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on June 19, 2013
I almost didn't buy this book, not being sure if it was a history book or a cookbook or a diet book or what. But since I've appreciated author Jo Robinson's "Eat Wild" website I decided to go ahead. I'm so glad I did.

If you too are wondering what this book is, then I'll tell you what I've found. This is a book about the vegetables and fruits that are available in supermarkets and farmer's markets in the U.S. For each group of vegetables or fruits, there is a history going back to the earliest cultivation and information on the wild origins. Included with this history is also the healthful properties of the wild plant and the changes that have taken place as a result of cultivation. Wild plants are the original nutritional powerhouses and the author tells you how you can get closest to that with the cultivated plants found in the stores, markets or backyard gardens.

There is one review on Amazon that complains about the use of ORAC values throughout this book. The reviewer notes that the USDA has removed its ORAC database, but doesn't explain why ORAC was pulled. The USDA in announcing the removal says that "ORAC values are routinely misused by food and dietary supplement manufacturing companies to promote their products and by consumers to guide their food and dietary supplement choices." Marketers were abusing the system and had found ways to juggle the results to get high ORAC values, such as comparing the score of a gallon 'juice mix' with a half cup of berries. The marketers deliberately obscured the misleading result. But ORAC values can be important. As ORAC researcher Ronald L. Prior, Ph.D., said in a letter in response to the removal of the USDA database pointed out that is was a useful tool for research as there is "a considerable amount of scientific literature on the positive health benefits of the polyphenolic flavonoid-type compounds in foods." So there is good reason to list the ORAC values in this book. Google "ORAC Ronald Prior" to read the full response.

Eating on the Wild Side is a great book that I keep going to as a food-buying guide.
22 comments176 of 182 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This books is, in my opinion, LOOOOONG overdue. From sweet corn that no longer tastes "corny" to cottony white strawberries and golf-ball tomatoes, what has happened to our produce and what can we do to obtain the best, most nutritious fruits and vegetables. This is a practical book as well as a very interesting read. It's not only a natural history of our most commonly-eaten fruits and veg, it's also a guide to buying and using produce, sources for seeds, and much more.

There is a new lack of diversity in varietals. The author gives the example of apples. We used to live for the apple SEASONS...not season. First early Macs, then Courtlands, Jonathans, Winesaps, etc. Now, go to the store and it's Gala, Fuji, Braeburn and the inevitable Granny Smiths for the most part. And those Grannys to me don't taste right. They are bitter. Many fruits just don't taste the same to me anymore (grapes, strawberries in particular. Corn is weird--sugary sweet, no character. Personally, I miss the yellow corn of my childhood, grown right down the street and picked and rushed to the table.)

The history of the blueberry was particularly interesting; the darkest berries (full of antioxidants) were selected AGAINST when they were cultivated from wild ones, because the horticulturalist thought lighter berries would sell better.

The saddest thing is the loss of nutrients. These foods are vital to your health.

The author goes over how we got various fruits, such as the apricots of Asia, the apples loved by the Salish tribe of America but also gives us suggestion on where and what to buy. Some of the info is a bit conflicting; for example, there is a recipe for apple crisp, using the nutritious skins ground up in the sugar topping portion to get the benefit of their vitamin content--but the author also tells us that commercial apples are very high, among the highest, in pesticides. This is absolutely true in my experience. We like to go to the "U-Pick" at a local orchard, but I can't go into the apple tree rows as the pesticide is so concentrated on freshly sprayed trees that it irritates my skin and lungs. So...organic is the way to go, if you can do so.

