Edible dirt–perhaps one of the strangest fads to hit haute cuisine since sous vide–is not actual dirt but rather dried or charred ingredients used to give menu items an extra-earthy kick. Redzepi, 32, makes his dirt from dried malt and beer and presents it in terra cotta pots, “planted” with a whole raw radish to accompany a seven-course tasting menu.
Redzepi may be the most celebrated proponent of edible dirt, but he’s not the only one. Although edible dirts vary in consistency (some resemble ash, others sand or soil), they typically serve the same culinary function: to anchor their dish’s vegetables and proteins. At Tel Aviv’s Shakuf, Eldad Shem-Tov serves dirt crafted from chickpeas and topped with smoked quail eggs. At San Francisco’s Marlowe, Jennifer Puccio’s dried-olive soil comes with pickled radishes and whipped chèvre. Both mushroom soil and charred-onion ash can be found at Gilt in Manhattan; the former is part of a summer salad, the latter dusted onto Niman Ranch strip loin. And a dish of 30 seasonal vegetables served with dirt made from potato, parsnip and roasted chicory is on the menu at Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif.