Through my education and my professional practice, I always wanted to shape the future and promote the principles of a sustainable economy. When I understood that my alimentation and my food consumption are certainly the best way to act and to promote ecological and social changes, I decided to buy fair, organic and waste-free as most as I can. For the same reasons, I also turned to a vegan diet.
More recently, I began to explore the processes of fermenting food and beverages as I learned about the benefits of a macrobiotic diet with Valentina Nelissen at Deshima in Amterdam (International Center of macrobiotic). I thrive on making tempeh, sourdough bread, kombucha, kefir and many other small fermented food productions. Dealing with living beings to process food has opened my interests to biology.
In the same optic, I am also playing the game to grow some of my vegetables and mushrooms. I took advantage of my time at Waag to build my own bioponic system, to learn about mycelium and the kingdom of mushrooms, and I am learning urban farming and ecological interactions thanks to the FabCity Hub. I see sustainable food as a challenge and a power for the next future and as a target that materialises and influences ongoing deep changes in society and technology.
Moreover, I deeply think that going back on making, growing or processing your own food yourself aims to empower designers, among others, to assume a more proactive attitude, regarding food as a cultural vehicle of identity, innovation and social integration and open the door of biodesign (the practice of designing with biology).
Water kefir is an ancestral fermented-carbonated beverage that is produced using water kefir grains. Unlike regular kefir, which is made from milk, water kefir is made by combining sugar water with water kefir grains — a type of grain-like culture of bacteria and yeast.
The mixture is then typically fermented for 48 hours, producing a probiotic beverage rich in beneficial bacteria. It is refreshing, easy to enjoy and also packed with a lot of health benefits.
How to make Water Kefir?
The process needs 2 fermentations.
4 big spoon of kefir grains
1L of water
2 big spoon of sugar (any type)
1 dried fig
1/2 lemon (bio!!) cut in slices or just the juice
A glass jar
a wooden spoon
a plastic strainer
a plastic funnel
DO NOT USE METAL
Add the kefir grains, water and sugar to the jar
Mix to solve the sugar
Add lemon and fig
Place the jar outside of the fridge (room temperature) for 2-3 days
a glass bottle
After 2-3 days of first fermentation,
Strain the fermented water into a new bottle and reserve the grains
Add taste makers (such as herbs, fruits, etc) into the bottle
Store the water kefir in the fridge for up to two weeks
You can already drink it right away ! (longer in the fridge = more flavour and more sour)
What to do with the grains?
The kefir grains can be used (over and over) again for a new first fermentation.
If you don't want to do a new first fermentation right after, you can store the kefir grains into sugar water inside the fridge.
If you have too much kefir grains, you can give them to your friends, eat some as candy, or mix them in a smoothie.
You can also put them in your compost, it is good bacteries for the decomposition process.
Kombucha is a beverage made by fermenting sweet tea. The most intriguing in this process is that you will need a mother kombucha (aka a scoby) to brew your beverage.
How to make Kombucha?
The process needs three steps:
1. Find a scoby
“The beverage name Kombucha tea has its origin in the Kombucha culture. The culture (or mother) is a symbiosis of bacteria and yeast. The microbial population is called Scoby and can grow through fermenting sweet black tea. A Scoby is a beautiful gelatinous blob which will give your Kombucha life. It contains all the yeast bacteria for the next generations. To make the Kombucha you will need a Scoby, but you will also need Kombucha to make more Scobys. Remember to always wash your hands when handling the Scoby to not risk to contaminate it.„
The most common practice is to share extra scoby with friends. Indeed, more you do kombucha, more your scoby grows. It becomes thicker and different layers appear. You can then separate it. From that moment, you can either keep it in a scoby hotel (a container with several scoby bathed in a preparation of kombucha), or give it to your friends to start their own production, or dry it to make fake-leather.
I received mine from the nice plant-based food shop where I used to go shopping. As you can see on the picture, it was initially a small round but from the moment I put it in my 5L jar, the scoby slowly started to expand. That is what scobies do, they first expand on the surface of the kombucha preparation, and then, they start to grow in layers. It is also why it is easy to make big sheets of kombucha scoby for fake-leather purposes.
2. First fermentation
When you found your (mother) scoby, you can brew your own kombucha. You will always need a mother batch with all the good nutrients and yeast to brew kombucha, it's the same for kefir making, sourdough making, or even gingerbeer making.
2L of (filtered) water
12g of black tea
3/4 Cup organic cane sugar
Your mother kombucha aka scoby
Big glass jar
Natural cloth and rubber band which fits over the jar.
Boil half of the water in a pot
When boiling add the tea and let boil for another 10 minutes
Remove the tea and poor it into the glass jar.
Add the another half water of room temperature to the glass jar
Add 3/4 cup organic cane sugar to the tea and stirr thoroughly until sugar is dissolved.
