Introduction: Vegan Spinach Pie, or How to Turn Your Urine Into an Ideal Hydroponic Solution for Plants!

Picture of Vegan Spinach Pie, or How to Turn Your Urine Into an Ideal Hydroponic Solution for Plants!

In the spring of 2006 I sent my urine to a floriculture lab and learned that it contained all the nutrients necessary for plant growth but not in the ideal concentrations. So I put myself on a vegan diet that would transform my urine into an ideal liquid nutrient solution for plants. I ate lots of nuts and seeds, tofu, spinach, and other leafy greens and built a mobile urine recycling system outfitted with a urinal, urine processor and sterilizer, foam bed, kitchen, and hydroponic napa cabbage garden. I urinated, grew napa cabbages hydroponically with my urine, made kimchi from the napa cabbage, and served the kimchi to the public.

Vegan Spinach Pie was one of my favorite dishes from the diet. It has lots of calcium, protein (nitrogen), magnesium, potassium, and phosphate.

Step 1: Gather Ingredients

Picture of Gather Ingredients

1 onion, medium diced
2 1/2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 Tbs olive oil (not extra virgin)
1 1/2 lb. Spinach, chopped into 1/2" pieces (or two-16 oz. packages frozen spinach)
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp pepper, black or white
1 block tofu, extra extra firm
1 Tbs. vegetable stock powder
1/3 C. vegetable oil
1 Tbs. Tamari (natural soy sauce)
1 large lemon, juiced (or more, to taste)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 Tbs. soymilk powder
1/2 C. toasted walnuts and/or pumpkin seeds, chopped (optional)
20 sheets phyllo dough
olive oil cooking spray (or olive oil mister, or olive oil + a brush)

Step 2: Tools You'll Need

Picture of Tools You'll Need

Sharp Knife
Cutting Board
Measuring tools: Cup, Teaspoon, tablespoon
Food Processor
Cast Iron Skillet (at least 8" diameter), or regular skillet (not pictured here)
Spatula/Big Spoon (not pictured here)
8.5"x1" baking dish (not pictured here)

Step 3: Cook It

Picture of Cook It

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Fry onion and garlic in olive oil in cast iron skillet.
Add spinach, saute 5 minutes. Add nutmeg and pepper. Remove from heat.

In food processor, pulse tofu, vegetable oil, stock powder, tamari, soymilk, lemon juice, salt until the tofu looks crumbly (see image). Combine with spinach mixture and stir. Toss in nuts/seeds. Adjust seasonings to taste. (Hint: add the juice of one more lemon for extra tanginess)

Grease a baking dish with olive oil (spray or spread with hands), line it with 10 sheets of phyllo dough.
Spread spinach mixture evenly on top of phyllo.
Add one sheet at a time of the remaining phyllo to the top of the spinach mixture, lightly spraying every other sheet with olive oil as you go.
Place remaining phyllo on top of mixture.
Lightly spray top of pie with cooking spray.

Bake for 35-40 minutes at 375 degrees, or until the phyllo bakes up slightly brown and crusty. Let cool for 30 minutes. Cut into squares.

Step 4: Build Some Kind of System to Process Your Urine, Urinate, Sleep, and Make Kimchi.

Picture of Build Some Kind of System to Process Your Urine, Urinate, Sleep, and Make Kimchi.

Your system could be as simple as a 5-gallon bucket hydroponic garden containing substrate with lots of surface area and lots of nitrobacter and nitrosomas bacteria. Here's what my system looked like. In about a month or two, you'll have cabbage to make kimchi or sauerkraut.
Images #1, 4, and 5 by Jonathon Hexner.


winterznight (author)2016-11-12

my dog wonders what I'm laughing at - she's getting worried!

12345678ab (author)2015-05-10

What bacteria works best to break down amm to NO? Have you tried using sustainable energy to sterilise? This would be perfect.

slash192 (author)2012-07-09

This is serious! I knew kimchi was alive, but I think this takes it a little too far.

lovethebackwoods (author)2012-05-19

I like the Science Care ad...

AMAZONIAbydjljwilliams (author)2012-01-09

Fascinating. Completely gross..but fascinating.
Even more interesting is that you include two packs of frozen spinach in your recipe picture.
Guessing the next recipe is a Fillo Pea Pie

theawesomeninja (author)2011-08-25

What happens to fecces? =3

twighahn (author)2011-04-21

2 week old urine can be used as a bleaching agent too

Stephy_The_Great (author)2011-01-08

Hmmm..... Interesting enough, but I dont know if Id eat something I was watering with my pee! Although, I will save this instructable for the zombie apocalypse. I will need to have food. I need an instructable on your pee recycling lab tho!

stephlovesrob (author)2010-08-29

hah this reminds me of 30 rock when frank keeps his urine in mason jars. cool idea though! and i love that going vegan lets you, um, grow plants more efficiently. i hope this will get people to understand that going veg is really great for everything really.

