Category Archives: Fungi

Where to get a 150-year old sourdough starter, for free.

For the price of a stamp, you can get a dried culture of a sourdough starter that has been maintained for more than 150 years, after having traveled from Missouri to Oregon. Carl Griffith maintained and freely distributed this starter for years until he died in 2000 at the age of 80. Since then, a number of his friends have kept the tradition and the culture alive for him. Yet another instance of the ways that fungi (and bacteria too, in this case) enlist humans to further their evolution and survival.

Here’s the backstory:

All I know is that it started west in 1847 from Missouri. I would guess with the family of Dr. John Savage as one of his daughters (my great grandmother) was the cook. It came on west and settled near Salem Or. Doc. Savage’s daughter met and married my great grand father on the trail and they had 10 children. It was passed on to me though my parents when they passed away. I am 76 years old so that was some time ago. I first learned to use the starter in a basque sheep camp when I was 10 years old as we were setting up a homestead on the Steens Mountains in southeastern Oregon. A campfire has no oven, so the bread was baked in a Dutch Oven in a hole in the ground in which we had built a fire, placed the oven, scraped in the coals from around the rim, and covered with dirt for several hours. I used it later making bread in a chuck wagon on several cattle drives Рagain in southeastern Oregon.

Considering that the people at that time had no commercial starter for their bread, I do not know when it was first caught from the wild or where, but it has been exposed to many wild yeasts since and personally I like it. I hope you enjoy it.

Link (As seen at BoingBoing)