We think of microbes, like bacteria and fungi as our enemies. You know, they cause diseases and make food go bad. But at least some, who didn’t sleep through the biology classes in school, will remember that microbes are indispensable for us. The plain old curd is formed by the action of bacteria in milk. If the bad bacteria plays in the milk, we get spoilt milk. If the good bacteria plays, we get delicious curd. Other milk products like cheese, sour cream etc are also the handiwork of the friendly bacteria.
You must have felt that the curd at your grandmother’s place tastes the best. Old matriarchs guards their strain of curd like an heirloom. They take pride in their culture, and breaking the continuity is considered a minor disaster. Then the younger generation in the family branch out from the master culture, and keep the strain alive.
I used to wonder what the big fuss is about. We were not affluent. We had just one cow, so there were periods when we didn’t have milk. So, mother had to get a fresh culture for curd often. She would take it only from her aunt, the matriarch of her family. I wondered, often aloud when I was asked to walk a mile to the ancestral home to get the stuff, that why not take it from a neighbor. Mom couldn’t explain it, except that it doesn’t taste right. Same thing with my family. My wife will take it only from her mom, which is traceable to the grandmom. A good line of provenance is always kept.
But a microbe need not be good to be beneficial. We have heard about the horrors of E. Coli contamination. You know, the bacteria in our faeces that would make you sick and even kill you if it enters the wrong side of the food canal. But the same E. Coli, if totally absent from your guts, can cause severe indigestion for you. With all the chemical/hormone/antibiotic enhanced food, there are people who killed off all their E. Coli and became sick. A new treatment for this condition is to transplant those good guys from another person into the guts.
Gross, isn’t it? Maybe an easier, and less objectionable concept is to eat food from the in-numerous street food stalls we have. You will definitely get a good dose of E. Coli that way. There are a number of such naturally occurring good microbes that helps with plants also. The most widely used ones are Pseudomonas the good bacteria and Trichoderma, the good fungus. Pseudomonas helps to promote growth and fight other bacterial infections. Trichoderma is a great bio defence against fungal attacks.
Trichoderma is best applied by adding the strain to the potting mixture, and keeping the mix well aerated and lightly moist. The fungus will thrive in these conditions. After a week, you can use the potting mix to plant. It is my experience that this is a very efficient way to avoid those evil fungi.
Pseudomonas is easier to use. You can soak the seeds or the root stock on the suspension. You can also soak the soil with it, and/or spray it on the foliage. Both of these would be available at the horticulture stores in your city in either powder form or liquid formulations. So if your new year resolution is to become greener and try more organic remedies for your home garden, explore this option! Just make sure that you don’t use anything that kills off these good friends of ours.
A kind contribution from Dileep Kumar for Housedelic.