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The thrill of compost
One of the most delightful things about compost is that I can turn a bad meal into gold. Black gold, actually. That’s what compost is, black, sticky, sweet-smelling gold. It’s alchemy.
Anything that you’ve kept too long, overcooked, let wilt, has mold, looks wizened, etc., can be put into the compost bin or pile and will eventually be given new life. Exceptions, of course: no meat or dairy products for various reasons, not the least of which is rummaging animals with acute senses of smell and dexterous paws. But much of what you eat can be turned, like magic, into precious compost. Add dry leaves and grass from time to time for needed carbon and nitrogen. They’re free!
My girlfriend Gaywynn is disgusted by compost. Well, to be precise, she doesn’t like the various larvae or wormy creatures that make their way through and around the decaying and metamorphizing mass. “They becomes flies!” she said as I held up a portion of our compost for her to gaze at, twisty things moving within. “Get that away from me!” I, on the other hand, stick my nose right next to it, practically kissing the larvae. “You beautiful things, you! Work your magic!” I croon.
Compost, “improves nutrient retention and delivers needed food for the plants in the form of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium,” according to the US Composting Council. Yes, there is a US Composting Council. I like that they call themselves a council. Composting also provides a sense that you’re doing something for our wobbly planet by not increasing the landfill, even on this minuscule scale.
The first compost I “made,” I used in a raised bed garden my girlfriend and I assembled. I bought quite a few bags of soil and then combined it with the first batch of our home-concocted compost. I should have marked it like wine: “Barrel #1, Fall, 2022,” or something like that. Actually, come to think of it, I’m sure different compost produced at different times with different ingredients at different geographical locations looks and smells different with subtle scent distinctions.
My compost here in southern Louisiana has an appealing bouquet with “traces of peach and coffee, enhanced by hints of blueberries and celery, with an after-scent of young russet potato skins, earl gray tea bags and live oak leaves.” I sometimes open the composter just to imbibe the scent of this earthy stuff, much like uncorking a vintage Bordeaux for its perfume. Only it’s a lot cheaper.
In fact, maybe I could become a compost sommelier.
“Can you recommend something to support our leeks and mustard greens?”
“Of course. Since you live in the Midwest, I would go with the Chateau Topeka, ‘01. It’s a limited vintage with strong hints of young carrot peels, shredded red cabbage, organic egg shells, zucchini ends and—this is quite rare—matzah.”
I think I have the nose for it.
Gaywynn and I planted winter vegetables in our raised garden bed, and they’re doing very well. In fact, there was a brief moment when we were planting that I thought: I wish I could be planted in this dark, delicious mix. It looks and smells so damn good.