Eating with the Seasons: A Recipe for the Earth Element

by Travis Metzger |

Eating with the Seasons: A Recipe for the Earth Element

This week’s recipe is designed for the final days of summer, when small but significant climatic changes remind us that fall is not too far off. According to the Five Elements theory, late summer corresponds to Earth Element. There is no absolute marker of when this season begins, but it is characterized by transition. The “birth” and “growth” of spring and summer is coming to an end; the “harvest” and “storage” of fall and winter will soon begin. Climatically, this short season is characterized by dampness and humidity. It is also the season of the spleen. Unlike the anatomical organ of western medicine, the spleen, together with the stomach, are the central organs of digestion in Chinese medicine. Dampness is a major concern because it can “encumber” the spleen and lead to a number of digestive issues. This recipe is designed to leach away dampness and support the spleen.

For this soup, we have selected ingredients that are widely available to American consumers but not commonly found in China. Parsnips, our first ingredient, are sometimes referred to "European turnips" in China and its medicinal properties are similar to carrots, which are called "foreign turnips" in Chinese. Botanically, the two vegetables are closely related, both belonging to the Apiaceae family. Like carrots, in Chinese medicine parsnips are considered "sweet" and can "strengthen the spleen" and improve digestion. Parsnip is also said to have the additional properties of "dispelling wind and dampness" making it helpful for joint pain.

 Parsnip for Digestive Soup 

Chinese society has had a long love affair with soybeans, but white beans or navy beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) were domesticated in the Americas. Like many of the beans used in Chinese cooking, they have the property of being "sweet," making them a good supplementing food for the Spleen. But most beans also have the added benefit of being a mild diuretic, which makes them helpful in addressing internal "dampness."

 White Beans for Digestive Soup 

Leeks belong to the Allium genus family, which also contain onions, garlic, scallions, and chives. Although they are not found in China, the medicinal properties are similar to scallions, which are an essential part of Chinese cuisine. Together, leeks and garlic are "pungent" and "warm." They not only add great flavor to our two main ingredients, but warm the stomach and promote digestion.

Topped with a cucumber, apple, walnut garnish, this soup is a great way to move into the final days of summer.

 Leaks and Beans Cooking Together 

Serving size

About 8-9 bowls

Prep Time / Cook Time

20 minutes / 1 hour 30 minutes


  • 4 cups parsnips
  • 1 ½ cups leeks
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup bean cooking liquid
  • 3 cups white beans cooked
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon malt vinegar
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • Water (as needed)

The Garnish

  • 1/4 cup apple
  • ¼ cup walnut
  • ¼ cup onion
  • ¼ cup cucumber
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon malt vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper


Soak the beans overnight in the refrigerator. We’d recommend one-part beans to three-four parts water. The next day, drain off the soaking water, rinse and cook the beans in fresh water until tender, reserving one cup of the bean cooking liquid.

While the beans are cooking, start the soup by peeling and dicing the parsnips, dicing the leeks, smashing and chopping the garlic and getting your vegetable stock ready.

Sauté the garlic and leek in the olive oil, add diced parsnips, thyme, bay leaf, salt, pepper and vegetable stock and simmer until the parsnips are tender. Add the cooked beans and one cup or so of the bean cooking liquid. Continue simmering until the parsnips and beans are tender and ready to puree.

Puree all ingredients until smooth in a blender or use an immersion blender. Add the malt vinegar and adjust seasoning and texture by adding a bit of water as needed. I added about ¾ cup to to reach the desired consistency.

Make the relish by small dicing all ingredients and stirring in the molasses, olive oil, malt vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

The recipes on The Way are intended as an East meets West look at food and its relationship to health and nutrition. Food is powerful, and every bite can either greatly benefit your system or effectively work against it. In Chinese Medicine, each grain, vegetable, meat, fruit, and spice has unique properties that can be harnessed to help us achieve and maintain balance in our bodies. Our recipes seek to incorporate some of the age-old principles of Chinese medicine into the culinary practices more familiar to the West.

Dining with Culinary Artist Travis Metzger is an unforgettable experience. You can taste the passion, creativity and culinary expertise in each of Travis’s one-of-kind recipes. Most would agree that Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs in their original form taste less than delectable, but Travis has proven that TCM for today can taste great with DAO Labs. Travis develops unique flavors for each DAO formula to complement the proprietary blend of herbs and their health benefits. After extensive training at the New England Culinary Institute, Travis ran some of the finest restaurants across the country before starting his own in Minneapolis. To survive the stresses and physical challenges of the kitchen heat, Travis focused on combining natural ingredients for healthy AND delicious eating and juicing.

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