Can you eat a SCOBY?
SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. SCOBYs are used to create certain fermented foods and beverages like kefir and kombucha. You can buy a SCOBY online, make one from scratch, or get a sample of SCOBY from a friend and grow your own.
Yes, you actually can eat SCOBYs. However, they are slimy and may not look or taste appetizing. The SCOBY consists of the bacteria and yeast cultures that give kefir or kombucha their unique flavor and health benefits.
How to eat a SCOBY
Many people use an extra SCOBY that they no longer need to make delicious treats. Since the usual texture of SCOBY is too slimy for many people to enjoy, they cook it or use it in a more palatable way. Here are some ideas for how to use extra SCOBY.
Cut your SCOBY into strips and season it however you would like. Using a dehydrator is best, but you can also put it in the oven with the pilot light on overnight as long as you put it on parchment paper and cover it with a towel. The result is a jerky-like substance that some enjoy.
SCOBY fruit leather
In a similar fashion, you can add SCOBY to pureed fruit. Then, put it in a dehydrator to make fruit leather.
Add some SCOBY to your daily smoothie to give it a probiotic boost. You can also blend it up with fruit and then freeze it to make SCOBY popsicles.
Is eating SCOBY good for you?
There are several reasons that eating a SCOBY can be good for you.
SCOBY has lots of insoluble fiber. This is the type of fiber that helps your bowel movements flow, helps your body to process waste in general, and even reduces your risk of hemorrhoids and other colon-related conditions.
Other foods that are high in insoluble fiber include:
- Wheat cereals
One of the reasons that SCOBY or kombucha is good for you is that it is full of probiotics, which are healthy bacteria for your gut. Kombucha often contains lactobacillus. This type of bacteria helps to keep your immune system healthy and may help to treat or prevent digestive problems, yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis.
In addition to kombucha and its SCOBY, probiotics are also found in:
- Miso soup
Kombucha and SCOBY also have a type of yeast called Zygosaccharomyces that helps to deter the growth of the harmful yeast candida, which causes yeast infections.
Fermentation causes the production of acetic acid, which has antibacterial properties against things like:
- E. coli, a bacteria that can cause severe food poisoning.
- Staphylococcus aureus, the bacteria that causes staph infections.
- Shigella, a bacteria that causes digestive issues for up to seven days.
- Yersinia enterolitica, a bacteria found in pork that can cause digestive distress for several weeks.
- Salmonella, another bacteria that causes digestive symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting.
How to make SCOBY
As mentioned, there are three methods for getting a SCOBY. You can make it from scratch, buy one online, or get some extra SCOBY from a friend.
How to make a SCOBY from scratch
To make a SCOBY for kombucha, gather sugar, black tea, water, and some unflavored kombucha either from a friend or from the store. You can also make a SCOBY with other types of tea, but black tea is the most popular option. Before making a kombucha SCOBY, make sure all your containers and utensils are clean so no other fungi or bacteria contaminate your culture. Typically, the liquid used to make a SCOBY is too tart to drink, but you can use it for cleaning or in the kombucha recipe below.
Step 1. Boil water and brew the tea. While it is still hot, add sugar to turn it into a sweet tea.
Step 2. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Step 3. Once it has cooled, pour premade kombucha and your sweet tea mixture into a glass jar. Mix it well.
Step 4. Cover the top of the jar with a porous but finely woven cloth or paper such as a:
- Tea towel
- Paper towel
- Coffee filter
- Paper or cloth napkin
Step 5. Secure the porous covering with a rubber band.
Step 6. Place the jar in a room-temperature area at 70 degrees Fahrenheit with no direct sunlight. A closed cabinet that you do not use frequently is a good place to store it.
Step 7. After about two weeks, you will have a SCOBY!
How do you know if your SCOBY is growing?
After a few days of storing your SCOBY start, you will notice some small bubbles on top. Each day, the bubbles will grow in number until it turns into a film covering the top of the mixture. After a few more days, it turns into a solid layer that you cannot see through. That top layer is the SCOBY.
