Ingesting pond scum for your wellbeing

It's cheery when spring takes hold, as it's doing now - wattle burgeoning in yellow froth, old pear trees showering us with blossom, freesias starting to show off, tuis warbling, but most of all the wheelie bin takes on a ripe odour which I liken to certain French cheeses at the tipping point of ripeness.

So I'll be inviting a few people round for a tasty nosh of garbage bin water then.

There are people who become over-zealous and neurotic at this bin time and make a gagging dash for the disinfectant, but true gourmands savour the moment, leaning into the bin and taking deep breaths of its nutrients, brewed through the cold of winter and now multiplying rampantly in the weak sun as only health- giving properties can.

As with fine wines, we commend the hint of onion, the waft of pet food, the reek of pizza. All hit their notes in the symphony of olfactory pleasure.

It is a little known fact that the nose is the gateway to health. This is why greenies prefer compost toilets, and why anyone at all has a compost bin. Odours permeate the skin, is my theory, infusing it with nutrients. Our nostrils flare, quite of their own accord, and we ingest rich vapours - rather than running for the hose and washing away the lot like ignoramuses.

Think: have you ever again been as healthy as you were when there was nothing but a long drop at your holiday shack, where the blowflies buzzed busily? Has your nose been truly alive since?

As the sun performs its magic some people become greedy and decide to keep their bin, with all its health-giving properties, to themselves. It's a true test of character, this - whether to share the blessings with your loved ones, or ripen the bin without breathing a word of your plan, then rolling in it naked at full Moon. Such solitary ecstasy - but admittedly somewhat cramped. If only we could bottle it.

That's where people in Nelson are a step ahead. They have discovered the miracle power of pond scum and ship it in pill form up through America and Asia. It may help prevent cancer, they say.

The algae, it's claimed, may be the most powerful antioxidant yet discovered. Indeed, I have smelt pond scum. I have even, in my youth, dated it a few times before recognising it for what it was. I can attest to its potency, though never in my wildest delusional states have I credited it with protection from sun damage and improving eye, heart, muscle and central nervous system health while fighting 'multiple' free radicals at a time. This is probably because such a sentence is too hard to say.

Let me put this differently: pond scum is processed into something called Astaxanthin, which is then bought - we're told - by marathon runners, footballers and cyclists who, despite their obsession with health and fitness, are too lazy to go out with a bucket and get their own. You can buy 30 of the pills for $30, a bargain at the price because it's also claimed the stuff can protect against dementia and stroke. And you will be pleased to know it is derived from haematococcus pluvialis microalgae, which sounds heaps posher than bin odour.

And yet I think they could have hired some ad agency to dream up a name that would rhyme in a jingle instead of sticking to a scientific name that sounds like a tongue-twister. Think of all the miracle cures that have been and gone: all of them sounded off-putting, that was their problem.

Chief among these would be colonic irrigation, a concept not too unlike ingesting pond scum in the search for wellbeing, which was quite the done thing in the 90s.

If the purveyors of this enchanting ritual had paid some bright spark to rename it we'd all be doing it, though it's just an update on another old-fashioned, rather despised experience formerly known as 'enema'.

The Press