Let the tea-sugar mixture cool down to room temperature (This extremly important! If the tea is too hot it will kill all your bacteria)
After the tea mixture is cooled to room temperature add the scoby
Cover the jar with a cloth and tighten with rubber band
Put your Kombucha mixture in a dark corner of your room with good air circulation
Let the Kombucha work for the next 7 to 10 days (No peeking, no mixing, no touching!)
3. Second fermentation
This step can be skipped if you prefer unflavored kombucha. In both case, you have to collect the liquid (the fermented tea) and store it in flip top bottles.
Your fermented tea aka your kombucha drink
Any fruit or ginger or herbs (feel free to experiment)
Flip top bottles
Collect your existing fermented Kombucha and divide it up equally in your bottles.
Keep 1 cup of the fermented Kombucha to store your scoby. The best is to let the scoby in the jar with the bottom of the fermented tea (and the small yeast particles that stick to it).
If desired add about 1/4 cup of fruit or flavor to the bottles.
Leave your bottles on the countertop and „burp“ them every day. Be sure to do that in your sink to prevent a mess. (Burping is opening up the bottles slightly so the excess carbon can be released).
After about 2-4 days the fermentation process is completed (depending on how carbonated you want it).
Keep the bottles in the fridge.
Kombucha tastes the best when its chilled! Make sure to drink it within a week (burp it every now and then) otherwise the alcohol level will rise.
“You might think „what the hell is a ginger bug?“. Just like making Kombucha or a sourdough bread you need a „mother“ which contains all the good yeast for your fermentation. You will have to take good care of it and feed it regularly (once a week). And the day before you want to use it to make gingerbeer, you will also need to feed it. Then it is activated and full of energy for the fermentation. The day will come when your jar is full of gin- ger and very little fluid. You can either transfer your ginger bug to a bigger glass adding a cup of water to the jar. Or mix the ginger bug and then strain the ginger particles. Catch the fluid with your new jar, feeding it straight away with ginger and sugar!„
1/2 Cups filtered water
1 Tablespoon organic ginger
1 Tablespoon organic sugar
1 Glass jar with lid
Natural cloth and rubber band which fits over the jar
Cut 1 tablespoon ginger in very small chunks (don‘t take of the skin, its nutrition for the yeast)
Combine the ginger and 1 tablespoon sugar in your glass jar, mix well !
Add the water to the ginger-sugar mixture and mix thoroughly.
Close the glass jar with the cloth and fix with the rubber band.
Let your ginger mixture rest for 24 hours. After 24 hours add 1 table- spoon sugar and 1 tablespoon ginger and mix well. Repeat this for 5 days.
On the sixth day you will see small bubbles on the top of the fluid. This means your fermentation went well. On the bottom of your jar you will see some white fluid, that is the yeast!
Now you only have to feed your ginger bug once a week. You can use the normal lid to close it.
Making the drink
“Just as I said before you will need to feed your ginger bug the night before you wanna make a new batch of ginger beer. This will guarantee that your ginger bug is full with yeast and has enough energy for the fermentation process. You can flavour your gingerbeer with what ever you want. I usually make some hibiscus tea or lemonade and use the ginger bug to carbonate it. It tastes best fresh out of the fridge! Just try new things, its super fun! And no preservatives or anything else is in there, so its super healthy! After you have used the ginger bug for the fermentation, add the amount of water which you have taken out and feed again!„
4 cups Filtered water Thumb size piece of Ginger 1/2 cup ginger bug
1/4 cup organic sugar
1 Flip top bottle
Bring 3 cups of water to boil
Cut the ginger into slices and add them to the boiling water. Let sim- mer for about 15-20 minutes.
Stir your ginger bug to incorporate all the yeast into the fluid. Then strain about 1/2 cup from your ginger bug into a fresh cup, set aside.
After the ginger has cooked for 20 minutes. Strain the ginger pieces and add 1/4 cups of sugar.
Let your ginger water cool down. NEVER put your ginger bug into hot liquid. This will kill the microbes.
Add your ginger bug to the ginger water (and a splash of lemon if desired) and fill into the flip to bottle. Set aside and let ferment for about 3 days.
Burp the bottles every 2 days, other- wise they will explode because of the high carbonation. After the 3-4 days you can keep the gingerbeer in the fridge, use within a week.
Mushrooms are the fleshy fruiting body of a fungus. They grow above ground, soil or from a food source. Edible mushrooms are highly appreciated for them nutritional properties: they are good source of protein with an animo acid composition more similar to animal protein than plant protein, they are an important source of vitamin B and D, they are high fibre content and they also contain essential minerals for the proper functioning of our body such as selenium, phosphorus and potassium. Plus, it is a low calorie intake due to their high water content (80-90%). Traditionally, mushrooms have been used as a natural remedy for various diseases, especially in Asian folk medicine.
Many mushrooms are poisonous so gathering mushrooms in the wild is risky for the inexperienced and should only be undertaken by persons knowledgeable in mushroom identification. However, most mushrooms sold in supermarkets have been commercially grown on mushroom farms.
