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exciting tempeh research & development

PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 12:01 am
by whalesounds
hi all, I'm doing some home research on tempeh production that I THINK is fairly novel and wanted to share and fish for any insights yall might have. I'm also gonna use this thread as a place to compile any updates or relevant info.
Here's the basic gist:

Most english-language information on tempeh addresses cold/temperate climate-dwellers, this leaves the contradiction that someone who lives in a subtropical or tropical area (like myself), would be compelled to use fork-poked plastic bags, incubators, and single-strain lab-made cultures when banana trees are a weed, ambient temperatures are perfect for tempeh 6 months of the year, and the cultures may be available in the wild.

From reading a few papers on tempeh, I learned the following:
1. While rhizopus oligosporus is the mold culture sold as "tempeh starter," r. oryzae, r. delemar, and r. stolonifer are also effective. "...utilization of R. stolonifer and R. oryzae as tempeh inoculants, at least, change the texture, aroma and the colour of tempeh " (4)
2. The nutritional contents of tempeh made from these three rhizopus are almost identical, though oligosporus rates subjectively as tastiest (5).
3.. The microbiomes of various southeast asian hibiscus species host the various rhizopus strains responsible for the tempeh mold, and are thus the plant origin of the tempeh culture. (1)
3. The microbiome of hibiscus rosa-sinensis, commonly planted as an ornamental in my area, includes r. stolonifer. (2)
4. Most research on tempeh in its original habitat is not written or translated into english.
5. Rhizopus species are incredibly common in the wild, appearing as various forms of rot. It appears that there are two names for each of the tempeh strains, one for when it is "good" rot and one for when it's "bad." (7)

I also suspect but either can't or haven't yet tested the following:
1. Just as the use of ragi (hibiscus leaves) in tempeh production has been described in some research as a method to "catch" the culture, rather than as its origin, and thus as unnecessary/inconsequential, so may the treatment of banana leaves as a simple convenience overlook them as a possibly important element of the tempeh process. (7)
2. R. Oligosporus may or may not be "better" than the other rhizopus species at making tempeh, but it's isolation simply the result of a colonial/industrializing mindset. It is certainly less common than the other two strains.
3. Various tempeh-producing rhizopus might be obtainable from rotten foods such as papaya (also common in sub/tropics. I got two volunteers in the compost pile) (6, 7)

What I THINK is possible is to use entirely local, cheap/free ingredients to make a gulf coast/caribbean tempeh. We've got beans, we've got bananas, and we've got hibiscus. And we've got ambient temperatures of 80-90F for a significant portion of the year.

Step one: ordered some packets of rhizopus oligosporus from the internet to do my first batch and get a hang of the process. Done and done. Did not use vinegar or an incubator, cut banana leaves from a neighbors yard to package, dehulled black beans with a rolling pin. Added some kelp for fun. "incubated" the tempeh in the unheated oven and then on a rack in the open for 3 days. Looks and tastes perfect.

Step two (not completed): separate trials with soybeans stirring in the following forms of hibiscus leaves:
extract made from shaking flower carpel (pistil/female part) in boiled and cooled water (chart in (2) shows carpel with highest concentration of r. stolonifer)
water extract from fresh leaves

Unfortunately the temperature just dropped from a daily range of 80-90F, so things probably won't be SO easy as they are earlier in the fall...may end up using a styrofoam cooler for the first stage

Further info sought:
how to ID rhizopus rot in papaya, if it's a particularly bad idea to obtain the culture from rotten vs. healthy plant sources. Whatever I'm missing- I'm going off of biology 101 and my vague ability to interpret these studies. Anyone with a more in depth knowledge about any of this stuff I'd be more than happy to hear from.


(1)An original habitat of tempeh molds Yoshio Ogawa, Seiji Tokumasu, Keisuke Tubaki. Accessible via Jstor public library access

(2) Mycoflora associated with Hibiscus Rosa-sinensis

(3) Note use of powdered culture.


(5) Study conducted in Nigeria on feasability of local tempeh production. Comparison of nutritional and subjective qualities of tempeh produced from various Rhizopus strains cultured from local sources. :

(6) Hosts of "rhizopus soft rot" (r. stolonifer or arrhizus/oryzae) ... _stolo.htm

(7) R. Oligosporus = R. microsporus (rice seedling blight, sunflower head rot, corn ear rot)
R. Oryzae= R. arrhizus. (carrot wooly soft rot, pineapple/mango rhizopus rot, banana soft rot (!!!!!) (
r. stolonifer= r. nigricans (black bread mold, many of the same as oryzae)

Re: exciting tempeh research & development

PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 12:05 am
by whalesounds
also, this is part a larger pursuit of climate-specific, i.e. easy wild cultures appropriate to my area. If anyone else living in subtropical/tropical areas has experiences with cultures that are particularly easy for us, lemme know! I've had great success with dosas and acaraje, am looking to expand beyond the bean-based ferments. Also interested in storage methods beyond refridgeration.

Re: exciting tempeh research & development

PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2017 7:35 am
by Christopher Weeks
Neat! I'll be reading as you write more.