When we think of making the most out of our food, we tend to think about things like eating our leftovers and composting scraps. What you may not realize is that even waste that appears to have no use can have a second life too. In this case, you can take the starchy water from rinsing your rice and turn it into a helpful foliar spray for your plants.
This spray cultures lactobacillus, a common bacteria that’s extremely useful in the garden. This bacteria helps soil health by aiding in turning compost and organic materials into something plants can absorb. It also helps block disease by crowding them out.
Use this in your compost pile to help speed composting, in the soil for stronger, healthier plants, and on the leaves of the plants to help control diseases such as powdery mildew. With plenty of friendly bacteria on the plants leaves, there will be no room for unfriendly bacteria and fungi spores to grow.
You will need:
Starchy water from rinsing rice
Milk (any kind but lactose free)
Sugar (any kind)
2 large mason jars (or other container)
Step 1: Get your rice water
Typically when you cook rice, you rinse it to remove some of the starch. Instead of pouring this starchy water down the drain, save it in your mason jar and cover it loosely. Keep it in a warm place, such as the refrigerator, for 3-5 days. After 3-5 days particles will sink to the bottom, and there may be some mold up top. This is okay.
The clear liquid in the center is what you want, so use a turkey baster to suck this up and put it in a separate jar. You can discard the rest.
Step 2: Add milk
At this point, you have a culture of wild yeasts and bacteria native to your area, but this is a wild card. It’s just as likely there are unfriendly bacteria in there. In order to make sure you’re not spraying random bacteria everywhere, we need to select for lactobacillus. We do this by adding milk.
Milk contains lactos, which lactobacillus love to eat. By feeding the spray milk, you are encouraging lactobacillus to take over the container. They will then out compete the other bacteria, leaving you with a lactobacillus culture.
Step 3: Separate the “cheese” from the culture
As the lactobacillus get to work eating the milk, a plug of thick (frankly, smelly and gross) “cheese” will float to the top. This is normal. The cheese can be added to your composter to give it a really great boost. When I created this culture, the cheese crumpled when I tried to lift it out. It’s better to strain it out instead, in my experience.
Reserve the fluid, as this is the part you want!
Step 5: Add sugar
In order to make this shelf stable, and to keep your lactobacillus alive and happy, you need a lot of sugar. Mix in an equal amount of sugar as you have mixture. It doesn’t matter what kind of sugar you use, the bacteria is as happy with molasses as it is with white sugar, but it does need a lot.
How to use this spray:
To use as a spray, mix a 1:10 ration, with 1 part culture to 10 parts water and water it into your soil or compost. You can also put it in a spray bottle and spray it directly on your plants to help control disease. We have so far tried this in the compost, to amazing results.
We’ll update this after testing it in the soil and as a foliar spray.