What is Topsoil?! Plus, a Vegetable Peel Crisp Recipe

An image of vegetable crisps on a plate
Did you know the most common Old English name for February was Solmonath, which literally means “mud month.”? You didn’t??
Well, in honour of mud month we want to take a look at topsoil, the all important layer of soil where 95% of the world’s food is grown, making it one of the most important players of our food system. Impressive right?
What is topsoil?” We hear you ask.
As the name suggests, it’s the top layer of soil above the bedrock and it’s the most nutrient-rich layer of naturally occurring soil, making it perfect for growing all those fabulous plants that go into our Soulful meals. 
Not only does topsoil help plants to grow, giving them the nutrition they need to be strong and healthy, it’s also a source of minerals that get absorbed by the surface of root vegetables which we in turn benefit from by eating them. In particular nutrients such as manganese and potassium can be found in the skins of sweet potatoes, beetroots, parsnips and so on.
Tell me more…
Manganese is an essential mineral that helps with many functions. It supports the body to make connective tissue and bones. It also plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation. Not only that, but manganese is also necessary for normal brain and nerve function. So, pretty important!
Potassium is similarly an essential mineral which is key in maintaining fluid levels in your cells as well as supporting normal blood pressure and helping muscles to contract.
These minerals are particularly concentrated at the surface of these vegetables where the skin is, so save yourself a chore and keep the peel on. Or, if you must peel them, we have the perfect recipe below as a crunchy treat to use your leftover peelings up and get your mineral hit!
Vegetable Peeling Crisps
  • 500g Vegetable peel such as russet potatoes, beetroot, and sweet potatoes
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoons dried parsley
  1. Place an oven rack in the centre of the oven. Preheat the oven to 200˚C
  2. In a medium bowl, toss together the vegetable peel, olive oil, and salt.
  3. Spread the peel in an even layer on a baking sheet.
  4. Roast for 20-25 minutes, tossing halfway through, until the peel is dried and crisp, but not burnt.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic powder, paprika, and dried parsley. Toss the peel crisps with the spice mixture. Season with salt to taste.
  6. The veggie peel crisps will keep for up to 3 days stored in a cool, dry place.
These crisps are a perfect snack whilst you’re heating up your favourite Soulful vegan meal. We think they go brilliantly before our Tikka OnePot or Mexican Bean OnePot!
A little bit more on topsoil...
We think topsoil is pretty awesome, which is why we also want to make you aware of something more serious:
We don’t want to alarm you, but we’re facing a bit of a topsoil crisis. With the rise of modern intensive farming practices, nearly half of the most productive soil has disappeared in the world in the last 150 years.
The impact?
Crop yields are threatened and nutrient pollution is rising (where artificial nutrients are used to supplement the nutrients lost in the soil, but get washed into water causing growth of algae). If we continue to degrade the soil at the rate we are now, the world could run out of topsoil in about 60 years. Without topsoil, the earth’s ability to filter water, absorb carbon, and feed people will be destroyed. This isn’t irreversible, but action needs to be taken.
Fortunately more sustainable farming practices are starting to be used, whereby topsoil is preserved through cover crops, rather than ploughing it up and exposing it to erosion.
You can do your part too by understanding more about where your vegetables are grown. Choosing organic, local and seasonal veg is a great start and asking your shop about where the vegetables are sourced from can help you make more informed decisions.