The Only Sourdough Library In The World Is Located In This Country

Do you like sourdough? Typically tangy and chewy, it is a naturally leavened bread that doesn't call for commercial yeast. Instead, the process utilizes natural yeasts available in the air. These interact with a starter, which is a slurry of water and flour that becomes the base of the dough (via BBC Good Food). The mixture is colonized by the wild yeast, ferments, and becomes bubbly, at which point it is allowed to rise before baking. Like all fermented foods, it contains beneficial microbes that may support good gut health (via Bustle), and baking it at home has become pretty darn trendy over the past couple of years.

If you're a real aficionado, you might be interested to know that there's actually a library dedicated to the stuff that houses more than 100 living starters. According to Mental Floss, it's located in Belgium and is the world's only sourdough library. The truly cosmopolitan collection contains starters from all around the world. 

108 starters from all over the world

Sankt Vith, Belgium is a small city of about 10,000 people located along the Belgian-German border (via City Population), but if you know where to go, you just might find yourself face-to-face with a variety of bubbling, yeasty sourdough starters. Mental Floss reports that the city is home to the Puratos World Heritage Sourdough Library, where sourdough librarian Karl De Smedt heads up a collection of 108 starters hailing from Italy, China, Hungary, Greece, Canada, and other countries. De Smedt travels the world looking for new varieties to add, and is also responsible for feeding his "pets" every two months with a dose of flour provided by the original creators.

When De Smedt locates an interesting sourdough during his travels, he ships the starters in special kits back to the library, where scientists document their unique combinations of microbes. So far, they have identified more than 800 strains of yeast and bacteria in the various samples (via Mental Floss). The microorganisms are then placed in a freezer at -112°F to preserve them, and the scientists store sourdough starters in glass jars at a cool 39°F. The library isn't open to the public, but you can take a virtual tour on the library's website — Smell-O-Vision not included.