Locutus v3.0 is no more. A year ago I detailed the defeat of the original Locutus...it's multicellular colony devastated by bad planning, early morning, and the hint of chlorine in our tap water.
Locutus 2.0 and 2.5 were both dispatched by negligence rather then wonton cruelty. Yes...two in a row. The first molded, the second I dried out while trying to prevent my previous mistake. This is one way keeping a sourdough start was much, much easier in the San Francisco Bay Area. The air was always slightly humid, even inland.
Now, 3.0 proved a very interesting mistake. Why, you ask? Because I discovered that adding honey instead of sugar to a starter is a fatal error. At first, it seemed like a great idea: I've been trying to cut down on processed sugar, so honey was what was readily available. It's concentrated, so I thought that only a half cup or so in addition to more flour and water would help add some zip to the yeast that was getting bogged down in my whole wheat flour.
Not so....oh...so very not so.
Turns out honey is antibacterial, so much so that some doctors have been studying using it to treat antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. How? They're not entirely sure, but it seems that at least one aspect of this ability is that one of the natural enzymes from the bees is similar to hydrogen peroxide. In fact, honey was a common remedy up until the invention of penicillin.
Wow...ok, then. That would explain why my bread didn't rise very well, and tasted like alcoholic dirt with a side of vinegar. Never making that mistake again. While there are many recipes that call for a little honey, I've noticed now it's usually mixed in at the end. Lesson learned.
As for honey, it turns out there are places selling very expensive antibacterial honey online, but why do that unless you're treating something you should be seeing a doctor for? Unless treating a child under the age of one (due to a slight risk of botulin toxin in improperly stored honey), raw local honey seems to be a safe and effective way to prevent infection on topical applications, especially bacterial or fungal infestations, or issues like acne.
Learn something new every day.
For more advice on resuscitating your own sourdough starter, look here, and at this very helpful blog post entitled The Day the Starter Died.
On that note: