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Kombucha SCOBY: What It Is and How to Make One
Kombucha is a fermented beverage enjoyed for its unique flavor and powerful health benefits.
Though it's widely available at grocery stores and health food shops, you can make your own using tea, sugar and a SCOBY.
A SCOBY is a thick, rubbery and cloudy mass that aids the fermentation process.
This article explains what a kombucha SCOBY is and how to make your own.
What Is a Kombucha SCOBY?
A SCOBY, which stands for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast," is an ingredient used in the fermentation and production of kombucha.
Fermentation is a chemical process in which carbohydrates like sugar or starch turn into alcohol or acid (1).
The appearance of the SCOBY can vary, but it's typically dense, round, rubbery and opaque with a mild, vinegar-like smell.
Look out for mold or a strong cheese-like odor, which may indicate that the SCOBY is decaying and needs to be discarded.
The dish-like structure of the SCOBY is comprised mostly of a type of insoluble fiber known as cellulose.
It also hosts a variety of yeast and bacteria species that aid the fermentation process (2).
A symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, or SCOBY, aids the fermentation process of kombucha.
How It Works
Kombucha is produced by adding a SCOBY into sweetened black or green tea, then letting it ferment for 1–4 weeks.
The result is a fizzy product with a tangy, sweet and vinegar-like taste. Its specific flavors depend on how long it's left to ferment, the type of tea used and the addition of other ingredients like fruit, juice or herbs.
Fermentation also increases the concentration of probiotics—a type of beneficial bacteria in your gut with many positive health effects.
A SCOBY, when added to sweetened tea, turns the sugars into alcohol, carbon dioxide and acids. The resultant kombucha contains numerous probiotics.
Selecting the Right One
If you're interested in brewing your own kombucha, obtaining a SCOBY is the first step.
You can purchase starter kits or cultures online or in certain health food stores.
You can also borrow a SCOBY from a friend who makes homemade kombucha or join an online community to find a local with a SCOBY to spare.
Because the SCOBY continues to grow with each batch of kombucha, it can be divided and shared by simply cutting off a 1-inch (2.5-cm) piece from the top and passing it on.
Although the risk of contamination is low when properly handled, be sure to discard your SCOBY immediately if you notice mold, an unpleasant smell or any signs of decay.
You can purchase a SCOBY online, find one at a health food store or borrow one from a friend. Though the risk of contamination is low, discard the SCOBY if you notice mold, unpleasant smell or other signs of decay.
How to Make Your Own
It is also possible to grow your own SCOBY.
You can do so by using raw, unflavored kombucha and 1 cup (250 ml) of green or black tea sweetened with 1–2 tablespoons (14–28 grams) of sugar.
Simply combine the kombucha and cooled tea in a jar and cover it tightly with a coffee filter or dishrag.
Place the jar in a warm spot—around 68–80°F (20–30°C)—and let it ferment for up to 30 days. As the SCOBY begins to form, it will gradually become thicker and less translucent.
Once the SCOBY is about 1/4-inch (2/3-cm) thick, you can use it to brew a new batch of kombucha using green or black tea and sugar.
Growing your own SCOBY is a simple process—you only need raw kombucha, sweetened tea and time to spare.
The Bottom Line
A SCOBY is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast used in the production of kombucha.
You can buy one from local or online retailers or make it at home using raw, unflavored kombucha and sweetened green or black tea.
The risk of contamination is low when properly handled. Still, discard your SCOBY if you notice mold, an unpleasant smell or other signs of decay.
Making or buying your own SCOBY allows you to brew your own kombucha, giving you constant access to a probiotic-rich, refreshing treat.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
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