Don’t Eat Dirt

August 10, 2014 | By | Comments (4)

It looks tasty, but don’t eat it. Photo: Mike Cogh

No matter the hobby or avocation, all of us benefit from the guidance of mentors in order to achieve success. In that vein, Grumpy shall never forget the best gardening advice he ever received. His mother told him, “Don’t eat dirt.”

Now I know what you’re thinking. “Don’t eat dirt? That’s crazy.” After all, dirt contains calcium for strong bones and teeth, iron for oxygen rich blood, plus a host of vital minerals like phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, copper, and plutonium. And dirt is abundant. Almost everywhere you look, there’s dirt.

Folk remedies for common ailments often recommend the consumption of dirt. For example, to cure diarrhea, people are urged to consume a handful of moistened red clay. Nothing binds like clay.

The Dark Side of Dirt
Eating dirt may seem appealing at first, but as my mother reminds us, don’t do it. Here are some good reasons not to.


Photo: amoceptum

1. Dirt, especially the top 8 inches of it, contains bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites, many of which could make you very ill. It may also contain margarine, the deadliest substance ever created by mankind. Margarine never goes away and, when found, legally requires a Superfund clean-up.


Do you feel lucky? Photo: Bonni Broadnick

2. Sadly, eating dirt carries with it a certain social stigma. When people scream at you, “Eat dirt!”, they’re often not wishing you well. Instead, they’re making fun. Sure, they’re ignorant about how good fresh dirt really tastes, but good luck convincing them to try it. Bigots will be bigots.

3. Southerners would never serve anything but clean food to their guests. But by definition, you cannot serve clean dirt. Dirt is dirty. The minute it touches a plate, the plate is dirty. This is why caterers stopped serving dirt at wedding receptions more than a decade ago in favor of boiled peanuts.

Listen to My Mom
Dear, old Mom is almost 92. She didn’t eat dirt and she made sure I didn’t eat it. And I’m grateful, although I’m pretty sure it tastes better than boiled peanuts.

What’s the best gardening advice you’ve ever received?


  1. Donna Marie Rosato

    A very wise man once explain the CORRECT way to trim a crape myrtle.

    August 10, 2014 at 9:21 pm
  2. Carolyn Choi

    My daddy was one of the best gardeners around and I learned from him how to grow vegetables on that red ‘bama clay. His advice was to use cotton burr compost and manure , plow it into the soil and let it work all winter. We raised just about everything we ate and never used chemicals or pesticides.

    August 10, 2014 at 4:46 pm
  3. Kathryn Games

    Have to agree, dirt probably does taste better than boiled peanuts. Never tried dirt but sad to say I HAVE tried boiled peanuts.

    August 10, 2014 at 3:40 pm
  4. Don't Eat Dirt | Your Hub for Southern Culture | Know What You Eat

    […] View post:  Don't Eat Dirt | Your Hub for Southern Culture […]

    August 10, 2014 at 1:36 pm

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