By Vina Medenilla

Bokashi is a Japanese word for fermented organic matter. In as fast as 30 days, one can create a natural fertilizer for the plants through bokashi composting. Composting is not only beneficial to the environment, but also to us humans. This boils down to ensuring the safety of the food we all consume, which is connected to giving nutrients to the soil where our food is grown. 

Lanie Francisco, the founder of Bokashi Pinoy, said that kitchens and restaurants can be sources of food for humans and soil that helps nourish the edible plants that we grow. Bokashi Pinoy is a business that focuses on turning food waste into nutrient-rich soil. It facilitates a program called “30-day Garbage to Garden” to train individuals or businesses who want to reduce their food waste for a greater purpose. 

“As professional chefs, we are very concerned about food, food quality, but also we cannot make great food if we don’t have great ingredients,” said J Gamboa of LFB Philippines Chefs Association, who is also a bokashi practitioner. Gamboa, through LTB Philippines Chefs Association, is one with Bokashi Pinoy in implementing bokashi in the restaurants he’s affiliated with and in promoting this composting technique in the local culinary scene.

How does bokashi differ from traditional composting? 

The traditional way of composting demands more time, effort, and enough space to accommodate both brown and green materials and to retain heat that is necessary for the process. Gianina Custodio, one of Bokashi Pinoy’s mentors, said that this composting method is more prone to pests and foul odor. 

Bokashi composting is an anaerobic fermentation process, which means this does not use air and oxygen, requiring one to compress food waste in compost buckets properly. Bokashi composting can be carried out in small spaces, making it a perfect system for households and restaurants. 

Five stages of bokashi composting

Custodio briefly shared five easy steps on how this method works. 

Segregate food waste and fill the compost buckets. For restaurants and other commercial establishments that usually gather large amounts of food waste every day, putting and segregating food waste directly into the buckets can be followed. For households that do not create a large number of kitchen scraps and cannot fill a bucket in a short time, Custodio suggests putting food waste in separate containers first. This is to avoid the frequent opening of the bucket that may allow air to enter into the bokashi pail.

The bokashi materials include the compost bucket, bokashi rice hull or ipa, molasses, and paper or newspaper. To start, lay the newspaper on the inner bucket and add a layer of bokashi ipa after. Next is putting the food waste and mixing it with a handful of bokashi ipa. Compress the layer to eliminate any air that may form inside. Repeat this process until the bucket is full. Atop the last layer of food waste, pour the molasses, add bokashi ipa, cover it with paper, and tightly seal the bucket with the lid. 

Ferment for two weeks. Do not forget to label each pail stating the seal date so you would know when to open them again, which must be after two weeks of fermentation. During this period, it will allow more beneficial microorganisms to develop. It is best to put the bokashi buckets in a cool, dry place that is far from sunlight, heat, and water. 

Bury fermented food waste. Once done with the fermentation, bury the food waste in a trench, raised bed, or container. In traditional composting, Custodio said that this stage takes a minimum of six months, much longer compared to the bokashi method that will only last for a minimum of two weeks. 

Harvest and use compost in growing plants. In a month or so, you will now have dark, nutrient-rich soil that you can use in food production. 

Consume safe and clean food. Using the compost soil, you can grow, harvest, and serve healthy and safe produce. By doing this, it will secure the safety of the food that you will serve to your customers. 

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