President’s Note: Eating on the Wild Side

I read all the time. Recently I came across a book I thought might interest those concerned about food quality. The book is entitled Eating on the Wild Side, by Jo Robinson, published in 2013. While not new, it does contain some interesting information concerning the quality of the food we eat or should be eating.

The book is broken into two sections, vegetables and fruits. Each group of vegetables and fruits has its own chapter. You don’t need to read the book from cover to cover. Each chapter stands by itself. I tend to like reference books structured that way; it allows me to grab it and read one chapter without feeling like I have missed anything.

The basic outline of each chapter points out how we should be selecting food based on nutrients and health benefits, not just taste. While this is not groundbreaking, the author spent a lot of time researching journal articles and publications focusing on the health benefits and nutrient and phytonutrient content of various vegetables and fruits.

The author examined how to select the best quality, how to store it and how to prepare it for maximum health benefit. This is a broad topic and sometimes I wanted more in-depth information, but you simply can’t cover everything and keep the book a reasonable length. There are some surprises….

Raw is not always the best way to consume some vegetables. Sometimes even commercially processed can be better than the raw vegetable in delivering the most nutrients. Frozen concentrated orange juice can be better than the bottled orange juice.

The book’s strength is the information on varietal selection and harvest/handling techniques, as well as preparation techniques, to give you the most benefit. Weaknesses (and this is not the fault of the author) are the few specific varieties covered. Realize that only recently has science started to test for phytonutrients, nutrients, and minerals, so not all varieties have been tested. Consumer demand for information is driving this change. Each chapter ends with suggested varieties to grow.

I understand not every variety can be listed, but in many cases, I would not attempt to grow any of the listed varieties. Some varieties may require insecticides and fungicides (which I try to avoid) to grow in the hot humid part of Oklahoma I live in. This is one area that I would need to research and develop a list for my garden. One glaring lack to me was information on squash/pumpkins and cucumbers. I like both and would have liked to see information on each.

Overall, this is a very good book. The author obviously spent a tremendous amount of time researching it. It does point me in the direction of more research I need to do on my own, and shows how careful selection of fruits and vegetables can increase their potential health benefits tremendously.

– David Redhage

President, Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture

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