Living Ecosystems: Soil Community, Our Gut Flora and a Sustainable Food Chain

We now understand and accept that soil is a living biological system or a being. It consists of living microbes that exist in a microbe-plant symbiosis. Plants harness solar energy and synthesize sugars that are used by microbes in exchange for water and nutrients. The soil and organisms create a biological multi-stage stomach that breaks down complex carbohydrates and recycles nutrients in a cyclical fashion of “feed and

release.” Living things such as plants and animal are broken down into their simplest constituents to be reused again to fuel life. Some of these microbes in a healthy soil community are:

  • Bacteria: Such as actinobacteria, Nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and denitrifying bacteria are fundamental in supplying plant roots with nutrients. For example, nitrogen-fixing bacteria harvest atmospheric nitrogen and offer it to plants in absorbable forms such as organic nitrogen compounds (such as amino acids), ammonium or nitrate in exchange for sugars.

  • Symbiotic Fungi: They shuttle water and nutrients to plant roots.

  • Protozoa: They recycle bacteria, and release trapped nutrients in their bodies.

  • Nematodes (microscopic worms): They feed off protozoa, fungi, bacteria, and plant roots freeing their nutrients back to the soil to be used by plants.

  • Enchytraeds (potworms): They live in highly organic terrestrial environments, as well as some in marine environments. They decompose bacteria, fungi, and dead plant material and release some of their structural nutrients back to the soil.

  • Arthropods (aka shredders): They include ants, spiders, mites, and many other small-legged creatures. Their residue & waste becomes food for fungi and other soil organisms.

  • Earthworms: These are a sure measure of soil health. They decompose most of the dead plant matter and create nutrient rich (manure) burrows, which also help aerate the soil.

When we take a glimpse at our own nutrient absorbing organic unit we cannot help but observe

a strong structural and functional resemblance to plant root systems. Doctrine of signatures

offers understanding of plant therapeutic properties by matching its appearance to function.

Intestinal villi are unique structural and functional units; small, finger-like projections (root-like)

lining the small intestine. These massively increase surface area for maximum nutrients absorption. These luminal projections, sense, absorb and shuttle these nutrients into the bloodstream. Furthermore, the luminal space of our gut is a living ecosystem, and like that of the soil, active with microorganisms to help breakdown food to achieve desirable properties such as increasing digestibility, synthesizing enzymes, and playing an important role in nutrient absorption.

Fermentation is a similar process that happens external to our bodies. It transforms and elevates flavors and textures and contributes to enhanced food security by preserving foods and increasing shelf life. In fact, fermentation makes food more accessible (fermented lactose products can be tolerated by people with lactose intolerance).

Cabbage Kraut (Fermented coleslaw)


Large bowl, cutting board, good knife or shredder, mason jar (or crock), DIY kitchen weights (i.e. small mason jar filled with water or a heavy ceramic plate).


1 small red cabbage, evenly & thinly shredded

1 small white cabbage, evenly & thinly shredded

2 small carrots, thinly shredded

1 teaspoon of fennel seeds (optional)

3 teaspoon of mineral salt

Extra brine (1 tablespoon salt in 2 cups water)


1 - Place shredded vegetables in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and spices (options are unlimited based on your liking).

2 – Use clean hands to massage and squeeze until the cabbage mixture transforms into a softened, juicy texture. Taste and adjust seasoning flavors to your personal liking. This process should release a lot of liquid trapped in the vegetables.

3 – Tightly pack the mixture into a mason jar or crock-pot. Make sure to continuously pound down as you pack it to release any trapped air pockets. This also makes sure the liquid seeps into all the spaces. Make sure to also clean and push down any pieces stuck on the side of the jar so every particle becomes submerged under the liquid. Keep everything submerged by placing personalized DIY kitchen weights on top of it.

4 – Screw the lid loosely to limit airflow yet still allow fermentation metabolic by products, such as CO2 gases that will build up during the process, to escape. This will prevent accidental gas build up and kitchen explosions. Let it sit and ferment at room temperature (ideally between 70- 75°F) for 2 to 4 weeks.

5 - Check every few days to make sure that mixture stays submerged. Gut friendly bacteria will metabolize vegetables sugars, multiply, and release large amounts of lactic acid, creating an environment inhospitable to spoilage causing microbes. This works as a natural preservative.

Don’t worry if a little mold, scum or white film form on top; just skim it off and discard and replace the liquid content with extra brine.

6 – With passing time there will be active bubbling of fermentation and the kraut will improve. Now and then you can start to taste and as soon as it has reached your preferred flavor you can remove the kitchen weights. Clean the rim and screw the lid back on tightly. Store in the refrigerator to slow the fermentation process.

Fermentation resources

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