Eating on the Wild Side: Fruits

The very first question presented is “Where do our fruits and vegetables come from?” They don’t come from local farms, or even large commercial farms, they come from wild plants that grow around the world.

-wild ancestor grows in Malaysia and Southeast Asia
-come in a bunch of different shapes and sizes
-most are full of hard seeds with skins that have to be cut off with a knife
-has been transformed into what we now think of as a banana
-seeds are not viable, but plants are grown with cuttings now
-“generation after generation, we have reshaped native plants and made them our own.”

-When we breed fruits and vegetables we are stripping away valuable nutrients, our new man-made varieties have less vitamin, mineral, and fatty acid contents than wild plants.
-most are also higher in protein and fiber, with less sugar

-“an apple a day did not keep the doctor away”
-at the end of 2 months, the men that had eaten the apples had higher triglycerides and LDL cholesterol levels than they did at the start which means that they have a higher risk of heart attack or stroke

-“As you will see in the pages to come, we will not experience optimum health until we recover a wealth of nutrients that we have squandered over ten thousand years of agriculture, ,not just the last one hundred or two hundred years.”

-humans chose to cultivate the plants that were the most pleasant, because why go to the trouble if they’re unpleasant to eat?

Purpose of the book:
-though living on wild plants isn’t feasible, we can “eat on the wild side” by choosing select varieties of fruits/veggies that have retained much of their nutritional value
-to be able to do this, you need to shop with a specific list
-after you’ve brought these items home “their nutritional fate is in your hands”
-it is imperative to cook/store them the correct ways so as to not lose their nutritional content
-many foods lose their large amounts of their nutritional benefits within 24 hours (broccoli) and therefore it is not easy to use methods of central production with them

Part II: Fruits

Chapter 10: Apples
-have been considered beneficial for 5,000+ years
-lab tests showed that wild apples are much more nutritious than domesticated apples

  • Sikkim apple (native to Nepal) has 100 times more phytonutrients than Golden Delicious apples
    -too bitter for our more modern taste
    -only weigh half a gram a piece (the weight of half a raisin)
    -would need to eat 500 of them to get the same amount of fruit as one medium size Honeycrisp apple, but only 5 to match the phytonutrient content
    -have 475 times more phytonutrients than Ginger Gold apples

-one consequence is a potential to be more vulnerable to cancer
-two species, compared to fuji apples, were more effective at fighting leukemia cells (one having 80 times more cancer-fighting compounds)
-Fuji have “almost no anticancer activity”
-“Any apple that is less than two inches in diameter is called a crabapple. If you can wrap your fingers around an apple, it’s a crabapple.”

  • the vast majority of apples produced around the globe are traced back to a wild species called Malus sieversii (native to central Asia)
    -produces the biggest, sweetest apples of the 35 known species worldwide
    -most extensive forests of them in Kazakhstan in which their branches interlock
    -bears, like humans, favor sweet, large apples
    -one of the least nutritious apples
    -“unintentionally, when our distant ancestors chose the sweet apples from the Heavenly Mountains, they were reducing their protection against cancer and cardiovascular disease”
    -people grew dissatisfied and farmers began creating new varieties

-accomplished the feat of eliminating the element of chance in breeding by a process called grafting

Chapter 11: Blueberries and Blackberries

  • arronia berries (Aronia melanocarpa) 
    -pea sized and come in a red variety and a black variety
    -the black variety has 5 times more antioxidants than the most nutritious blueberries

  • Wild Saskatoon berries (aka serviceberries or Juneberries)
    -have 5 times more antioxidants than domesticated strawberries

-berries have roughly 4 times more antioxidants than most other fruits, 10 times more than most veggies, and 40 times more than some cereals
-typical US adult eats only one tablespoon of berries per week
-the domestication of blueberries grew heavily in 1920 and “tamed” in just 8 years
-grown in Pine Barrens, NJ- soil is acidic, sandy, and lacks nutrients, but blueberries and cranberries love acidic soil
-today more than 75 hybrids grow on commercial farms (and are direct descendants of the 6 original plants)