nmitchell80 (author)2010-06-15

What the? Do you really have that little bladder control? Seriously, you gotta sleep right there? Otherwise quite an interesting idea though.

guardianguy (author)2010-03-29

I understand the concept and I applaud it. While it is awesome and will make a lovely conversation with the wife, a lot of time and money went into making "Pee party snacks" when water and sunlight work pretty well. I'm not downgrading the topic at all and love the research but this is just too funny. I won't be personally changing my diet to make my urine suitable for "Waterworld (the movie)" plants. I do like the idea of tilapia and plants together and would like to do that soon myself. Good luck to all and thanks for making me smile.

chuckr44 (author)2010-02-10

Mmm. Pee pee kimchi.

billakabob (author)chuckr442010-03-10

It is technically known as PeePeeChi in it's nation of origin.

djsc (author)2010-02-13

I have taken my similar project as far as I can go for now:

If anyone is thinking of doing this, or something similar, all the data is at the above link you might find it useful.

halberdear (author)2010-02-09

wait a second, what the hell?

ensoarts (author)2010-02-09

This reminds me of aquaponics. Where you grow tilapia fish they eat algae then You use their waste to fertilize plants.  Very interesting art project to show how a fairly simple closed system can create food in a very small footprint.  Next step add effective micro-organisms (or EM) and bokashi to a composting toilet and close the waste loop!.  Well Done!  I'd love to see an instructable with more detail on the construction of the filtration system.

deeren (author)2010-02-09

Lot easier to make spinach quesadilla. Google it

RobFS1 (author)2010-02-08

Though it is disturbing, it is interesting at the same time.

masterpython (author)2009-01-19

Pee is an animal by-product. How can anything that touches it be vegan?

Friend: Bloody vegans! You'll eat anything so long as its made of -poo-*
Me: -Poo-* isn't vegan.

*may have been censored for site rules.
If its given willingly surely its perfectly vegan. Also, if food has to be completely untouched by animal "product," -snicker- I can't think of any vegan food on the planet.

which reminds me of one of my ponders... humans really are fantastic compost machines...

megmaine (author)masterpython2009-04-05

Excretia has to be permissable in a vegan diet, because even earthworm castings are excretia. Even soil bacteria excrete, so there is no way you can compost anything, and no way you can use fertile soil to grow anything, without excrement being in the loop somewhere. I admit I wouldn't want to be unknowingly served kimchee made from cabbage fed exclusively on one person's urine.

generator (author)2009-11-08

 i finally got around to baking the spinach fillo pie - 

i omitted the tofu (didnt have any, im vegan but not a big fan of tofu)
also didnt have vegetable stock or soymilk powder. so i didnt use a food processor, instead of those ingredients i sauteed a small cans worth of mushrooms after the onions, and dumped a 1/2 can of leftover peas after the spinach. i used raw pumpkin seeds instead of toasted.

it turned out great! thanks for the delicious base recipe!

osibisa (author)2009-10-24

 hmm. just noticed the little cabbages. I can't imagine they are happy growing indoors in what looks like a hospital room. Now I really do want to know what the brix % was / is on them...not that that's the whole story...

This will sound bizarre I'm sure, but this experiment and the way it is being carried out makes me think the author must have been bonded to machines at birth. (maybe born premature) That's the only way I can make sense of such a curiously dehumanized environment for producing something that reasonably, seems aimed at wholeness.

in terms of the kimchee part, there's a lot missing in this instructable.

and I'm wondering about your veg. boullion powder. and your oil. (and the frozen spinach) Maybe some hidden msg in there, and so on... not so great for the urine, et al. But if you are aiming at creating an audience for the follow -up, ( and a buzz around the title) it's really good work. * * * * *

osibisa (author)2009-10-24

do you not oil every shet of phyllo on the bottom? It seems as if you just put them in dry...

osibisa (author)2009-10-24

totally bizarre.

but like the dentist in Little Shop of Horrors, it has a certain level of humour.

you're kidding about the bed-setup though, right?

"and served the kimchi to the public. " lol

on a more serious note--what about non-protien nitrogen? aka "funny protein"?

Most (fruit and veg) produce these days has too much of that, even the organic. It's a complex subject but goes to the very heart of the sense of (urine containing) the ideal nutrients to grow plants but not in the right concentrations.
You sound like you'd be interested in refractometers, maybe own one, to measure the brix of your cabbages, as well as your spinach, etc. etc.

funny protein is a huge piece of the pH puzzle, and the pH puzzle is a big part of the picture of health. How did "the public" like your kimchee? I like to make my own, privately.

albylovesscience (author)2009-08-31

i ate this before *throws up on perfectly good computer*

goatgirly (author)2009-07-07

I don't think i could sleep on that tiny bed with a bright light shining on me. Great idea although, it is a little extreme.

