One of Kombucha’s many gifts is that of self-perpetuation. You can literally make a LIFETIME supply from one culture, if it is properly cared for. At first, this is a miraculous delight for the homebrewer, but after a few cycles, it can seem like you are in trouble with Tribbles. Many people are loath to simply toss the extra cultures, rightfully acknowledging that the SCOBY is a living organism with its own consciousness and intelligence.
The great news is that this is a win-win situation. Science has barely begun to grasp the full scope of Kombucha’s usefulness from functional beverage, to household cleaner, to skin & hair care product to vegan leather substitute. This flexibility gives the homebrewer an excellent opportunity to experiment. Instead of dreading what to do with those extra cultures – I’ve included some great tips for other ways to use them, but first, let’s take a closer look at what the SCOBYis exactly.
SCOBY – Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast
Most commonly pronounced with a short ‘o’ (like the ‘o’ in the word ‘go’) but maybe you like to call it “Scooby” after your favorite cartoon dog. It is also known as a biofilm, pellicle, zooglea (living skin), yeast mat or near lichen. The SCOBY is a protective layer built by the bacteria – most often Acetobacter xylinium, but could also be any of several other strains – to prevent other non-friendly or pathogenic bacteria from entering their food source while dually serving to reduce evaporation.
The zooglea also acts as home for a large number of yeast and bacteria. Think of it kind of like an apartment building – the yeast live on one floor, bacteria on the next, and so on. They build this cellulose structure to make working together easier. Finally, the mat makes transfering the necessary bacteria and yeast starter from one batch to the next extremely easy, ensuring their continued propogation.
WHAT TO DO WITH EXTRA SCOBYS
Beauty is Skin Deep
- Check out these recipes for making your very own beauty masque and toner from Bev Ferguson, owner of the Original Kombucha List.
- I like to take a fresh culture and lay it across my face (no, it will not suck your brains out, though the thought has crossed my mind). Allow the culture to rest on your face for up to 15 minutes, using a towel to catch the drips. You may notice some redness on your skin but it will quickly fade. If you are sensitive, always test first on a small section of skin.
Why this works
- The Kombucha culture also has many topical uses. One of the terms for the SCOBY is zooglea, which translates as “living skin” and helps heal the skin from burns, wounds and other skin ailments. Biofilms are not new and have a wide range of applications from medicinal bandages, replacement blood veins, speaker diaphragms and more. BASYC is one such biofilm that is being tested and manufactured for such purposes. They have isolated an acetobacter xylinium strain – one of the bacteria native to the Kombucha culture – to create this biofilm.
- You can use pieces of the culture topically to speed healing of cuts, burns and other wounds. Cut a piece to size and hold in place with a bandage wrap. It will sting a bit, much like iodine.
Why this works
Pets are People too!
- Animals can also reap the health benefits of Kombucha. I give my dog Kombucha in her food everyday. She has a shiny coat, healthy skin and nails (despite having come to us with a bad case of mange) and very regular elimination.
- My friend Donna Schwenk of Cultured Food Life made these tasty sounding treats for her dog.
Why this works
- With the oceans being poisoned by plastic, healthy fish supplies are running low. Save a fish, eat a SCOBY! While many will feel disdain for the rubbery texture of the SCOBY, it is actually quite similar in texture to raw squid.
- If you don’t want to eat it straight, try adding a piece to your smoothie.
Why this works
How Does Your Garden Grow?
- Many plants thrive in more acidic soil environments. Grind up or coarsely chop a SCOBY and add it to your soil mix.
- Adding extra SCOBYs to the compost pile is a great way to return the culture to the earth. I throw them in my worm bin and boy, do I have a lot of happy worms! =) I use the worm tea to nourish my garden.
Why This Works
Do you have a use for Kombucha or SCOBYS that isn’t listed here? Leave a comment below.
Still need MORE ideas? Join us at the KommUnity discussion (already in progress) to talk about other uses for Kombucha & SCOBYs!