  • Rubel blueberry
    -is a clone of one of the original six berries
    -was released to growers without being modified
    -when analysts looked at 87 different types of blueberries, it had the highest antioxidant value and second highest anthocyanin content
    -still available today, not in supermarkets but in farmers markets and places where you can pick your own berries

-benefits of eating more blueberries include a potential to slow age-related dementia, and they might reduce risk of cardiovascular disease
-frozen blueberries are ALMOST as nutritious as fresh berries (especially if they are flash-frozen)
-cooked blueberries are better for you than raw blueberries
-even canned blueberries are better than freshly-picked because canning/cooking increases their nutritional content as the structure of phytonutrients are changed by the heat
-dried berries are less nutritious than fresh berries

  • Wild Treasure (blackberries)
    -developed by the USDA
    -new hybrid has larger berries and is thorn-free
    -retained flavor AND nutritional content

Chapter 12: Strawberries, Cranberries and Raspberries

-when choosing strawberries at the supermarket or farmers market you should first look for berries that are completely red
-strawberries do NOT ripen any more after harvest, they usually soften and spoil instead
-semiripe strawberries are less nutritious than ripe ones
-at room temperature they will become “more aromatic and flavorful” AND have more antioxidant activity
-if you want to freeze strawberries you should dust them with sugar or powdered vitamin c because it helps preserve more nutrients

-native to North America
-domesticated in the early 1800s
-incredibly high antioxidant levels
-frequently used to treat bladder infections and can be used as preventative measures as well
-also help to defeat a number of food-borne bacteria (staphylococcus, listeria, and E. coli)
-they have anticancer properties as well
-stay fresh for roughly a week in you put them in the proper drawer in the refrigerator

-domesticated more than 1,800 years ago
-a lot of phytonutrients have been lost since they were domesticated
-roughly 6 grams of fiber per half-cup serving of them

Black Raspberries
-native to North America
-modern varieties are almost as good nutritionally as their wild counterparts
-potential anticancer properties (colon and esophageal)
-can be difficult to find


Chapter 13: Stone Fruits
-family of fruits with soft flesh, and have a large, hard seed instead of individual ones
-peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, and plums are most common

Peaches and Nectarines
-identical except 1 gene (codes for “fuzziness” and other minor traits)
-sometimes peaches appear spontaneously on nectarine trees and vice versa
-supposedly share a common ancestor from China that was domesticated around 4,000 BC
-Alexander the Great is credited with bringing them to Greece after his Persian conquests
-Spanish explorers brought them to the New World in the late 15th century
-to get the best ones at the market you should: choose white-fleshed varieties rather than yellow

-native to western China
-wild ones are about half the size as modern ones
-were one of the most popular fruits that grew in the Mediterranean in the first few centuries AD
-now cultivated to be less resistant to bruising, which makes them less juicy
-to choose the best: wait until midsummer, only pick plump, tight-skinned ones that are yellow or orange with minimal amounts of play yellow, and it should give a little when you touch it in the middle

-the sweet ones that we eat now come from western Asia
-one of the first “Old World” fruits to be grown in the US
-French settlers planted a lot of cherry pits along the Saint Lawrence River
-sour cherries are made into pies
-studies have shown that tart cherries can help speed up muscle recovery after you exercise
-other studies show that some sour cherries can lessen pain and inflammation
-“eat cherries, don’t store them”- they begin to deplete their antioxidants as soon as they are picked
-fresh cherries have bright green stems


Plums and Prunes
-modern varieties of plums have a lot less nutrients than the wild ones, however red, purple, blue, or black plums are best choices at the supermarket
-ripe plums have a slight give
-more likely to be riper and have more flavor in July
-prunes have high amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber
-they also contain sorbitol that promotes microorganism growth in the colon

