The most whole food antioxidants in one sitting… ever.
I feel privileged to have enjoyed a lot of healthy meals. But hands-down, I just had the most antioxidants in one sitting – ever. And I’m loathed to admit that it wasn’t at home. It was at a restaurant.
What made it so healthy? Yes, of course, it was fresh, local, organic, and sustainable. Better yet, it wasn’t just local, it was hyper-local, with ingredients from the onsite edible garden or freshly foraged from within 30 miles max.
But two additional factors – namely, variety and WILDness – brought the ‘X-factor’ of nutrient-density.
I tried to count. There were at least 12 different crazy-looking ingredients in the salad. Most were lesser-known wild edible, even medicinal, herbs and “weeds” such as red clover, chickweed, dock, lamb’s quarters, sorrel, dandelion, mallow, geranium leaves, etc, etc. They were fresh and raw, literally just-picked. Local goat cheese and organic walnuts balanced the dish with delicious creaminess. This was not your grandmother’s salad. (unless your grandmother was a hip forager back in the day) Can you identify the ingredients in the photo below? I present Exhibit A:
Such wild ingredients are known to have exponentially more nutrition than store-bought herbs and vegetables. And yes, many wild components were used for medicinal purposes by our hunter-gatherer ancestors, long before Hippocrates or Galen wrote about dietetics and food as medicine. e.g. Wild lamb’s quarters was traditionally used for stomach aches and scurvy (i.e. severe Vitamin C deficiency), as well as for pain relief and wound healing.1
Over centuries, we’ve cultivated much of the nutrition out of our food in favor of scale, sweetness, and more “palatable” (read: muted) flavor. This is true of our whole foods – not just processed foods (though we have much to say on this latter topic!) Wild species especially tend to have a much higher mineral content than cultivated species.
Purslane is one example powerhouse wild ‘weed’. Purslane contains ten times the amount of potassium as kale. Studies reveal purslane has the highest Vitamin A and Omega-3 content of any leafy green vegetable, and it’s brimming with Vitamins C, E and B-complex, and glutathione.2
Dandelion greens have twice the calcium, three times more Vitamin A, and eight times more antioxidants than spinach!1 One cup of mallow has been shown to contain near 30% more calcium and 70% more protein than a cup of whole milk.3
However, all these nutrients pack a powerful punch to the tongue. Nutrient-dense greens have sharp flavor – they’re bitter. They’re astringent. The medicinal properties of certain edible wild plants can even cause tingling and numbing. They’re not what we’re used to.
Our palettes evolved to favor more bland foods, so it can be somewhat shocking to reconnect with tastes that we’ve lost over time.
My wild foraged salad had a lot going on. It was enchanting and enlivening – and on rare occasion, near jarring – at once.
On the off-chance I took an unbalanced bite of salad – it almost seemed like I had a mouthful of spruce. The experience could only be described as taking a bite of a forest. Talk about food as medicine! It certainly woke me up!
The majority of bites, however, were all well-mixed and enlivening, healthful, and delicious.
“Enlivening” seems the appropriate adjective, as the salad evoked a life-giving, energizing, and healing essence.
Following the salad, we savored local-caught halibut with fresh vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, and wild braised greens. Of course, these weren’t your run-of-the-mill ‘braised greens’. I’m near-certain I spied mallow and nettles amongst the many varied leafies.
I’m no big dessert person. (One lesser-known side effect – er, benefit – of nutrient-dense whole foods such as bitter leafy greens is they help reduce sugar cravings.4) But the handmade ice cream was churned with fresh local cream and rose petals straight from the garden. It seemed rude to leave this unordered! The ice cream was savory and barely sweetened with rose crystals made from the same rose bush. A creamy, dreamy delight.
Where on earth was I, you may be wondering? Traveling through California’s Anderson Valley, en route to the Mendocino coast, lies the town of Philo and the Bewildered Pig restaurant. Blink and you might just miss it.
The ethos of much of the surrounding area is to respect and live from the land. Opportunities for healthy epicurean adventures abound. Let’s not tell too many people, shall we?
Of course, we discovered this gem through our painstaking research and analyses. We spend time each week analyzing menus, ingredients, sourcing, values, and more to find the best of the best! If you’d like to put us to the test for your upcoming adventure or business trip, get in touch to work with us.
Have you enjoyed similar experiences? We’re always on the lookout for the most delightful, delicious, and nutritious meals – anywhere. We’d love to hear about your favorite healthy dishes and restaurants from around the world! Submit your restaurant using our form or type your comment below.
If you enjoyed this article, we think you’ll like:
- Robinson J. Eating on the Wild Side: the Missing Link to Optimum Health. New York: Little Brown & Co; 2014.
- Uddin MK, Juraimi AS, Hossain MS, Nahar MA, Ali ME, Rahman MM. “Purslane weed (Portulaca oleracea): a prospective plant source of nutrition, omega-3 fatty acid, and antioxidant attributes.” ScientificWorldJournal. 2014;2014:951019. Published 2014 Feb 10. doi:10.1155/2014/951019
- Stark PB, Miller D, Carlson TJ, de Vasquez KR. “Open-source food: Nutrition, toxicology, and availability of wild edible greens in the East Bay.” PLoS One. 2019;14(1):e0202450. Published 2019 Jan 17. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0202450
- Wiss DA, Avena N, Rada P. “Sugar Addiction: From Evolution to Revolution.” Front Psychiatry. 2018;9:545. Published 2018 Nov 7. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00545
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