Jo Robinson’s book, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health*, is a wonder. Its premise is simple: in our quest to make our staple foods look good, sturdy enough to survive long transit times, and more palatable (i.e., sweet), we have bred much of the nutrition out of it. Since we can’t go back to eating a true hunter-gatherer diet, each chapter offers tips for choosing the most nutritious foods we can within our modern food system.
This book is, simply put, genius. Divided into two large sections on vegetables and fruits, each chapter features a different food or food group. At the start of each chapter, Robinson hooks the reader in with an interesting historical or scientific anecdote. She then discusses the transition from the wild versions of a plant to the modern domesticated one, and suggests the best types to buy and grow, along with serving suggestions and interesting facts about the various foods. Did you know white-fleshed peaches contained more phytonutrients than yellow ones? I certainly didn’t. That cooked blueberries are even better for you than raw ones? News to me. Or that allicin, found in garlic, can be as effective as penicillin?
Most chapters also include a featured recipe, such as the Armenian Lentil Soup in the chapter on legumes, a tomato salsa, Black Plum Sauce (Stone Fruits) or the mixed fruit salad with Thai herbs (Melons). Every chapter ends with a chart of recommended varieties to look for when shopping or to grow yourself in the garden, as well as a bulleted list of the chapter’s major points that makes a great reference when you are ready to shop for seeds and plants for the garden, or for produce at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
Another reason I love this book is that Robinson provides a thorough list of references to the scientific sources for each chapter’s claims; being able to follow up on a thread that has piqued my interest makes the pleasure of the book last that much longer. Not to mention, Robinson’s writing style is casual yet engaging: even though I fully intended to savor the book bit by bit, somehow I found myself speeding through it eagerly. Because I did cruise through the book so quickly, I am certain there is more to be found in another, closer reading. The book is so pleasant to read, I look forward to revisiting it again and again.
* = Affiliate link.