Tuesday, February 16, 2010

28 Day Real Food Challange: Day 15 - What is a SCOBY

Yesterday I started using some of the sourdough starter but instead of making a foccacia, which I will do probably next week, I made a sourdough whole wheat pita bread. I tried making a few before using the whole batch to check how the first few breads turned out. It's been a long time since I had a sourdough bread but I actually love it. I might reduce the amount of sourdough starter next time. I think the sourdough pita bread turned out good but just need to make them a little bit thicker.

Making a sourdough starter is just the tip of the iceberg. You really need to experiment. Once your starter is ready, a recipe is great as a guide but in the end you have to allow your sense of touch to guide you. Every sourdough starter is different. Mine has the consistency of a crepe batter while others may have a more thicker consistency. The amount of flour you add will depend on your sourdough starter.

Speaking of starter, day 15's post is about SCOBY from Nourished Kitchen. Read on to found out what it is.

It's the start of Week #3, and we're focusing on my very favorite topic: ferments and cultured foods! So put away your antibacterial hand sanitizer, and let's get to work - intentionally introducing the wee beasties into our foodstuffs.

There are primarily two manners in which we can ferment our foods:
1) with a starter culture and 2) with a wild culture. Your sourdough starter, is a wild culture unless you purchased a starter (see sources) or received one from a friend. Wine yeast, baking yeast, yogurt starter, and SCOBYs all represent the first method of fermenting food, that is with a starter culture.

Today our focus is on SCOBYs.
What on earth is a SCOBY? SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeasts. That is, it's an assortment of various beneficial bacteria and yeasts that work synergistically together to produce a certain type of ferment. Water kefir grains, milk kefir grains, kombucha mothers and ginger beer plant are all examples of such symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeasts. These colonies help to ferment various foods and beverages - such as milk as in the case of kefir or tea and sugar as in the case of kombucha - improving their nutrient profile by increasing B vitamins and food enzymes. Types of SCOBYs:
  • Water Kefir is a SCOBY that is small, gelatinous and grain-like. Combined with water, sugar, lemon and dried fruit, it produces an effervescent, faintly sweet beverage that makes for a good substitute for sodas and soft drinks (see sources and learn how to brew it).
  • Milk Kefir is a SCOBY that is likewise, small and gelatinous. It is opaque and the kefir grains have an appearance reminiscent of cottage cheese (see sources and learn how to brew it).
  • Kombucha is a SCOBY that is firm, gelatinous and opaque. A combination of tea and sugar feed it and it can be flavored with herbs and fruit (see sources and learn how to brew it).
  • Ginger beer plant, as opposed to a ginger bug which is a wild ferment, is a SCOBY that hails from the Caribbean and is brewed similarly to water kefir. They are VERY similar cultures.
So, today you need to track down the SCOBY of your choice. You can find them online. If you already have a SCOBY, consider expanding your kitchen experiments by trying another. And if you have a SCOBY or culture that is proliferating, share it with a friend or post it on Nourished Kitchen's Cultures & Starters Exchange.
Day #15 Check List: Find a SCOBY and Brew Some Goodness: Pick a scoby or culture, and start brewing. Extra Credit: If you're an avid kombucha brewer or you have more milk kefir grains than you know what to do with, share the SCOBY love!
  • Give some of your culture to a friend who's interested in eating better.
  • Post you starter or SCOBY at the Nourished Kitchen exchange and share the fermented love.
Now, my challenge is to track down a SCOBY. Ordering online is too expensive unless they are available locally and I don't know anyone who has it either. My last option would be to ask the health food store.

Love and light,


  1. So far, I have only tried to ferment fruits and sugar together to make enzyme drinks. I like them....more for health. Love to know all the various ways to do. Thanks for all the info you've collected. Well done, Divina, for taking up this daily challenge. Keep it up!

  2. This is so intriguing Divina! :O I haven't yet ventured to doing my own sourdough started but I look forward to reading all about yours! :D

  3. This looks so great! So fresh.

  4. Divina - I am loving all of the information that you are posting on being a healthier you!

  5. SCOBY! I have learned something new.

  6. Very interesting to learn about SCOBY! Your pitas look so perfect, excellent job!

  7. Thanks for all the info. The pita bread looks good!

  8. I love sourdough! In fact I had a whole loaf last weekend after work. Must try a sourdough pita. You make me want one now!

  9. So informative. Keep all these posts coming :)


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