How to grow mushrooms at home?
mushroom spawn: we ordered 5.5kg of Pleurotus Ostreatus (oyster) spawn from cultivarseitas.es (MICELIOS FUNGISEM, S.A.)
substrate: we filled a bag of straw from a local horse stable
opaque bin bags
pressure cooker (or a container to boil the straw)
a dark space for the incubation
a bright space for the production
Step 1 - the sterilisation and the inoculation
We filled the pressure cooker with straw cut in small pieces and 1/4 of water (~1,5L in our case)
When the cooker was under pressure (when the valve is up) we waited 20 min more, then we turned off and let the pressure release. Note: it could also be done by immersing the straw in a bath of hot water (80°C) for two hours
We disinfected all the kitchen surface and put the gloves
Because we used new bin bags then we didn't need to sterilise them with alcohol because they are already sterile due to the manufacturing process (hot extruded plastic)
We opened the pressure cooker (the valve needs to be completly down!) and we moved wet straw in the bin bag by wringing it out as much as we could
we stirred the straw with our hands inside the bag to cool it down to room temperature
We weight the bag (= 1kg) and add 25% of mycelium spawn (= 250g)
We mix it well together with hands
We closed the bag and poked it with a tiny needle
We hanged it in a dark space with a room temperature of 15-18°C
Step 2 - incubation
The mushrooms have inoculated once they have turned white. It could take 5-7 weeks in a dark room of 15-18°C or 3-5 weeks in a dark room of 21-24°C.
Step 3 - Production and Harvest
Move the mushrooms into a bright and ventilated area and cut slits in the bags (around 4cm wide). The mushrooms will start to grow in the light and through the holes. Another option to be able to reuse the bags is to simply open the tops of the bags and allow the mushrooms to fruit from there rather than cutting holes in the bag.
When the mushroom starts fruiting, spray them daily with water with a spray bottle. If you do not have one you can sprinkle with water to ensure they do not dry out. If your mushrooms show a sign of infection (discolouration, the wrong kind of mould), cut it out with a knife.
Wait another 2 weeks or so and your first batch of mushrooms are ready to harvest.
To harvest mushrooms, twist the mushroom from the stem (it should make a crisp, cracking noise) or with a knife.
Waves of fruiting are obtained every 10 days. A wave is a cycle of production followed by few days without harvest. Usually, 2-3 waves are harvested but it is possible to obtain more.
12/11: We received the mycelium/mushrooms spawn order from cultivarseitas.es
13/11: First batch of mycelium (5%) - 2 small bags (~1kg each)
14/12: Julia's one starts fruiting, we threw away the other one because the mycelium didn't spread well
25/11: Second batch of mycelium (25%) - 2 small bags (~1kg each)
14/12: It starts fruiting! I moved them to a bright and ventilated area (= the boiler room which is an outside room with access via the terrace)
21/12: First harvest
12/01: Nothing happened since the first harvest, I moved them inside with the other bags.
14/02: Nothing happened to one of the two bags, the other got new tiny mushrooms but close to nothing.
01/12: Third batch of mycelium with coffee grounds (25-50%) - 1 big bag (~2kg)
18/12: I cut slits because I saw little starts of fruiting and moved it to the bright and ventilated area (=boiler room)
~23/12: It started fruiting but I wasn't there to spray them daily with water so, when I came back on the 28/12, they had dried..
29/12: I continued to spray them daily
12/01: There is some new little starts of fruit behind the plastic (not into the slits), seems that the boiler room is too dry and maybe too hot even if it's outside. I moved them inside, into my room, which I hope will be enough ventilated for them.
14/02 We've been able to harvest a few mushrooms here and there within this last month, but no longer beautiful productions like the first one. Most of the new little starts didn't grow to a mature shape despite a regular humidification with the spray bottle (~4x/day) and a renewal of air every morning for at least 30min-1h. Seemed that the environment was a bit better though because the little starts didn't dry directly like before but still, seemed that they couldn't grow further so I guess something was still wrong (the new environment wasn't good enough? or the deadline has been exceeded?). We stoped the production and mix the straw and mycelium with the soil we have for the plants.
10/12: Last batch of mycelium (more than 50%) - 2 big bags (~2kg each)
18/12: I moved it to the bright and ventilated area (= boiler room) with the others bags but haven't cut slits yet
21/12: I cut slits even if I didn't see starts of fruiting because we're going away for 1 week
28/12 Plenty of little mushrooms and plenty of new starts of fruit, I restarted to spray them daily as I didn't do it for a week because I wasn't there.
05/01: Harvest of the big mushrooms and let the littles to let them grow.
12/01 The littles didn't grow and dried even if I spray them daily with water. There is definitely something wrong with the actual environment. But it seems that there is also new little fresh starts behind the plastic (not into the slits), so I moved all the bags inside.
14/02 Same than bag n°3
Souvenir composition of this first mushroom farm experience: