Take the fennel plant, for example. Its edible base is above the ground rather than below. Its leaves and small flowers are airy and light. Even its seeds are light green and aromatic, and when pressed produce a strong oil. The plant overall, due to its delicate leaves and pronounced scent, is a plant of air. Its stems are full of water, so they are water of air. And the seeds with a high amount of oil within them, and the fact that the seeds must go through a heating process to produce the oil, are fire of air.
Here’s another example: Chiles are a plant of fire. Chiles grow on low bushes and they produce fruit that comes in many colors, but mostly yellow, orange and red. The color helps to discern its element, but taste is the true test. Chilies are hot, so its overall elemental element is of fire. When freshly produced with a watery base like chile salsa, it becomes water of fire, much like bell peppers that hold a lot of water. When infused with oil, chiles become fire of fire. Its inherent quality of fire is maintained, so for our purposes and the way I have delineated this in my cookbook, we can just refer to them and all foods that keep their inherent property as the same, so chile oil is of fire. When chilies are dried or powdered, they become air of fire, because evaporation of being exposed to air acts as a transitive element upon the food.
Next are grapes, and now we can answer the previous questions about the elemental changes that can occur with this fruit. One simply needs to look at the inherent element and see what that is. Grapes are 80% water, so their element is evident. When the fruit is pressed and grape juice is made they retain their inherent element, so they are still of water. When they are dried like with raisins, the water is evaporated, so they become air of water. When they go through a heating process to become vinegar, wine or brandy, the heating process of fermentation directly affects them, so they become fire of water. And when that wine has yeast and sugars added, and the yeast produces a carbonated aspect adding air to produce champagne, a second transformative elemental process has taken place. Champagne becomes air of fire of water. So here is the first example of how more than two elements acting upon the first, can produce two transitional changes.
Next are foods of earth. As will be explained, not all earth foods are found in the ground. Aged cheese goes through a natural change. It becomes solid, dry, and often takes on a pungent earthiness. Cheese is one of the exceptions to the rule. Fresh cheeses are of water, but when cheese goes through a natural transition and is only eaten in its cured form, its inherent property has changed. It becomes an earth food. Roots or tubers like black salsify and beets, or compact foods like sorghum, millet and meats, and even earth colored foods that hang from trees where their inner seeds are hidden and very strong tasting like tamarind, are also foods of earth. Beets can be juiced, and juice can be made from tamarind paste, so both can become water of earth.
There is one more food of the elements that I want to share because of its unusual quadruplicity with the elements, and that is the egg of any animal that produces them. The whole fresh egg and the egg whites are water of the Moon, the shell and the whole cooked egg are earth of water of the Moon, the egg yolk is fire of water of the Moon, and the air pocket that forms under the film between the egg and the shell, is air of water of the Moon.