I kind of sort of came to the same conclusions as this book a while ago because I love fresh produce and it was getting more and more unsatisfactory; I found our local farms for asparagus and tomatoes, found the organic co-ops and learned what vegetables and fruits were best around here in the Mid-Atlantic. I try to stick to those good choices. The author gives recipes, advice, history and this all makes for good reading. Recommended.
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on June 12, 2013
I liked this book and thought the assembly of facts and stories about the common fruits and vegetables we eat to be both informative and at times entertaining. I think the book also does a good job of cataloging some of the effects of industrial food production. Overall, the book was novel enough, interesting enough and surprising enough for me to give it 4 stars, but a few critical flaws make it impossible to use the book for its stated mission as a guide on which fruit / vegetables to eat, and a flaw in methodology (use of the discredited ORAC score) throughout forces me to downgrade to 3 stars. Below are a few questions that I thought the book could have better addressed.

1) Is sheer quantity of phytonutrients really the only thing that determines whether a particular fruit / vegetable is good for you? Wouldn't some phytonutrients or combinations of phytonutrients be better than others? There is limited discussion of this throughout the book. I am not sure this is the author's fault as I am not sure whether the scientific research is there yet, but a frank discussion of the state of understanding here to set the stage would have been helpful.

The ORAC score the author used to compare varities throughout the book has been discredited according to the Wikipedia page. The USDA has stopped publishing ORAC data it seems after the connection between quantity of antioxidants and human health was seriously questioned. Some mention of the controversy around ORAC would have been intellectually honest given its extensive use throughout the book.

2) How do the various fruits / vegetables compare among themselves. Given a 2000 calorie / day budget, how should a person allocate this? Etc. The book has a couple comparisons (eat more berries, etc.) but lacks even a simple table comparing the ORAC scores (antioxidant quantity of each fruit per gram) vegetable discussed.

3) The information on the various fruits / veggies is clearly uneven, likely having to do with the availability of scientific research on the various kinds. This leads to some awkward issues where for example the author discusses how you should look at the total phytonutrients, and not just vitamin c for one fruit, but for a later fruit only talks about lycopene quantity. Would have been nice to see apples to apples comparison of each type of produce discussed.

4) Bit of a nitpick but what about nuts and mushrooms? Nuts are mentioned briefly at the end as something you should include in fruit salad, but otherwise are not discussed. Mushrooms are not mentioned.

As I said, I see the challenge in healthy eating to be how one should allocate their daily food budget in an optimal way. This book helps answer a part of that question by discussing how to find the ripest of a particular kind of produce, how to optimally store produce and by discussing which varieties of a particular produce have highest antioxidant content (which may or may not be the critical consideration), but unfortunately it doesn't do a complete job in telling you which fruits/veggies to prefer vs. one another and I believe it overstates many of its claims as a result.
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on June 15, 2013
It's pretty sad how little we know about what we eat. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about nutrition - yet this book made me realize how little I was doing right. My trip to the farmers market was very different today - bought lots of arugala and red lettuce romaine, and I looked for the smallest, reddest strawberries I could find. I even got asparagus, which I knew I had to prepare immediately, but only after letting my garlic sit for 10 minutes! Read this and you'll understand why I did all these things! And the meal was delicious!
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on June 5, 2013
I am LOVE this book! I won it April 3, 2013 off of the goodreads.com giveaway-- so thank you, Jo Robinson, by the way-- and I am learning so very much, and it's all very interesting! It's changed the way I shop, and the way I prepare food, as well as inspired me to grow more of my own. (I have also started studying herbology, which has helped me immensely-- and I am becoming more of a naturalist because I am feeling much, much better since my changes.

The history of the food we eat, followed by letting us know which foods we can get of the most nutritional value, how to prepare it for maximum flavor and nutritional value, and WHY. Even going into more specifics than anything I've ever read before. Not just "you should eat salad", but, "you should eat salad with looseleaf, colored lettuce as opposed to iceberg, and perhaps mix it with dried fruit, avocado or even a milder type of lettuce to make it more palatable if you are not a fan of the stronger flavors".

