Not long ago I was trolling the web for some easy, indoor compost ideas since we can’t really leave a stinking pile of food scraps on our apartment balcony. The plan was to make a little, sealed bin that I could stick under the sink and let it do its thing. Somehow, I came across a forum discussing bokashi. It’s basically a super-fast Japanese method for turning food scraps into usable garden amendments. The neat thing is that you can throw meat and dairy in there too, and they’ll break down without stinking or attracting vermin. The idea so intrigued me that I contacted a bunch of people who owned bokashi blogs, did hours of research, and ended up writing an article.

More importantly, though, it motivated me to give it a shot. The traditional method calls for innoculating bran or some other substrate with a fancy mixture of yeast, fungus, and bacteria. Layer it with food scraps, and in two weeks you’ll end up with some pickled food scraps that don’t seem to have changed much. This stuff gets buried in the garden, and two weeks after THAT, it’s completely broken down and you have light, fluffy, delightful compost.

I had two major components: an airtight bucket and tons of food scraps. Boy, do we waste a lot of food.

Being impatient, however, I had no desire to order the secret ingredient then wait for it to ship all the way from…wherever. From all my research, I knew that the process is basically a matter of the food scraps fermenting in an airtight environment. So, I decided to take the minimalist approach. I added about a cup of sugar to the mess, mixed it up good, and let it sit for a day. After thinking about it, I also dumped in a cup of milk that The Boy had left sitting out all night (for lactobacillus) and a packet of dry yeast. Sounds yummy, right?

I sealed that bad boy up and let it rest for two weeks. Upon opening the bucket, I was treated to the sour, fermenty smell that all the forums said was a sign of success. I put a three inch layer of dirt in the bottom of several five gallon buckets, topped that with about four handfuls of the stinky stuff, and poured some more dirt on top.

Today (three weeks later), I decided to poke around in my poor-man’s planters to see if the bokashi had, indeed, broken down. I got out my little trowel and…. success! Nothing but soft, dark dirt. I am very pleased.