We Almost Lost These Microorganisms

Bloganuary prompt: What’s a treasure that has been lost?

This is a challenging prompt for me. What is a treasure? Why is it lost? What are we doing about it?…

Listening to a delightful podcast by Petra van Cronenburg called NatureMatchCuts I learned that we almost lost the biodiversity of sourdough cultures.

Sourdough starters work because two types of beings are working in the ideal balance: Wild yeasts and lactic acid – these are from two families: Fungi and Bacteria.

When we use and cultivate these cultures, we use nature to help us produce food that is easier to digest than bread that is produced with industrial yeast.
This yeast was domesticated by selection and purified. This yeast is used in industrially produced bread as well as in our instant yeast products. It makes the baking process more predictable and faster.

But by switching our baking habits to these domesticated yeasts, we almost lost the biodiversity in the microbes we digest. We also lose local variations. Puratos in Belgium collected and analyzed 130 sourdough starters from 23 countries to discover that there are local variations in the cultures.

My starter for example has a 170-year lineage. It was taken from San Francisco to Kensington Market in Toronto. From there it was dried and I received it as a present. It works very well and I use it every week. It is my “Monster in the fridge” as Petra van Cronenburg calls it.

Fortunately, the pandemic caused a lot of people to start baking with their own, wild cultures again. Many of us have not stopped and because of this, we have increased the biodiversity in microbes that was seriously threatened. We saved the treasure that would have been lost.

Here is a time-lapse video of my monster and all the rescued microbes at work:

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