And it continues like that for so many of the foods we eat, what we aren't eating, and why we aren't, why we should be. The research here is impeccable, and implementing it has made me feel (and look) much better.
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on July 13, 2013
I thought I knew the guidelines for buying and preparing the most nutritious produce - buy the most colorful, the darker the better. Eat raw when possible, minimum steaming for cooking. No microwaving. While those are good general rules, this book gives the reader better guidance on what produce to buy, types to grow and the most nutritious way to prepare them, some of which are counterintuitive.

For example, I was crestfallen to learn from this book that my insistence on yellow over white peaches was misplaced. Although it's a good rule for corn [if you can't find blue or other edible colors] peaches and nectarines are an exception - the white have many times the phytonutrients of the yellow. And I never heard anywhere else that putting a cooked potato in the refrigerator for 24 hours lowers the glycemic load, even if you reheat it. I assumed that golden and red Delicious apples were both overly sweet and low in nutrients. True for the golden but actually the red Delicious is quite nutritious. Broccoli loses much value when cooked in the microwave but thawing frozen blueberries in the microwave actually increases value. I had heard from several sources that garlic is more nutritious when cut up or put through a press and then set aside 10 minutes before cooking. This book was the only one to tell me why [a bit complicated but totally understandable]. Knowing why something is true makes me much more likely to do it.

This book is a must companion to The Intelligent Garden: Growing Nutrient Dense Food by Soloman & Reinheimer. That book informs the reader about how to amend the soil to grow more nutritious produce but doesn't advise on specific types to grow or how to best prepare them for best results as this book does.
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VINE VOICEon July 25, 2013
People forget that when the draft came up for WWII, many of our young men were unfit because of malnutrition. We were just coming out of the Depression where quantity and quality of food had been poor for huge numbers of people. Then came the War with its corresponding shortages. In 1947 Adele Davis wrote a book based on much scientific research about how to maximize vitamins, minerals and protein inexpensively. The book was called "Let's Cook it Right," and, if you can find a copy, it is equally useful today.

Now we are discovering all sorts of other factors in food such as phytonutrients and antioxidants in addition to the known vitamins minerals and proteins that humans need. That research is just beginning.

This is the first book since Adele Davis that gives us the research to help us in the kitchen to prepare foods with maximum nutrients. This research is just beginning which limits the book, and the author has not, apparently, been doing followup research ala Adele Davis. But this book is a wonderful start.

Just as an example, if you mash or dice your garlic and let it sit 10 minutes before using it in a recipe, it develops the maximum amount of allicin - a valuable nutrient. There are tips to preserve the maximum anthocyanins in fruits.

What this book cries out for is intensive kitchen research followed by a comprehensive tome on the subject. Meanwhile this is a start.
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on June 4, 2013
Anyone who is on the internet or listened to the news has read or heard about the issues surrounding our food. The author takes the fruits and vegetables that we eat everyday and explains how to help us reclaim the lost nutrients and flavor we've been missing. At over 400 pages, the book is pretty intense. But I was surprised at how easy it was to read and process. Each chapter takes a different type of fruit or vegetable and begins by explaining its origins and how the current food we eat resembles the original food. The chapter is then broken down into sections on how to grow or find the best and most healthful varieties, recipes and cooking instructions, and points to remember.

The book is a great resource for the beginner as well as the more advanced health enthusiast. The information is well researched. It is also well written so as not be be too dry and boring when presenting all of those facts.

I received this book free of charge from Goodreads in exchange for my honest review.
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VINE VOICEon October 17, 2013
Informative, interesting and surprising!

If you are anything like me, you already know we're supposed to be eating organic, you know the closer your food came from the ground (its source) the better it is for you, and you know that you should "eat the rainbow" in order to get all the essential nutrients your body needs. You especially know all this if you are a parent and are trying to give your kids the best start they can get - keeping them away from processed, fried, chemical-laced, dyed, and genetically modified garbage.

Are you ready to take your fresh food one step further? Here is your guide!