James (pseudo-geek) (author)2008-03-25

we lived in a house a few years ago, and I would go outside to pee. I always went in this one spot next to the house, and it killed the grass there. about 2 weeks after I stopped, the grass grew back twice as green and long as the other grass.

Urine contains urea. Urea can be broken down by soil bacteria into nitrogen that is usuable by plants, but it takes some time. Too much in one area at a time will burn out the grass. If you had used different spots it probably wouldn't have browned out :-)

backy (author)2009-01-19

how can i produce light by means of urine?

generator (author)2008-10-23

its true about vegan pee being different. i've been vegan for years, and my pee tests really alkaline. us vegans are made to pee on things!

Cool-fool (author)2007-12-29

How did you convert urine to hydroponic solution? It looks like it's running through some fancy equipment. Also, why does it need to be sterilized, and how did you do it?

generator (author)Cool-fool2008-10-23

urine is sterile

generator (author)generator2008-10-23

i'm wondering - dont you have to dilute urine with water for the plants first? like 1 part urine 4 parts water? that's what i've been doing.

bdkelly (author)2008-03-17

where can I get nitrobacter and nitrosomas?

djsc (author)bdkelly2008-06-16

I have found a concentrate in aquarium shops that is a combo of bacteria to make nitrites and then nitrates from the fish waste in an aquarium filter. fish waste=ammonia= pee.(approximately). The introduction of the bacterial culture is not strictly neccessary as it will form on its own over time in a well designed filter.

depayton (author)2008-04-10

You fed the kimchi to the public. Nice.

djsc (author)2008-04-05

so it look sas though to get nitrifying bacteria going, all you can do is make tank B in the diagram into a favourable environment. It is the environment, populated by bacteria, that is the biofilter. The only addition to the diagram is that I think you need some solids in that tank like gravel at the bottom which the bacteria colonise once they settle, this becomes a sort of 'seed' colony.

djsc (author)2008-03-08

hi, I've been loking up composition of ideal nutrient solutions and of urine to compare, seems the pee is way too concentrated with phosphorus and Nitrogen but not much else. I have found a site detailing the chemistry of nutrient solutions made from scratch with the constituent chemicals, I just need to overcome the urine having the wrong form of nitrogen- where can I get a biofilter like the one used here? thanks.

=spider= (author)2008-03-06

Hmmm.... maybe we should all be pissing in our gardens instead of our toilets. Let the nutrients return to the earth and let mother nature do the processing. Thank you, this instructable made me think.

gerrrtrudicus (author)2008-01-06

Xtreme Recycling! thank you for this instructable.

leebryuk (author)2007-11-15

This table suspiciously looks like the type they use to give people a colonic. Speaking for myself, I do not prefer to urinate right next to my bed. It has to be some sort of joke. And feeding the cabbage to the public seems way off.

sires6 (author)2007-10-27

Water is soaked up in Water loving plants. While we lived in DC, it was told to us by our local community to not plant water loving plants in the ground in the place where we lived because of the existence of Arsenic in the soil. Urine is a by product of filtration... you are filtering bad out and disposing of as waste. It could contain such things as Arsenic, poisonous substances, etc.

I'd stick with water, Miracle Grow, epsom salts and a pH kit... Way way safer

gowithflo (author)2007-08-23

I don't know you but I think I'm in love with you. Have you seen my latest instructable? Oh well it would probably never work out since I'm not vegan. Where's the kimchi recipe?

Kaiven (author)gowithflo2007-08-26

LOL!! Kimchi? you spelled it wrong! its "gimchi"!!!! im a korean noob lol. i am half american and half korean. I could give you my moms recipe if you want it, or if i can get the recipe

juniorlee (author)gowithflo2007-08-23

nice garden! are you a permaculturist? would like to hear more about your year-long experiment in nm. and your transition to urban life. the kimchi recipe is included in one of the images in step 4.

Tinker83 (author)2007-08-18

this is a notedly strange way of reusing materials... hydroponics is, imo, not the most effective way to reclaim biologic materials. if reclaiming nutrients is what you desire, try using urine in an aerobic compost.
very good resources on composting can be found here, and there are more gardening projects of all kinds throughout the site.

djsc (author)2007-07-01

I'm gonna do this. Thanks for the instructable, can you tell me what supplementary nutrients are required? I grow russian comfrey, which is often turned into a liquid feed, the comfrey itself can be fertilised with 50:50 diluted urine, unlike many plants which can't deal with such a raw form of nitrogen. I wonder if the comfrey solution would be a complete nutrient solution?

AdamK (author)2007-06-26

This disgusted me at first, but hydroponics with urine might actually be a really good idea. A lot of nutrients must be sent out that way. :| Funny how you served the kimchi to the public. Did they know? xD

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