There are a few things you must have in order to recycle your food using the bokashi method. The items are few and forgiving. In other words, you can spend money and purchase a ready-made kit, or you can make things yourself.
Items Necessary for Bokashi
- Bokashi Receptacle with an airtight lid
- Bokashi Mix
- Food Scraps
- Final Resting Place
Now I’ll take them one by one and explain how the process works and why you need each one.
The Bokashi Receptacle
The receptacle is generally a bucket with a secondary bottom. The secondary bottom is fitted within the bucket about an inch or so from the true bucket bottom. The secondary bottom is basically a sturdy strainer. It’s strong enough to hold the contents placed in the bucket, but has enough holes to allow liquids (not solids) to drip from the contents to the true bottom of the bucket.
The gap between the true bottom and the secondary bottom is where the bokashi “tea” is collected. The tea is a valuable liquid that is discussed elsewhere on this site.
On the outside of the bucket, there’s a spigot. The spigot is located, as you might have guessed, at the bottom of the bucket between the true and secondary bottoms. This allows for easy access to the bokashi tea without having to remove the receptacle’s lid.
Below is an amateur drawing of a cylindrical bokashi bucket. Pretend the bucket is made out of glass and you can see the secondary bottom inside. BTW, bokashi buckets don’t have to be cylindrical. There are also square and rectangular bokashi buckets (yes, I’m the amateur that drew the picture)
A side note: The spigot isn’t absolutely necessary as you can place paper on the bottom of the bucket to collect the tea.
The reason why I took the time to embarrass myself to show you the amateur drawing is because as I said earlier, the items in bokashi are forgiving. I personally have made my own bokashi buckets. How to make your own bokashi bucket is discussed here.
I need to take a moment to stress that recycling with bokashi is an anaerobic process. That means that it does its work without air; thus the importance of an airtight lid.
The Bokashi Mix
Once you have a receptacle, the next thing you need is bokashi mix.
The bokashi bran mix is also a somewhat forgiving recipe. There are certain basics, but the recipe is simple enough for you to make yourself. Elsewhere on this site (when I get around to it), we’ll discuss how to make your own bokashi mix. In the meanwhile, I’ll discuss what the mix does.
The bokashi mix is a combination of a small number of microorganisms, molasses, water and a whole lot of carbon material. The carbon material in most mixes is wheat bran, but sawdust, wood shavings or even rice bran has been used.
Don’t get alarmed about the microorganisms. They are friendly and also called effective microorganisms. You can purchase effective microorganisms in a bottle from a company called TeraGanix. Or, you can spend a little time (about 14 days) and create your own microorganisms by fermenting rice water and milk. Rice water is the water left over after washing rice.
As you can see, it’s all a natural process. Whether you purchase your microorganisms or ferment your own, there’s nothing in the bokashi mix that’s toxic.
Some folks get turned off from the bokashi process because they don’t want to continually purchase bokashi mix. While yes, purchasing bokashi mix may not be the most convenient thing to do, but if you get serious about bokashi, you can make your own mix.
For about $20 or less you can make enough mix to last for a year or two (depending on how much food your household produces).
Now that you’ve got the first two ingredients in place, it’s time to start collecting food scraps.
I know I said food scraps, but actually, bokashi likes all kinds of organic scraps, so feel free to throw in plant leaves or other organic items. Unlike composting, bokashi likes meat, bones, fat or any other type of food.
Remember, bokashi ferments the food and prevents it from rotting. You don’t get the rancid dead meat smell in a bokashi bucket as you might get in an improperly maintained compost bin. Folks who throw meat into a compost bin have to be careful not allow the bin to stink. Aside from it being offensive to the olfactory nerve, it will attract unwanted critters.
With bokashi, you add a layer of food (no more than a 3-inch layer), sprinkle a handful of bokashi mix over the food, press the food down to remove as much air as possible (a potato masher is a good item to use) then cover the bin with an airtight cover. You continue this process until the bin is full.
Once your bin is full, set it aside for about 2 weeks and let it do its thing. BTW, you should start getting bokashi tea about 3 to 4 days into the process. Make sure to check and drain the tea every other day or so. The amount of tea depends on the type of scraps you feed the bucket. If you feed it a lot of fruit and vegetable scraps, you’ll get a lot of tea. Bread, pasta and rice don’t release too much tea.
Bokashi Final Resting Place
Here’s where you can get creative and where bokashi is more flexible than composting.
Composting has its merits, but when the temperature drops below freezing, your compost pile will slow down to a stop. Your bokashi, on the other hand, can continue fermenting and ultimately break down into fertile soil.
Once your bokashi is ready to take the next step (after at least 2 weeks of fermenting), it’s time to introduce the bokashi to the soil. You’ve got a couple of options:
- You can dig a trench in your yard, deposit the fermented matter then cover it up. In about 2 weeks, the fermented matter will fully decompose and become nutrient-rich soil.
- Don’t have a yard? No problem. Get a container, maybe an unused trashcan, and place a layer of soil on the bottom. Then take your fermented bokashi and lay it on top of the soil. Next place another layer of dirt and you’re good to go. In about 2 weeks the bokashi will have decomposed into soil. Wash, rinse and repeat.
The above is an overview of the process. As with any process, there are tips, tricks and best practices. I intend to share the tips and tricks I learned in future posts.
This post was transferred from one of my other soon to be defunct blogs hvbokashi.com.