What we do to the soil, we do to ourselves.
Soil is the unlikely story of our most maligned resource as swashbuckling hero. A saga of bombs, ice ages and civilisations falling. Of ancient hunger, modern sicknesses and gastronomic delight. It features poison gas, climate collapse and a mind-blowing explanation of how rain is formed.
For too long, we've not only neglected the land beneath us, we've squandered and debased it, by over-clearing, over-grazing and over-ploughing. But if we want our food to nourish us, and to ensure our planet's long-term health, we need to understand how soil works – how it's made, how it's lost, and how it can be repaired.
In this ode to the thin veneer of Earth that gifts us life, commentator and farmer Matthew Evans shows us that what we do in our backyards, on our farms, and what we put on our dinner tables really matters, and can be a source of hope. Isn't it time we stopped treating the ground beneath our feet like dirt?
Introduction: From the Ground Up
Chapter 1: What You Eat is Made out of Thin Air (and a Tiny Bit of Dirt)
Chapter 2: Soil, the Earth's Miracle Skin
Chapter 3: The Earth's Kidneys: When Good Soil Turns Bad
Chapter 4: Plants Don't Eat Dirt: The Underground Economy
Chapter 5: Here, There and Everywhere: The 'Old Friends' Hypothesis
Chapter 6: Look After the Soil, and the Plants Look After Us
Chapter 7: Nutritional Dark Matter
Chapter 8: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
Chapter 9: Big Ones, Small Ones, Skinny Ones, Fat Ones: Worms
Chapter 10: Bombs, Germs and Plants: 100 Years of Fast Fixes Creating Big Problems
Chapter 11: How The Green Revolution is Turning the World Brown
Chapter 12: You'll Never Plough a Field by Turning it Over in Your Mind
Chapter 13: Burying Charcoal and Building Soil
Chapter 14: Weeds: What We Can See Tells Us About What We Can't
Chapter 15: Home Gardeners Rock
Chapter 16: Compost, Compost and Compost
Chapter 17: If it Quacks, Is It a Duck?
Chapter 18: We Are All, For a Certain While, Not Soil
Chapter 19: Keep Them Dawgies Movin'
Chapter 20: A Grain of Truth: Regenerative Agriculture
Chapter 21: What's the Beef with Methane?
Chapter 22: Money in the Bank
Chapter 23: They Germinated a Seed on the Moon
Chapter 24: Loaves and Fishes: Feeding a Hungry World
Matthew Evans is a former chef and food critic, now Tasmanian smallholder, restaurateur and food activist. He is the star of the long-running SBS TV show The Gourmet Farmer as well as food documentaries What's the Catch? and For the Love of Meat. He is the author of thirteen books, including the authoritative and bestselling Real Food Companion and On Eating Meat.
"A love letter to Mother Earth and entertaining must-read that goes to the heart of our survival"
– Charles Massy
"A wonderful, exuberant, intelligent, mind-expanding hymn to the soil – sung from the heart of a man who has experienced its miracles. Wonderful stuff."
– Isabella Tree
"It's a huge task to get a city girl like me who kills pot plants to read thousands of words about soil but Matthew Evans has done it. Page after page of revelation, making visible the complex and vital world beneath our feet. Reading this book is going to make you dig dirt."
– Dr Rebecca Huntley
"This book is an urgent and passionate plea to take soil seriously, not just for farmers, gardeners and cooks but for anyone who eats."
– Gabrielle Chan
"This book is for anyone who eats, and therefore benefits from the gifts that are bound up in this soil we all share. Whether you're a gardener, a farmer or just an enjoyer of food, the story of our soil is part of our humanity, and our future. Matthew Evans has done a brilliant job of inviting us into the mysteries, stories and understandings of this stuff right under our feet, largely disregarded, but which not a single human alive can do without."
– Kirsten Bradley
"Soil is everyone's business and this book pulls no punches. It lays bare our reliance upon the intricate life beneath our feet. A must-read in every school, local library, community garden, university and for your bookshelf."
– Costa Georgiadis
"There's no human health without plant health, no plant health without soil health, and no soil health without terrific books like this one. Matthew Evans has written a robust manifesto for the largest underground movement in the world."
– Damon Gameau
"A fascinating read about one of the most important issues facing our planet – the health of the earth, literally."
– Peter Gilmore
"A real page-turner. Matthew Evans will take your understanding of soil from being "dirt" to being a precious and magical resource. With lessons in history, biology, sociology, politics and war, once you're done, you will defend any little or large patch under your care with your life, understanding its utmost importance to the survival of life on earth as we know it"
– Alexx Stuart