir at the bottom. You can drain this out and either feed it, diluted, to your plants, or pour down your drains to freshen them up. I’ve tried both: the plants perk up nicely after a drink of foul-smelling Bokashi juice, and my drains did clear nicely as well.

For two people who use a lot of fresh ingredients when cooking, one bin normally lasts us a month and a half. Then we seal it and leave it while we fill the other bin.

It’s at this stage that Bokashi gets rather confusing. You see, I had no idea what the waste actually looks like when it is ready. I had expected to turn out a bin of soil at the end of the process, but later realised that actually the bin is preparing a product that will rot down in the ground very quickly indeed.

I have been digging trenches at the allotment and pouring the pickled (half-rotted, half-preserved in a strange way) waste into them, backfilling with soil and leaving for a few weeks. The waste rots amazingly quickly and leaves very healthy looking soil too. I’ll be making Bokashi trenches for my pumpkins from now until planting time to give them as much food as I possibly can.

While I am a complete convert to Bokashi composting in my flat with no compost heap, I would struggle to justify using it in another setting. The bran that you need for the composting to actually take place doesn’t come cheap. A 1kg bag is £5.40, and though it does work wonders and mean I don’t throw out any wasted food at all, it means the process is not as free as chucking a bucket of veg peelings on the heap. But if you don’t have a heap outside your door, and you don’t want your kitchen smelling of decomposing food while you collect it, then this is a fabulous way of composting.

Visit the Wiggly Wigglers site to have a look at Bokashi.

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