• Shaari

Of Sun and Shadow

Updated: Mar 29


Soup of Sun and Shadow

The shadows of the momentary sunshine reach across the newly planted field and beyond the deer grazing there; a mama doe and last spring’s daughter.

I’m taking a quick break to warm up with a brothy soup in my big mug. In the length of a sip, the sun tucks back behind the many shades of grey cloud cover. The does don’t look up but I know they felt the warmth while grazing through the young planting of clover, mustard, radish, rye, oat, pea, kale, and collard. They do their part to help us regenerate the sandy soil. Even their saliva will help the grasses grow. Later we may introduce chickens to scratch up weeds, bugs, and leave some nitrogen behind. We’ll replant in early spring with a field any honeybee would be happy to find.

In addition to deer, we share this forest with barred owl, eagle, hawk, bobcat, coyote, bear and other woodland creatures. The resident ravens do not tolerate crows and they often challenge red tail hawk. Our goals: to create a field open for light, wildlife habitat, and pollinator forage.

Before the second growth forest was cut 20 years ago and the land cleared, this was a multi-layered evergreen forest. The forest floor was soft and deep with duff. When it was logged, invasive blackberries, grasses, and scotch broom took over. Planting the grove of cedars and firs on the west edge and weeding out those invasives begins the process of achieving our goals.

Many players ensure soil health, as well as plant, water and air quality. As we do our part to keep the soil covered, plants will use the sun’s energy to adapt the carbon dioxide in air to build their structure and exude sugars laden with nutrients for soil microbes. These microbes pull nitrogen from the air, unusable for the plants in that state. They reconfigure it with water then provide it to the plant. The plants breathe out oxygen. Tiny predators in the soil will eat the microbes. Those predators tunnel through the soils making them porous, absorbing rainwater. The plants pull in water and filter it as it progresses downstream and infiltrates to our drinking water aquifers and on down to the bay. This whole cycle, quickly described, stops erosion, retains and regenerates soil, increases the nutrition in the plants we eat, filters our water, and keeps it oxygenated for salmon runs. Even plant decay plays a part to provide carbon and nutrients to the soils.

Meanwhile, we keep the deer out of the vegetable garden. It’s nice to harvest and cook our vegetables into a brothy soup this time of year. Some vegetables come from local farms and some from far away. Here is a recipe for a brothy soup prepared in an Instant Pot. A regular soup pot will surely also do the trick. I like to sauté the onions and garlic in the same pot as the soup.




Brothy Vegetable Sun and Shadow Soup in an Instant Pot

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Total Time: one Hour and five Minutes

Main Course

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Keywords: vegetable soup, lentil, soup, pressure cooker soup, broth, vegan, instant pot

Servings: 8 Author: Shaari Unger

· 2 Tablespoons each Olive Oil and Water

· 1 Onion medium, chopped

· ½ Sweet Pepper, chopped

· 4 cloves Garlic, minced

· ½ Cup Raw Walnuts, finely chopped

· ½ Cup White Wine, Chardonnay is nice

· 2 Cups of a variety of Vegetables, chopped into small bite sized pieces

o Vegetable Options: Carrots, Rutabaga, Golden Beet. Sweet and/or White Potatoes

· ¼ Cup Red Lentils**, uncooked and rinsed

· ¼ Cup Brown Rice, uncooked and rinsed

· 3 Cups Vegetable Broth

· 1 teaspoon Coconut Aminos

· Spices:

o 2 teaspoons each ground Fennel and Sage

o 1½ teaspoons each Oregano and Cumin

o ½ teaspoon Harissa, or chili flakes

o ¼ teaspoon Nutmeg

o 2 Bay Leaves

· 1 ½ Cups Fresh Spinach or other leafy green, chopped (chard, kale)

· Ground Pepper to taste


1. Heat pan and heat oil or water in Instant Pot on Sauté Mode. When hot, add Onion, Garlic, Sweet Pepper, and Walnuts. Stir frequently until the onion is translucent.

2. When the bottom of the pot begins to brown, turn off the heat by canceling the Sauté mode and add the Wine. Gently encourage the brown goodness off the bottom.

3. Add Vegetables, Lentils, Rice, and Spices.

4. Add Broth and Coconut Aminos. Mix.

5. Add enough water to get to the 2/3 maximum mark.

6. Mix well.

7. Close the lid. Choose the Soup/Broth Mode for 40 minutes (or Manual High Pressure, 40 minutes).

8. Cancel the keep warm mode if it comes on automatically.

9. Let the pressure naturally release 10 minutes and then manually release the rest of the pressure.

10. Carefully open the lid and fold in the Spinach. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Add Pepper to taste.

11. Enjoy! Serve with artisan bread or cornbread.

Crock Pot Option: Sauté onions, garlic, pepper, and walnuts ahead of time. Add these and all other ingredients to crock pot. Cook until rice and vegetables are finished, about 5 hours.

**Red lentils break down adding creaminess to the broth.




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