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GROW: A Review of Eating On the Wild Side by Sue Kusch

GROW: A Review of Eating On the Wild Side by Sue Kusch

“Within the past two decades, plant scientists around the world have discovered another major difference between wild plants and our modern varieties: the plants that nature made are much higher in polyphenols, or phytonutrients.”

Given the rising costs of food, it makes sense that we should be spending our money on fruits and vegetables that offer the highest nutritive quality of our food. Right?

How do you know the nutritional values of the food you buy? Truthfully?

Most of us don’t.

Photo credit: steve loya via / CC BY-NC-ND

The Costs of Large Scale Farming

The decision of what we will eat was made long before we find ourselves standing in the produce aisle of our nearest grocery store.  Sadly, none of the decision-making around the industrial production of our food involves its nutritional contribution to our bodies.  Once the wild foods of our landscape, today’s fruits and vegetables have been through countless genetic manipulations over thousands of years of agriculture. The focus of those genetic experiments has been to support a desired taste and ease of handling: we wanted sweeter and longer lasting fruits and vegetables. The cost of our desires was a loss of phytonutrients.

Plant Nutrition

What is a phytonutrient?  Phyto comes from the Greek word phyton which means plant.   Over millions of years, plants developed “an arsenal of chemical compounds that protect from them from insects, disease, damaging ultraviolet light, inclement weather and browsing animals (p.5)." 

But our choices to alter the plants we eat and feed the animals we eat resulted in a steep decline of nutritional density. Our modern culture abandoned the traditional farming practices that supported healthy soil, trading it for large scale applications of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides has has resulted in a dead soil and a significant reduction in plant nutrition.

Using the latest research on bio-nutrition, the author tackles much of the conventional wisdom about fruits and vegetables, challenging what we know and believe about food selection and preparation.  

I love when a book offers scientific findings in an enjoyable and accessible manner! Robinson's book is organized by chapters on individual vegetables and fruits commonly eaten in Western culture, including a bit of history and the occasional trivia-worthy factoid.

Why This Book Matters

The best part? Robinson includes tips on selecting the most nutritious (here's hint: color is the key) from the limited varieties found in grocery stores, and varieties that you are more likely to find at farmers markets and most importantly, ones that food gardeners can grow. 

The book is filed with gazillions of scientifically researched storage, preparation and cooking tips:

  • Did you know that you can increase the anti-oxidants of your lettuce if you tear it into bite-sized piece before washing and storing?  

  • Cooked carrots have twice as much beta-carotene as raw carrots.

  • Canned artichoke hearts are among the most nutritious vegetables in the supermarket.

Take a weekend to read this well-written and easy-to-understand book on getting the most bang for your produce buck.  She also maintains an informative website, that offers a listing of media coverage and reviews about the book and including her NY Times article, Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food

Author: Sue Kusch

Sue Kusch, a former community college instructor and academic advisor, incorporates her experiential wisdom, expertise and science-based research garnered from her three decades of growing vegetables, fruit and herbs into her educational writing about plants and how people use them. In addition to her BA in Social Sciences and Masters in Education, she completed the Master Gardener training in 2011 and two permaculture courses in 2001 and 2014. She has studied medicinal and nutritional uses of herbs including studies at and East West School of Planetary Herbology since 1997. An avid reader, lover of historical and folkloric information, and a promising storyteller, Sue writes about the intersection of plants and people at


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GROW: 4 Must-Have, Multi-Purpose & Most-Awesome Herbs in Your Life

COOK: Winter Roasted Roots by Sue Kusch

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