November 2019 Book Review “Eating on the Wild Side”

What’s in this post: Review of the 2013 book, Eating on the Wild Side, by Jo Robinson


This book is not about foraging. It’s also not about eating only heirlooms. What it IS about is selecting fruits and vegetables to eat and grow that are highest in nutrients and flavor, plus tips and tricks for maximizing nutritional value. The advice is based on scientific journal articles and divided into sections by fruit and veg groups (root crops, cruciferous vegetables, melon, etc.). The chapters are filled with not only information about nutrition, but also interesting historical notes about cultivation and even social values.

“But Robinson isn’t arguing that we should all go back to foraging for our dinner. Rather, she calls her book “a field guide to nutritious food.” Drawing on hundreds of scientific studies, she uses her book to lay out which commonly available foods offer the best nutritional bang for the bite.” –Maria Godoy, NPR

This book changed the way I think about fresh fruit and produce. In digestible, science-based recommendations, Jo Robinson details the origins of some of our favorite foods and how to maximize their health benefits.

What I liked

  • Chapters divided by fruit and vegetable groupings for easy reference
  • Helpful tables at the end of each section summarizing what varieties to look for and characteristics
  • Recommendations for not only choosing the best amongst common grocery store varieties, but also varieties to plant in your own garden
  • Information based on peer-reviewed journal articles regarding how to store and prepare foods

What I didn’t like

  • Both a pro and a con – I’d have enjoyed more detail on the varieties. Then again, more detail would have made the book unduly long.
  • There’s very little information about preservation. For example, are fresh collards at a grocery story better, worse, or the same, nutritionally, than frozen or canned?
  • Can someone make an app for this already? Maybe someone already has? I would absolutely pay for access.

Worth your time?

Absolutely. This is one of the few food books that sits on my shelf. I first borrowed it from the library, then picked up my open copy for reference. The snippets below are why I keep it handy:

“The stronger the onion, the greater the antioxidant activity.”
–Western yellow onions have 5 times more than varieties like Vidalia.

“…keep [garlic] away from heat for ten minutes” to retain the most health benefits

Fruits, like blueberries and even tomatoes have more of their health-promoting compounds available when cooked.

Granny Smith is the most nutritious of the commonly available apples like honeycrisp, red delicious and fuji.

White-fleshed peaches have more phytonutrients than yellow- or red-fleshed peaches, especially in the skins.

Find it at your local bookstore or library:

Eating on the Wild Side

Jo Robinson

Little, Brown and Company

Link to Jo Robinson’s website is here.

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