Luckily, I live in the Garden State - don't laugh! Where I live in New Jersey, I'm surrounded by farmland...but I'm not always sure what to choose when I get to the farm stand. Aren't all tomatoes made equal? (The smaller the tomato, the more concentrated its nutrients!) And, once I get it home in my organic cotton tote bag, I'm not always sure I'm storing it properly (Storing broccoli wrapped in a plastic bag with tiny pin pricks in it will give you up to 125% more antioxidants!) or cooking it in order to maintain its nutritional integrity (Carrots are more nutritious COOKED!).

Also, did you know:

* Thawing frozen berries in the microwave preserves twice as many antioxidants and more vitamin C than thawing them on the counter or inside your refrigerator.
* Ounce per ounce, there is more fiber in raspberries than bran cereals.

* Tearing Romaine and Iceberg lettuce the day before you eat it quadruples its antioxidant content.
* The healing properties of garlic can be maximized by slicing, chopping, mashing, or pressing it and then letting it rest for a full 10 minutes before cooking.
* The yellowest corn in the store has 35 times more beta-carotene than white corn.
* Cooking potatoes and then chilling them for about 24 hours before you eat them (even if you reheat them) turns a high-glycemic vegetable into a low- or moderate-glycemic vegetable.
* Beet greens are more nutritious than the beets themselves.

* The most nutritious tomatoes in the supermarket are not in the produce aisles--
they are in the canned goods section! Processed tomatoes, whether canned or cooked into a paste or sauce, are the richest known source of lycopene.

You've heard about the worst salads you can eat (hello, tex mex!), discover the most nutritious salad you can build, including a tasty recipe for vinaigrette!

For any home gardeners out there, this is a must-have book. You'll get the most from your garden and your table from Eating On The Wild Side. Full of charts, bullet points, and logical chapters, you will find this reference guide often used in your kitchen!

The only thing I would change about this book - and I'm going to sound like a five year old now - is I wish there were color photos. I'm sure this would probably turn this $15 book into a $35 book, so for that reason, I'm happy it is the way it is.

Informative, interesting, and surprising.
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on July 8, 2013
Hippocrates recognized the link between healthy food and healthy bodies long before Michael Pollan called it to our attention in the present era

Jo Robinson goes further into this subject and has written a really engrossing book for anyone who is interested in getting the most bang for their nutritional buck. She compares the nutritional values of the wild plants that our not-so-distant forebears based their diets upon with what deliberate and selective plant breeding has produced for us today. Selective plant breeding in many instances
has produced plant breeds that are Roundup resistant but stripped of vital nutrients. In some cases, it has produced new varieties that last well in shipping and storage, but are not packing the nutritional punch of the original varieties, leaving our bodies less than optimally nourished and less healthy than they could be.

Robinson offers some really interesting research results that can guide you to the varieties of fruits and vegetables on offer at your local supermarket that offer the greatest nutritional value. Beyond that, she tells you about other, less common varieties that are nutritional superstars often available at local farmers' markets.

Anyone listening to pharmaceutical ads on television can be frightened by the side-effects that are mentioned and wonder if their original malady isn't less worrisome than what they are trading it for when they swallow toxic remedies that are often rushed to market before sufficient testing is completed. Love those BigPharma lobbyists on capital hill. Knowing this, I try natural remedies before pharmaceuticals and help my body to help heal itself. A case in point is my knee osteoarthritis. Rather than risk the serious
side-effects that accompany long-term use of NSAIDS for this kind of pain, I am opting to get pain relief through adding cherries and fish oil to my daily fare. It works! Much less inflammation, much less pain. Just as much relief as I was getting while I was using NSAIDS. And no more worries that I am trading my knee pain for a heart attack, stroke, or GI bleed. Ms. Robinson identifies which cherry varieties offer the most pain-relieving punch, and I am benefitting from her knowledge about the real medicinal benefits that plants can offer.

Robinson has so much valuable information packed into this book that I think everyone should read it to see for themselves what your body is able to do to achieve optimal function when supplied with the most beneficial nutrients. I love this book.
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