Yeast can be hard to find in stores, so residents are giving it away by hanging starter from trees around the city.

By Mike Pomranz
April 08, 2020
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Thankfully, we have technology to help us get through this pandemic. Can you imagine self-isolating without Netflix? But in other ways, the COVID-19 outbreak has turned back the clock to simpler times. Many of us are interacting with our neighbors more—if only because they’re the only people we see outside our window. And we’ve seen growing interest in at-home hobbies like bread-making at a time when we've been asked to make limited grocery runs. In San Francisco, these two ideas have coalesced into one very coronavirus-related trend: Locals are leaving sourdough starters hanging from telephone poles and trees to help each other get the most out of their bread-making endeavors.

Thanks to the aforementioned home bread baking explosion, yeast can be hard to come by at grocery stores. Yes, you can create your own sourdough starter at home, but corralling wild yeast takes longer and can have mixed results, but grabbing quality starter from someone else is a pretty sure bet. (Here’s our recent guide to making sourdough bread if you’re interested.) But where can you find such a starter—especially right now? As San Francisco’s ABC7 News reported yesterday, one person’s generosity has led to an outpouring of starter around the city.

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The yeast-hanging trend apparently began when someone posted on the virtual neighborhood hub Nextdoor.com offering an active sourdough starter dubbed “Godric.” As a way to make this yeast available to everyone while also practicing social distancing, the bread lover apparently decided to simply hang it from a telephone pole in his Bernal Heights neighborhood. As silly as putting yeast on a pole may sound, the idea struck a chord, and now Godric, his starter yeast siblings, and other sourdough starter yeasts can be found in at least a dozen locations around the city hanging on everything from trees to electrical boxes. The list of yeast locations is currently being collected in a Google map that anyone can access.

Packets have been spotted in the neighborhoods of Bernal Heights, Mission, Noe Valley and Portrero Hill, ABC7 writes, alongside signs like this handwritten explainer scrawled on wood plants and spotted on a tree: “Sourdough starter & (occasional) baked treats up for grabs!! Starter name: ‘Freddie, son of Godric’ fed with all purpose flour.”

Meanwhile, if you do go hunting for starters around San Francisco, keep in mind that you still need to practice proper hygiene and social distancing. Spreading yeast might be a great way to encourage community bonding, but accidentally spreading coronavirus in the process is not.