Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Another Whey to Fertilize

Because of our experimentation with fermentation, namely making kefir and Caspian Sea Yogurt frequently in the last couple of months, we've had a lot of whey collecting.

I've not yet ventured further into lacto-fermentation, and so have not yet begun making pickles and sauerkraut using whey as an agent. I've been meaning to toy around with whey in breads as well, but haven't gotten that far along my To Do list.

So what to do with it? I wasn't sure.

And when I'm not sure, I experiment a bit.

I'm not sure what the PH needs of my plants are(remember, the ones in all the buckets? ..Bucketville?), but I do remember hearing that whey might be good diluted with water and used on some kinds of plants. Which sorts of plants? It is there my science abruptly ends...I really don't know.

But I knew our two fig trees in pots were looking a little peaked, and I decided to begin emptying the whey from the yogurts/kefir on one of them, and to compare the two plants after some time passed.

I don't know if mine are deficient in nutrients, since we don't have a regular source of compost or rotted manure as soil amendments for Bucketville, so I figured as long as it was well watered-in, it probably wouldn't be doing anything but adding micronutrients and healthy bacteria to the soil much as the yogurt it had come from boosts our own human nutrition. If anything, I hoped it would feed and promote microbial growth and give a gentle boost to the rather plain potting soil.

Again, pardon the picture quality...it's my fault, not my camera's. For some reason, I'm putting it on a setting that blurs the foreground and highlights the background...argggh :) But do notice the colors of these photos... They were taken on the same day, at the same time and in the same lighting.

Here is the fig tree (in a pot) that regularly was fed the kefir and Caspian Sea Yogurt whey, and even leftover bits of the actual kefir and yogurt. I watered it in each time I applied it. It was often applied a quart at a time, a few days apart.

Notice the color...



Below is the second fig tree -- the one that received regular watering without any whey. Hey look! It's a cute little baby fig! Obviously it's a healthy tree...but notice the difference in the color compared to the first tree. It's particularly noticeable when looking at them side-by-side. The one fed the whey regularly is a much deeper, richer green, and the leaves are sturdier and more robust.


I don't know much more than this, and it's simply an experiment with these two plants...so don't go throwing kefir whey, etc., on your plants just because I did...I don't want to be responsible for killing off any of your little green friends! :) But I did want to show that for some reason, the whey seems to be agreeing with the fig tree, and as long as it does, I'll keep applying it...and watering it in each time. I figure it's natural and I know exactly where it comes from, unlike store-bought fertilizers. It's said to be healthy for humans to consume, so I believe it will likely be healthy for animals, when we get some someday, too.

If you have whey from cheese or yogurt-making, how do you use yours? I'd love to expand on my limited knowledge and get the lowdown from many of you kitchen veterans out there!

18 comments:

Carolyn said...

interesting. Maybe I should start making my own Kefir!

Carolyn

Wendy said...

I use the whey to make bread. I haven't tried it on my plants, but I've actually read that it's a good way to use up the stuff. Thanks for verifying and sharing your experience :).

TOCCO said...

You almost really have to be a scientist to grow things. My resident geek, loves to test the ph and nitrogen and what ever else he can think of to test! Then he plays the postash and the lime and who know what else -- all in the name of organic! He is great! But I might need to do a spreadsheet just to be sure!
Have a great day!
Christian

duane marcus Facebook me! said...

Wow! What a striking difference. For sure the whey is food for the fungi and bacteria in the soil who then make it available to the figs.

Robbyn said...

Carolyn, I just killed off my kefir...I'll tell all in an upcoming post, argggh! Next is to keep going with the Caspian sea yogurt and add a couple other fermented milk products I've not yet tried. Poor, poor kefir!!

Wendy, I can't wait to try it for breadmaking, too :)

Christina, don't you love seeing the guys enjoying getting their hands all down in the science part of it? Jack loves the hands-on stuff, and experimenting...and I love that he loves it!

Duane, I thought the difference between the two plants was striking. I'm never quite sure when I dump out some leftover liquid on my plants whether they'll love it or try to scream and run away. I also tried pouring some leftover tamarind water left over for boiling down some tamarind pulp to make drinks for us. I don't know if I'm helping or harming most of the time...

Karen said...

How did you kill off your Kefir! Oh no! A friend got me started on Kefir - and while I was at first hesitant to make my smoothies with it because of the fat content, I figure this is one splurge I can live with because it is so good for me. Peaches - honey - kefir - what a good smoothie THAT is.

BTW - my friend feeds it to her Doberman who has stomach issues and has had problems gaining weight and he loves it.

Karen in DE

Robbyn said...

Yes, Karen, I killed the kefir. I committed fermenticide...I let it ferment too long and alas, well...as I said, I'll fess up in an upcoming post :) I'm glad this blog details not only the triumphs but also the blunders of this journey :) I love kefir, so we shall re-start things and hopefully do a much better job babysitting the bacteria and yeasts! That's interesting about the Doberman. We had a good experience with the Kefir and an even better one with the Caspian Sea Yogurt, since I realized that I like them mostly in smoothies. They made a difference right away with our digestion and with joint and connective tissue movement. More on all that soon!

Jess said...

I don't use whey for many of my fermented foods because i read that the whey often makes it mushy. For things like sauerkraut and pickles, salt alone works fine.

I've been putting my whey in the compost pile because I figure the bacteria in it will help the compost break down. I haven't added it straight to plants because I remember reading somewhere that whey might raise the acidity of soil. I wonder if fig trees want acidic soil?

Jan B said...

I make cheese and have a ton of whey left over. I do use it to make bread too, but still, there's a lot left. I am using it on my blackberry bushes, my vegetable garden and my apple trees. It can't hurt and may help, much more so than going down the drain and saves on Miracle Gro!

Robbyn said...

That's great, Jan! I just learned I can make ricotta from some of the whey and then use what's left over from that to pour on the plants...how great is that?? I peeked at your Charlie blog and just loved it :)

S.DOBBS said...

I have used whey from yogurt making in bread with good results. It gives the bread a mild sourdough flavor which is pleasant, although I wouldn't want that sourdough flavor all the time.
Stephanie

Billie said...

I started making lacto-fermented soda with my leftover whey. It turned out so good we make it every week now.
I posted my recipe on my blog at ldsfermentation.blogspot.com.
We found it tastes even better than water-kefir.
Billie

Donna | Organic Gardening said...

Interesting experiment! I'll have to try that. I've got a potted aloe plant that's not doing so well. Maybe I'll give it some whey.

We give any excess whey to our dogs, they love it. Whey is also really high in protein - those body builder powders almost always have whey powder in them.

dhan said...

whether the difference between kefir and yogurt?

Robbyn said...

dhan, here's a link that explains the difference better http://www.aldo.com/sgt/TesslerOnKefir2.htm

New World Agriculture said...

Fertilizing of whey was done by the inventor Ing. Vasil Kelemec from Slovakia and Willibrordus Augustinus van der Weide who was and is involved with the Assocation " New World Agriculture" and Condit Fertilizer which he call " Energy" for the Soil.
Look www.condit-energy.org
Interesting to read...

Serene said...

I've been making batch after batch of cheese lately and was looking for ways to use my leftover whey. I'm so grateful for your post. I've already started to fertilize by fig. Did you dilute the whey or use full strength?

Robbyn said...

Serene, I used it full strength. It also is great for including in smoothies (tart) and for lacto fermenting veggies!