How to use your SCOBY to make kombucha
Making actual kombucha is a bit similar to making the SCOBY. You will need:
- 1 1/3 cup sugar
- 4 quarts of water
- 1 cup of kombucha either from a store or a previous homemade batch
- 8 black tea bags
- Your SCOBY
Again, some people use green tea or even herbal tea, but black tea is the most popular. Since you will also be working with fermentation, be sure to clean everything thoroughly before using it for your kombucha.
Step 1. Bring the water to a boil.
Step 2. Add the sugar and boil the water and sugar together for five minutes.
Step 3. Take the pot off the heat and add the tea bags. Cover the pot and let it steep for 15 minutes (or more).
Step 4. Take the teabags out of the pot.
Step 5. Let the mixture cool. It may take all day or night (depending on when you made the mixture) so be sure to plan accordingly.
Step 6. Once it has cooled, pour the mixture into a large glass jar. This recipe fits well in a one-gallon jar.
Step 7. Pour in the kombucha.
Step 8. Add the SCOBY, making sure the smooth side is facing up.
Step 9. Cover the jar with porous cloth or paper, the same way you did with the SCOBY. Secure it to the jar with a rubber band.
Step 10. Place the jar somewhere at room temperature without much sunlight. Again, a cabinet you don't use often is a great place. Depending on the temperature, it takes kombucha anywhere from 6 to 10 days to brew. Warmer rooms take a shorter time, and cooler rooms take a longer time.
Step 11. Taste your kombucha brew through a straw after 4 days to see how it is developing. Once you feel it is done, take out the SCOBY, which will have grown, plus one cup of kombucha.
Step 12. Store the SCOBY and kombucha separately. Next time you make kombucha, this is what you will use to start it.
Step 13. If you want your kombucha to get more bubbly, you can utilize a second period of fermentation by adding 1/2 cup of a fruit juice of your choice to the kombucha, capping the bottle, and letting it sit for another 2 to 3 days.
Step 14. Once your kombucha is brewed to your liking, store it in the fridge. It will stay good there for up to a year. If you store it for much longer than that, though, it may turn into vinegar.
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How to care for your SCOBY
A SCOBY is actually a living thing. Similar to a sourdough starter, it needs a bit of loving attention. If you're not using it regularly, you can "feed" it by giving it cold tea consisting of 1 black tea bag, 2/3 cup of sugar, and 2 cups of water. It's important to make sure to cool the tea fully before pouring it in. Heat will kill the bacteria in the SCOBY.
You should also feed the remainder of your SCOBY each time you take some of it to use to make kombucha. When you take your 1 cup of kombucha from the SCOBY mixture to make a new batch, add 1 cup of the cold brewed sweet tea mixture to replenish it.
Because new SCOBY gets created each time you make a batch of kombucha, some people get creative with how to use their extras. Eating it is a great option. However, you can also:
- Add it to your compost pile
- Add it to farm animal feed
- Mix it with chicken or beef broth as a dog treat
- Use it to fertilize plants
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies: "Hypoglycemic and antilipidemic properties of kombucha tea in alloxan-induced diabetic rats."
Cambridge Dictionary: "scoby."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Yersinia enterocolitica (Yersiniosis)." "Shigella – Shigellosis."
Cleveland Clinic: "Acidophilus," "What’s the Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber?"
Foodprint: "Keep Your Extra Scoby From Going to Waste with These Recipes & Ideas."
Food microbiology: "Sequence-based analysis of the bacterial and fungal compositions of multiple kombucha (tea fungus) samples."
Frontiers in Microbiology: "Antimicrobial and Probiotic Properties of Yeasts: From Fundamental to Novel Applications."
Helpguide: "High-Fiber Foods."
Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry: "Kombucha fermentation and its antimicrobial activity."
Mayo Clinic: "E. coli," "Staph infections."
Minnesota Department of Health: "Causes and Symptoms of Salmonellosis."
Permaculture Research Institute: "Permaculture and Kombucha: The Ethics of Scoby."
Riordan Clinic: "How to Make Kombucha at Home."
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