As we start thinking through food programming at the two new properties we are working on here in Kerala, our attentions are scattered around the world, but eating wild keeps coming to us from all over. So when the great interviewer Dave Davies discusses this book with its author, podcast here, our attention is riveted:
In her new book, Eating on the Wild Side, Robinson argues that our prehistoric ancestors picked and gathered wild plants that were in many ways far more healthful than the stuff we buy today at farmers’ markets.
But this change, she says, isn’t the result of the much-bemoaned modern, industrial food system. It has been thousands of years in the making — ever since humans first took up farming (some 12,000 years ago, more or less) and decided to “cultivate the wild plants that were the most pleasurable to eat,” she writes. More pleasurable generally meant less bitter and higher in sugar, starch or oil.
“Basically,” Robinson tells Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies, “we looked around at all this wild food that we had been eating for millennia, forever, and we kind of said to each other, ‘We’re getting tired of eating this bitter, chewy, fibrous, low-sugar food, and we can do better than that!'”
And over the centuries, Robinson says, those choices in human agriculture led to a dramatic loss in the nutrient value of the plants we eat most commonly — something she says we had no way of knowing until recently, when modern technology made it possible to do so.
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.
We learn, for example, that longer cooking can boost tomatoes’ health benefits. And that broccoli begins to lose cancer-fighting compounds within 24 hours of harvest — that’s why it’s one of the foods that Robinson suggests people eat “as fresh as possible.”
From the book’s back cover, some quick tips:
- 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. Paradoxically, combining potatoes with oil (French fry alert!) helps keep them from disrupting your metabolism.
- Carrots are more nutritious cooked than raw. When cooked whole, they have 25 percent more falcarinol, a cancer-fighting compound, than carrots that have been sectioned before cooking.
- Beet greens are more nutritious than the beets themselves.
- The smaller the tomato, the more nutrients it contains. Deep red tomatoes have more antioxidants than yellow, gold, or green tomatoes.
- 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. They also have the most flavor.
- Storing broccoli wrapped in a plastic bag with tiny pin pricks in it will give you up to 125 percent more antioxidants than if you had stored the broccoli loosely wrapped or in a tightly sealed bag.
- Canned or jarred artichokes are just as nutritious as fresh.
- 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.
Visit the website for this book and its author.