How Compost Gets You High (Literally)

Hot composting photo

The photo above is of our very own Chris Tackett and his compost heap, and doesn't he look content? There may be a good reason.

He's not the only TreeHugger who enjoys a little rotting biomass in his spare time. From composting dirty diapers through high-tech indoor composting to black soldier fly grub composting, we must have explored almost every conceivable angle on composting in our time. But this one is new to me.

It turns out compost can get you high. At least that is what Pagan Kennedy over at The Atlantic would have us believe, as she explores how a common micro-organism in compost can literally act as a mind-altering substance:

As I huff the soil, I have no way of knowing exactly how much M. vaccae is floating into my lungs -- or whether it's enough to change my mind. But I can sure smell this compost. The odor hits like a punch and triggers a memory: I recall a day in Western Massachusetts on a friend's farm, turning earth with a pitchfork. Dried mud extended up my arms, like a pair of long-sleeved gloves, as if I were dressed for a gala event with forest-fairies. I felt dazzled that day, boozed up on sunshine, and in love with the potatoes I'd just dug out of the soil.

That same smell hovers over this dish now -- a sexy, outdoorsy tang. It's an odor produced by microbes in the soil as they break down plants. Scientists call it "geosmin," this dirt smell that lends the earthy taste to beets and carrots. It's the flavor of life.

Head on over to The Atlantic to get the dirt on M. vaccae, compost and how it gets you high.

How Compost Gets You High (Literally)
A common micro-organism in compost can literally act as a mind-altering substance. And that's why dirt smells so good.

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