Thursday, October 31, 2013

Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

After hearing Jo Robinson interviewed on The Splendid Table, I wanted to know more. In Eating on the Wild Side, Robinson shares surprising recent research about the varied levels of bionutrients in the vegetables and fruits that we eat, as well how to select and prepare them in order to maximize nutritional benefits.

The wild plants from which our modern fruits and vegetables descend usually (but not always) have the most bionutrients, but they are also less palatable than cultivated varieties. Robinson quotes William Wood, writing about chokecherries in 1629 in Massachusetts: "They so furre the mouth that the tongue will cleave to the roof and the throat wax hoarse with swallowing those red Bullies (as I may call them)." I happen to love the musky taste of my homemade chokecherry syrup and now I know that it is packed with nutrients, too.

Robinson explains that you do not have to go foraging for wild foods. Instead, you can find great choices at the grocery store, farmers market or your own garden. It can be as simple as choosing Fuji apples over Golden Delicious.

I found fascinating stuff throughout. Here are just a few tips:

"Adding a squirt of lemon to your teacup or teapot before you brew green tea increases the amount of the phytonutrients in the brew and also enhances your ability to absorb them."

"Cooked carrots have twice as much beta-carotene as raw carrots."

"Tearing romaine lettuce the day before you eat it doubles its antioxidant content."

"Ounce per ounce, there is more fiber in raspberries than in bran cereals."

I've already incorporated simple adjustments in my diet as a result of this book, such as throwing chopped fresh cranberries into my lunch quesadillas, buying purple carrots (at Granville Market), tipping the pulpy bits into the juice after squeezing a lime, and eating currants as a snack. It's all good!

Readalikes: Foraged Flavor (Tama Matsuoka Wong); Food Rules (Michael Pollan).

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