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Dirt Soup is Good For You

Dirt Soup is Good For You

Have you ever had soil soup? If not, you might assume you won’t like it. But according to a rise in chefs using dirt as a culinary tool, maybe you should think again.

Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa recently created a soup made from the distilled soil of his hometown, trying to prove a point to his restaurant patrons that those who live in urban areas have a responsibility and connection to the earth in which they dwell. The soup wasn’t meant to taste good, but when the chef actually tried it, he was surprised to find out that he liked it.

According to Narisawa, soil appeals to the palate with a burst of flavor from umami, the proteins within the dirt’s microorganisms. Other chefs have been experimenting with the substance as well, such as chef Joan Roca of Spain, who created a dish using distilled soil he then turns into umami filled foam.

Umami is a Japanese word meaning “pleasant savory taste,” but in recent years its been redefined as a scientific term used when describing the taste of glutamates and nucleotides. Many describe the taste as meaty or brothy, leaving a mouthwatering coating over the tongue. This interesting sensation is due to a relationship between molecules in the umami, and special receptor cells on the human tongue.

Up until recently, the tongue was mapped out as having just four basic areas of taste: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. But umami has recently been recognized as the fifth, with scientists admitting their might be even more sections than the previously accepted quadrants of the tongue.

And it’s really not that strange when you start to think about it. People have been eating dirt for thousands of years, not to mention the cravings pregnant women get for dirt, clay and chalk. In fact, there is even documentation of Hippocrates referencing the consumption of soil more than 2,000 years ago.

Studies have considered the idea that dirt can protect the stomach by acting as a shield against bacteria. In addition, dirt consumption most often happens in tropical areas where food borne illness and microbes are most prevalent. People seem to eat dirt most often when they are experiencing stomach problems. Dirt is sort of being compared to your common antacid!

“Clay can either bind to harmful things, like microbes, pathogens and viruses, that we are eating or can make a barrier, like a mud mask for our gut,” says researcher Sera Young from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

And not only is it possible that clay and dirt might help guard against unwanted bacteria, it can actually aid in the absorption of other, good nutrients that are entering the body.

So where else can you find umami? Look for it in fish sauce, Parmesan cheese, and even tomatoes. According to many chefs, understanding how to cook with glutamate rich foods will positively change the way you use your senses, adding that extra something to your palette.

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Photo credit: Image: Sujin Jetkasettakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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39 comments

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10:08AM PDT on Oct 19, 2011

I've been saying this for years, let your kids eat dirt, it is good for them, it builds up antibodies and will improve their immune system.Soil soup doesn't even sounds that bad. Bird's nest soup or Bird's spit soup just sounds nasty...

3:15PM PDT on Oct 17, 2011

Doesn't sound very appetising but a cheap alternative to food.Just make sure if you take it from your garden that you have had no animal visitors using your garden as a toilet.

10:42AM PDT on Oct 16, 2011

NEVER A DULL MOMENT IN THE 'FOODIE' SECTION!!!!!!

9:22PM PDT on Oct 15, 2011

Interesting :)

7:04PM PDT on Oct 15, 2011

Whatever.

7:00PM PDT on Oct 15, 2011

No thanks.

8:37AM PDT on Oct 15, 2011

This puts me in mind of an article I recall reading on the Internet about 5 years ago, extolling the virtues of drinking your own urine. If memory servers, you "go" in a glass first thing in the morning and then drink it - it's supposed to contain some hormone or other that stops you feeling tired. Personally, a nice cup of tea and an extra hour lie in sounds more appealing.

4:53AM PDT on Oct 15, 2011

Interesting, but I would not knowingly eat dirt.

12:08AM PDT on Oct 15, 2011

It's called pica eatting. I would imagine worm castings to be the most processed. But so much earth has been contaminated. Cremains would be sanitary. Crunchy and difficult to explain to the dentist how you broke your tooth on some. Not recommended.

11:47PM PDT on Oct 14, 2011

Anyone remember mudpies? We made them and tasted them, Mom screamed and life went on.

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