I am just finishing this book, "Eating on the Wild Side". It was written by Jo Robinson, who visited Powell's in downtown Portland, and I bought the book personally from her. The main idea is that we have bred our nutrition out of our food in seeking bland, sweet, transportable, reliably productive and identical foods. It is in two main sections, fruits and vegetables. It is absolutely packed with ideas about varieties, history, methods of preparation, storage and serving, and options for improving the nutrition of our foods. It is available at libraries for those patient and cheap souls who don't want to buy the book. I want to hold onto it as a resource. She is from Vashon Island, WA and actually grows the varieties she talks about in her book. She has lists of what types of each species to grow and how. I highly recommend it to anyone who eats lots of fruits and vegetables, which tragically is not most Americans.
I'm glad she is keeping some old varieties going. I doubt that these would test any better than the produce grown by many of our members who do it in rich, organic soil. But I'm sure that her produce is healthier than the supermarket variety.
I ate on the wild side all week, since I'm working in a spot where Himalaya berries are running rampant. At the prices that these fetch in an organic market, I can pick $75 worth in an hour.
Great question, Jocelyn,
She tries to cover almost all of the "regular" fruit and vegetables that people have traditionally eaten and grown in temperate climates in the US, plus a lot of berries and some vegetables that are somewhat unusual. She covers what zones they will typically grow in. She doesn't go into super detail about soil drainage, disease resistance and exact hours of sun but she will go into whether they prefer fertile soil or unfertile soil. It's not as much a gardening book as a book about the relative health value of different plants and which varieties and ways of preparation and storage can maximize antioxidants, phytonutrients, and general nutrition.
I just finished reading it, loved it, and learned a ton. (To think I believed heirlooms were always the better choice!) Though it undoubtedly has some use as a varietal guide for the gardener, I think it's best used for determining what to shop for in the grocery store or farmers' markets. I agree, it's an excellent book, thoroughly researched and well laid out.
I listened to this book a couple years ago and am still ruminating over and sharing bits and bobs from this book. The author painstakingly describes almost every category of produce and what and why certain varieties are more nutritious and delicious than others, which includes, as John mentioned, how to shop for and select the best, most peak plum, carrot, etc. and then how best to store it, and how/when to chop it, and so on.
Partial spoiler alert: chop or mince your garlic ten minutes before you cook it. Read the book to find out why. I love telling people about this little gem of info.
There is an awesome plant / varietal list for gardeners, too.