By Nina Wu
Since writing about Throw To Grow, I've decided to give the Bokashi Bucket a try.
The Bokashi Bucket, in case you haven't heard of it, is an anaerobic composting system that ferments your food waste (including meat, dairy and bones) into rich, gardening soil. It's basically a 5-gallon bucket tucked inside of another one with a spigot that you can keep indoors in your kitchen.
Each One Teach One Farms entrepreneur Jim DiCarlo sells the bucket systems at Haleiwa, Ala Moana and Hawaii Kai Farmers' Markets. You can also find them at Kale's Natural Foods and the North Shore Organic Gardening in Waialua.
If you're handy, you could probably pick up two buckets from Lowe's, Home Depot or City Mill and make the system yourself, except for the activator mix (basically bran mixed with molasses and microorganisms), which is a more involved process. Jim sells a jar of the mix for just $5 at farmers' markets.
What I like about it, so far, is that it seems easy to use.
I keep my bucket on a little step stool in the kitchen, next to the trash can. Once a day, or once every other day, you take your food scraps, open the lid up, toss them in and close the lid again. When the food scraps are at about three inches, you take your jar of bokashi activator mix (basically bran mixed with microorganisms and molasses) and sprinkle some on top.
I wouldn't say it's completely odorless. Hopefully I'm doing it right, but there is definitely a sort of sweet and sour, pickled smell every time I open up the bucket.
It's not pleasant, but it's not horribly unpleasant, either. My husband says he can tell every time I open the lid, because he gets a whiff, but it usually goes away after we turn on the kitchen ceiling fan for a few minutes.
So far, I've thrown all kinds of stuff in the bucket — orange peels, avocado and banana peels, apple cores, celery, ginger, egg shells, old pasta, old rice, a whole head of lettuce that went bad, a whole box of granola cereal (that some ants had gotten into), a whole rotisserie chicken carcass and salmon skin.
The word "bokashi" has turned into a verb in our household. Now I say, "Are you done with this? Should I bokashi it?"
My bucket is about half full, so far. When you open up the bucket, you won't see any transformation of the food yet. Apparently that happens after it all goes into the ground.
So far, so good.
Some things that are good to know: You want to only add fresh, not rotten (or moldy) food or it will smell. It's a good idea to place a paper or ceramic plate on top to basically compress all the air down. It's best also to keep the bucket away from sunlight.
For more tips on using the Bokashi Bucket, go to eachoneteachonefarms.com/bokashi.
We have a worm composting bin, as well, in the garage, and usually I put on gloves to open the lid, move aside the shredded paper, before tossing in food scraps. Separating the worms from the vermicompost is a messy chore in itself (I make my husband do it). What's nice about the worms is that you can throw moldy stuff in there. What I find challenging is that we usually have way more food scraps than the worms can process (since we just started with a small starter kit, which took a year to grow into a small bin). I often wonder whether it might be good to invest in a Can-O-Worms system that can take more food waste.
The bucket doesn't take up a lot of space, but seems to be able to handle the volume. So far it's not too much of a hassle to throw the food scraps in there. My dog sniffs the bucket lid with interest every time I open it, but she's not too interested in digging through it (thank goodness). I can't wait to see how this all works once the bucket contents go into the ground. Will keep you posted.