Soil Profile Parfait

Soil is made up of minerals, water, air, and organic material. Different amounts of each ingredient exist in different soils and change the qualities of the soil. For example, a soil with more organic material (which includes things like decaying leaves) tends to be darker and stickier. Soil horizons are layers under the ground that have distinct qualities. If you were to dig a deep hole and look inside or look on the side of a streambank, you would be able to see where one horizon starts, and another begins. All of these horizons together make up a soil profile. It’s almost like cutting a piece of cake, from the outside you only see the icing on the surface, but when you pull a piece out you see the layers on the inside as well.  

If you attended the soils workshop at Beat the Midwinter Blahs, then you already have a soil profile model. However, this one will taste much better!
A soil profile with each horizon labeled.
An edible soil profile from environmental science class.

You can make your own soil profile “parfait” using household foods to represent each horizon based on its color and texture. In your profile, you will include all the horizons, although they are not always all present in real profiles. If you want to turn this into a fair project, you can document your progress by taking pictures of your materials as you go and printing pictures of real soil horizons to compare on a display. 

Materials: 

  •  A clean and clear container that you can eat out of 
  • Utensils 
  • Food from your house-you can gather it as you go but try to think of foods that make sense together since you will be eating your creation 

Steps:

  • Wash your hands!!!! Always wash your hands before working with food.
  • Start at the bottom of the profile/parfait and work your way up. Start with the R Horizon

R Horizon: (bedrock) A solid mass of rock that is generally light in color

Food examples: a whole cookie, solid graham cracker(s), whole crackers, half an orange

  • Add the C Horizon evenly on top of the R Horizon

C Horizon: (parent material) A slightly less dense mass of rock that is usually light in color

Food examples: grapes, chips, cereal, marshmallows, pretzels

  • Add the B horizon evenly on top of the C Horizon

B horizon:(subsoil) Blocky and rich with minerals, sometimes reddish in color from iron

Food examples: cheese curls, peanut butter, baby carrots, salsa, watermelon cubes

  • Add the E Horizon evenly on top of the B horizon

E Horizon: (eluviated) Very lightly colored because of leaching, leaching is when a liquid like water carries away clay, minerals and organic materials as it filters through the ground

Food examples: Whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, marshmallow fluff, iceberg lettuce, mozzarella cheese

  • Add the A Horizon evenly on top of the E Horizon

A Horizon: (topsoil) Rich in organic material, has dark coloration, and is generally smooth, soft, and/or sticky

Food examples: yogurt, ice cream, pudding, crushed up Oreos, brownies, black beans

  • Add the O Horizon evenly on top of the A Horizon

O Horizon: (humus or organic) Organic matter like leaves, pine needles, moss, and twigs

Food examples: gummy worms, spinach leaves, pretzel sticks, sprinkles

  • Dig in! You should be able to see the different layers or “horizons” but if some are not obvious it’s ok! A soil profile does not always make perfect stripes, and sometimes texture is just as important as color when distinguishing different horizons.

For more information on Soil Profiles:

-A simple explanation:

https://www.soils4teachers.org/soil-horizons

-A more detailed explanation:

http://neiwpcc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Horizons-and-Layers.pdf

Information on the importance of soil in food production:

-An article:

https://www.soils.org/files/sssa/iys/march-soils-overview.pdf

-A funny video:

Recipe for Dirt Cups if you’re still hungry:

(8-10 servings)

1 package (16oz.) Oreos

2 cups cold milk

1 package (4-serving-size) chocolate Jell-O instant pudding

1 (8oz.) tub cool whip

8-10 plastic cup-sized containers

Gummy worms

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