Coronavirus: San Francisco neighbors share sourdough starter at a social distance amid shelter-in-place baking craze

ByLauren Gee KGO logo
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Coronavirus tip: Seeking sourdough starter? Look no further than a neighborhood tree
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During the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, many have started "quarantine baking" as a stress-free hobby. The problem is yeast seems to be impossible to find. Here's how people in San Francisco are sharing their sourdough starter at a social distance.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Making bread has become a popular quarantine hobby amid the Bay Area shelter-in-place and it seems like everyone is trying it because baking ingredients are wiped out on grocery shelves. But, San Francisco residents have found a creative and resourceful way to share the wealth amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Dry yeast packets are like gold and sold out at most stores, so home bakers are sharing an even more prized ingredient, sourdough starter.

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The fermented smelling, yeasty bubbly mixture is an essential element that's used to leaven your loaf and give it a distinct, yet delicious taste. However, it takes at least 5 days to make and many feedings until the starter is ready to be used.

If you don't have the patience, get outside for some fresh air, keep your social distance and look no further than a telephone pole.

Packets of sourdough starter pinned to trees or poles are becoming a familiar sight around Bernal Heights, Mission, Noe Valley and Portrero Hill.

This image shows a sign offering free sourdough starter pinned to a pole in Bernal Heights, San Francisco on April 5, 2020.
This image shows a sign offering free sourdough starter pinned to a pole in Bernal Heights, San Francisco on April 5, 2020.

"SOURDOUGH STARTER & (occasional) BAKED TREATS UP FOR GRABS!!" one sign reads. "Starter name: 'Freddie, Son of Godric' fed with all-purpose flour."

A few weeks ago it would have seemed a bit risky to take something left by a stranger on the street, but now, it's a way to help.

The idea started with a Nextdoor post with a neighbor who offered his active starter, named Godrick and invited people to make sourdough.

Godrick the sourdough starter was pinned to a telephone pole in Bernal Heights and the idea took off with others sharing their wild yeast.

A Google Map was created to help track the nearest starter near you. Most of the starters listed on the map are offspring from Godrick.

"A nutritional and long-lasting treat, perfect during these times of anxiety, uncertainty, and limited grocery runs. With many of us left with a bit more free time, it is nice to fill it with sharing with others and baking!" the description reads.

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People are also using social media to document their sourdough journey and quarantine baking with the hashtag, #quarantinystarter on Instagram.

If you're still wary of taking a gooey mixture off a pole, we shared a recipe on how to make your own sourdough starter here.

RELATED: How to stay safe when going out in public for essentials such as food, gas

Local health officials still urge people to use proper hygiene and handwashing rules when handling the packets of starter as ways to be careful of spreading germs.

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