Calling all soil lovers out there!

The bokashi lifestyle is a journey toward building healthy soil, a daily practice of collecting kitchen scraps to create a beneficial resource that feeds the soil. Bokashi is the perfect introduction to witness firsthand the benefits of living soil. It’s easy for budding soil lovers and great for experienced gardeners too. For those interested in or committed to closing the loop and recycling nutrients right back into the soil, adding bokashi to your daily routine could be right up your alley.

Bokashi has many benefits: It’s simple, fast, affordable, and compact enough to be done just about anywhere, even inside your home. It’s also versatile, meaning that any person, couple, family, community, school, business, restaurant, homestead, or farm interested in taking full responsibility for all of their food waste can learn how. Skip the green bin and learn to safely process your valuable food waste at home. If you can chop your food, you can learn to bokashi. To get started, you need buckets with airtight lids, food scraps, and bokashi bran.

Bokashi bran is the key ingredient to bokashi. It allows you to safely preserve or pickle all your food waste. A form of regenerative gardening, bokashi keeps all food out of the landfill and quickly returns nutrients back into the soil faster than cold composting, worm bins, and hot compost. Unlike aerobic composting methods, bokashi uses anaerobic fermentation in a sealed bucket containing layers of food waste with bokashi bran. Nontraditional composting inputs like meat, fish, dairy, eggs, shells, bones, grains, fats, processed foods, moldy food, soiled oily papers, and lots of fruits and veggies are added, and after a few weeks it ferments and creates bokashi pre-compost, a fabulous soil amendment. A successful bucket is pathogen-free and will smell acidic, or sour with a whiff of vinegar, and never putrid.

Select a fallow area to bury the bokashi pre-compost. Always mix it well with soil first, then bury it underground and cover with additional soil. Water, and walk away. No carbon, no turning needed. Wait two weeks before planting. After bokashi decomposes underground, the soil structure improves, holding onto moisture for longer. Plants are happier with bokashi.

Bokashi has many uses. It’s a game changer for passionate composters. Now you know the secret ingredient to successful hot compost piles: Use bokashi as a nitrogen-rich compost starter. Bokashi is a natural fertilizer to trench around the drip line of fruit trees and perennials. With care, you can also feed worm composting bins. The bokashi bran can also be used as a natural deodorizer sprinkled into litter boxes, chicken runs, or animal bedding. Add bran directly into your cold or hot compost piles for a fungal boost. Bran is also added directly into garden soil to help plants uptake nutrients faster.

The bokashi practice isn’t new; it’s been around since the 1980s and was discovered by Dr. Teruo Higa who developed a concoction of microbes called Essential Microbes or EM-1. These microbes are what make bokashi possible. The practice is used all over the globe and is becoming more popular through word of mouth and demonstration workshops.

Local producers use the EM-1 formula to create a high-quality inoculated product called bokashi bran. The bokashi bran carries common strains of bacteria found in our everyday environment like lactobacillus fed with sugars like molasses. EM-1 is skillfully applied to various carriers such as recovered rice hulls, sawdust, or brewers’ draff. It is then dried in the beautiful San Diego sunshine to be packed up later for purchase. Keep it dry out of light and bokashi bran will last up to a year or longer.

If you are ready to transform food scraps into your own bokashi pre-compost soil amendment, screenshot this how-to with step-by-step instructions to help you get started on your zero food waste journey.

Benefits of Bokashi originally published in the spring 2023 issue.

Cover image by Amanda Subish.
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