Chapter 14: Grapes and Raisins
-Muscadine grapes are almost 30% sugar (25% sweeter than table grapes)
-Thompson seedless grapes are the most sold variety but have low phytonutrient content
-grapes don’t ripen after they are picked
-Concord grapes are used for Concord grape juice
-some studies show that grape juice may slow the memory loss associated with old age
-other studies show that they might help thin the blood and reduce risks of blood clots that trigger strokes or heart attacks
-helps keep cholesterol from lining your arteries, and protects normal breast cells from toxic chemicals that damage DNA
-black and red grapes are the most nutritious
-some table grapes that you find in supermarkets have been stored in warehouses for up to 8 weeks
-look for grapes that are plump and firm
-if you shake the stem the grapes should stay on the vine
-grapes are the most heavily sprayed fruits/veggies in the US
-sun-dried raisins are the most popular dried fruit
-95% of them are made with Thompson grapes


Chapter 16: Citrus Fruits
best picked when fully ripe
-do NOT ripen after harvest

-artificially flavored/colored
-appeared in 1959
-sent into space on John Glenn’s Mercury flight in the mid 60s then again on the 1965 Gemini mission
-will never be as wholesome as oranges

Sweet Oranges
-most popular citrus fruit in US
-imported to the US in 1871 and planted in Florida but none of them produced fruit and the 3 surviving trees were shipped to and planted in California
-one surviving tree to this day, was replanted by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1902

-used to all have white flesh (until 1905)
-drinking grapefruit juice can interfere with some prescription medications and a few non-prescription ones
-studies show that it can increase the amount of the drug that actually enters your bloodstream
-ripe grapefruits are sweeter and more nutritious, especially when harvested after December
-skin should be taut and spring back when you press it

Lemons and Limes
native to southern China and northeastern India
-Alexander the Great transported them to Greece
-brought to Haiti by Christopher Columbus
-established in Florida and South Carolina by the late 16th century
-100% of US commercial lime crops are grown in Mexico
-usually, we don’t eat or drink lemons/limes unless they have been heavily diluted and flavored with sugar
-good sources of vitamin C
-have antioxidants and anticancer properties
-fresh ones that are high quality should be firm but not hard, with glossy skins and no soft spots


Chapter 16: Tropical Fruits
-can buy them 365 days of the year
-most popular imports are bananas, pineapples, and papayas

-2nd most popular
-the sweeter variety is the healthier choice
-one serving of MD-2 variety provides 95% of recommended vitamin C
-look for deep green crown leaves
-eat them right away or store them in the fridge for no more than 4 days

-originated in the tropical forests of the Americas
-believed that people in southern Mexico and Central America first domesticated it
-ripe ones are mostly yellow or orange-yellow
-if you press the round end it should have a slight give but the end with the stem should be firm
-continues to ripen after harvest
-can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days

-worldwide people eat more mangoes than apples
-staple in China, India, Southeast Asia, and Latin America
-when you press if gently between your palms it should have a slight give
-will ripen at room temperature after harvest

-native to southern Mexico or northern Central America
-cultivated in HI, FL, TX and CA in the US
-more nutritious than most other tropical fruits
-4 times as much vitamin C as an orange
-yields to gentle pressure when ripe
-shouldn’t have spots or dents
-will keep in the crisper for 3 or 4 days


Chapter 17: Melons
-linked with summer in most minds
-in summer most are grown in US
-other seasons, they are imported from other countries
-in 2010 we imported $478 million of melons, mostly from Mexico
-roughly 95% water
-contain highly diluted nutrients

-wild ancestor native to South Africa
-fully ripe should have dark red flesh
-tap your watermelon in the store, it should have a hollow sound
-foolproof way is to buy ones that are already pre-sectioned

-2nd to watermelons in popularity
-each US adults eats roughly 11 pounds per year
-the blossom end should depress slightly, the stem end should smell sweet and musky
-grow in contact with soil and con be contaminated with bacteria
-wash it thoroughly before cutting and eating

Honeydew Melons
-sweetest melon and lowest in nutrition
-ripe ones feel heavy and skin is cream-colored
-stem end should depress slightly
-shake it, if the seeds rattle it is too ripe


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