It's no secret that the key to healthy plants is healthy soil, and the best way to improve soil is by incorporating compost, which can take up to a year to make.
Bokashi is a composting method that can speed that up. It uses an inoculant developed in Japan in the 1980s containing beneficial microorganisms.
Compost improves the drainage of heavy clay soil and enhances the water retention of sand. It exudes nutrients and microbes to nourish plants and increase their vigor, while decreasing or eliminating the need for conventional fertilizer.
Homemade compost, always a worthwhile endeavor, requires time and patience. Ingredients must be tossed or turned periodically to expose all parts to the oxygen necessary for their aerobic – or oxygen-fueled — decomposition.
Bokashi composting degrades ingredients anaerobically, replacing the function of oxygen with fermentation, which essentially pickles them. This cuts the wait time to as little as 10 days and creates a product that's even higher in nutrients than traditional compost.
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It can be done in a small, indoor space, and the only equipment needed is a 5-gallon bucket with a spout and tight-fitting lid, and a bag of inoculant to kick-start the fermentation process. Bokashi inoculants typically contain wheat bran, wheat germ or sawdust. You can buy a kit or research DIY options to get started.
Add kitchen scraps to the bucket in 2-inch layers, sprinkling a small handful of inoculant over each layer as you go and resealing the bucket tightly between additions. You might cover the layers with a plate or plastic wrap before sealing the container to further reduce oxygen exposure.
When the bucket is full, drain the produced liquid from the spout every couple of days. Dilute one teaspoon of that "compost tea" into a quart of water and apply the highly nutritious solution to garden or houseplant soil to increase plant vigor and yield. Avoid direct contact with foliage, and use each batch within a day or so of collecting it.
Meat and dairy scraps — strictly no-no's in a regular compost pile — can be incorporated into the bokashi bucket. Unlike conventional compost piles, which don't heat up sufficiently to kill harmful bacteria and parasites, the effective microorganisms in the bokashi bucket will destroy any pathogens present in the animal products.
Ingredients should be added quickly and sporadically to avoid introducing too much oxygen to the bucket. Likewise, you should avoid the temptation to check on its progress between additions.
The sealed bucket should not emit any odors into the room, but you may notice a sweet-and-sour scent when the lid is opened. This is normal. A foul odor, however, signals that something has gone awry. If you detect a rotting-egg odor or if dark mold is visible within the bucket (white mold is OK), try adding more inoculant. If the situation isn't remedied within a couple of days, discard the batch, clean and disinfect the bucket and start over.
When the fermentation process is complete — again, in as little as 10 days — the resulting biomass will still resemble the original ingredients, but will decompose quickly. It can be buried in trenches in a new garden bed at least two weeks before planting. Be sure to cover it completely with soil.
You can also add it to the center of a traditional or worm composting bin or pile (mixed well with the existing contents), where it will break down further.
If the notion of creating "pre-compost" only to add it to a conventional compost pile seems pointless, consider that incorporating bokashi-decomposed ingredients will save many months, essentially providing a fast track to finished compost.
If you don't have a conventional compost pile, you can finish your bokashi compost by digging a hole and burying batches in a dedicated spot in the garden. After two weeks, you can dig up what you need and use it as you would regular compost.
Another option: Bokashi can be dug into trenches alongside but safely away from plants. Take care to avoid direct contact with roots, as the acidity of the fermented product will burn them. For the same reason, it should not be applied as a top dressing or used as mulch unless it has been further composted using traditional methods.
6 clever kitchen storage ideas to steal from restaurants
Place your prep in plastic containers
There are countless ways to use the clear, plastic containers you often see stacked in restaurants for your own prep. Tall ones are perfect for large quantities of stocks and ice creams, while shorter ones can hide pestos and dressings away. As you are well aware, dinner routines are an essential part of the week, and storing your food prep in easy-to-see containers should help. The best part? These lids are interchangeable, so you don’t have to worry about a stray topper.
Make space for pegboards or rails
There’s a reason why Julia Child used a custom pegboard in her famous kitchen. By having her trusted pots and pans within reach, it was easier to pick and choose which items she needed on the fly. Take her advice and install a pegboard for everything from pots and pans to ladles and spatulas.
No space for a pegboard? Opt for a single rail beneath upper cabinets to hang your favorite items from hooks. A bronze one will patina over time, making your vignette look as perfectly lived in as Child’s.
Create zones for flow
Restaurants get food out quickly because everyone on the line knows their place. And even though no one should expect a meal on the table in about 12 minutes where you live, they should be able to move around the room in a flash. All utensils, cups and plates should be gathered in the same area of your kitchen, and set at least a few feet away from the high-trafficked areas of a refrigerator, oven or even microwave. Store once-in-a-blue-moon appliances inside your pantry, or in a cupboard out of the way.
Use bench seating to maximize space
There are likely two reasons why banquettes are a classic part of the dining experience: They fit as many people into one space as possible, and it simply feels cozier than individual chairs. If your kitchen has a breakfast nook, consider the possibilities of creating a banquette of your own, or at least adding a bench. Either option provides the chance to add storage underneath the cushions as you also expand seating. A drawer would be perfect for linens, but open-air baskets would pull off the same trick.
Add shelving everywhere it fits
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or peeked in the back, then you’ve probably noticed that no space goes to waste. Shelving spans above and below countertops, and walk-ins are lined with tiered units. If you have a pantry, then take note of this design: Place the items you use most at eye level, the heaviest items beneath and the specialty items above. If you don’t have a pantry, add open shelving to a blank wall — for everyday items like plates and cups — or place a cart beside a small countertop. And while you’re at it, add extra shelving inside your cabinets to maximize the number of pieces you can fit inside.
Label everything you eat
You know that tasty tomato sauce you made a while ago? Its leftovers are now sitting in the fridge, and you can’t quite tell if that smell means it’s still good or not. This would never happen in a restaurant — and for good reason. All ingredients are promptly labeled, making it easy for anyone to see what’s still fresh and what’s past its prime. Get in the habit of writing the contents of your leftovers on masking tape with a permanent marker and include the date. It’s a fast and cheap way to keep your fridge clean.