Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Shoppers, Curious Cooks, and Lovers of Natural Foods - Revised and Expanded
by Dianne Onstad
Review by Cathe Olson on VegFamily.com, January 3, 2006
If you are confused about the world of whole foods and want more information, the new revised and expanded Whole Foods Companion is a great place to start. The book is organized like an encyclopedia and lists information for more than 400 different plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, oils, herbs, spices, and more.
Each entry in the book includes information about the plant's origin, buying tips, culinary uses, and health benefits. Sidebars scattered throughout the book offer lore, legends, and other fun facts. For example, The Egyptians served lentils liberally to children because it was believed that they enlightened their minds, opened their hearts, and made them cheerful. The Greeks and Romans used asparagus to relieve the pain of toothaches and to prevent bee stings.
Of course, there's more relevant information as well, like "Raw broccoli contains almost as much calcium as whole milk and is linked to lowering the risk of cancer" and "Exceedingly nutritious, it [millet] contains an abundance of minerals and vitamins, and the most complete protein of any of the true cereal grains."
Even if you are not a newcomer to whole foods, this book can be useful as well as interesting. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about whole foods but I still refer to this book often and have learned from it. This is a great reference and would be a helpful addition to the whole foods kitchen.
In the mood of the Whole Earth Catalog this reference work manages to be both comprehensive and groovy, a certain winner for people who care to know more about the food they eat. Providing information in six categories (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts seeds and oils, and herbs spices and other foods), Onstad is a pleasant, engaging guide. She begins with a representative entry: the Akee. Never mind that its importation to the U.S. has been banned because of possible health hazards; it’s a fruit popular in Jamaica, and the author describes its appearance, culinary uses, and health information. Soon to follow is the apple, which gives Onstad the opportunity to truly flower—she details over 40 varieties, each with their unique flavors and properties. Health benefits and nutrition charts are extensive and wide-ranging, and buying tips advise the reader on what to look for—firm flesh, a particular color, and appropriate season. Lore and legend, where applicable, appear in shaded boxes, and tasteful black-and-white drawings are scattered throughout. Bulk aisle buyers will particularly like the grains section; finally, some advice on what to do with amaranth.
by Tricia Robinson-Pridemore
Recently revised and expanded, The Whole Foods Companion by Dianne Onstad should become your new kitchen reference tool. However, don’t leave it in the kitchen. Take it to the farmer’s market, the supermarket, and keep it on-hand the next time you’re looking for a natural way to relieve a cough or add more folic acid to your diet. No recipes here, just the most important information you’ll ever need about food and how it relates to your health.
Review from ChefTalk.com
by Bob Villeneuve
Cookbook? No. Invaluable resource? Yes! I am a food information junkie. Professionally I am often called upon as a resource for food facts. I keep a good library of cookbooks and food related books both at home and at work. So when a colleague of mine sat down at my desk and asked about the book sitting next to my kitchen bible (The Food Lovers Companion) I told him it was my food New Testament. I have had this book in my possession less than a week and it has a ton post it notes sticking out of it and has earned a space at my desk as opposed to my shelf. The Whole Foods Companion is a well laid out resource book covering the world of botanically based foods.
Dianne Onstad is a strong proponent of vegetarian, natural cooking; however you do not need to follow her food philosophy to get a huge amount of information from this book. Short of a brief mention of animal products in the introduction you are not hit over the head or bombarded with reasons not to eat meat. Instead she spends her time and energy showing the virtues of "Whole Food" and I am glad she did.
The book is divided into chapters (fruits, vegetables, grains, etcetera) with foods sorted by popular use. This can cause a little confusion for the in the know searcher who may be looking for tomatoes in the fruit section (as this is where botanists place it) as opposed to the vegetable section where it has been placed. I don't think that I can even call this a criticism, as it is a bit of a no win situation, just something the reader needs to keep in mind when looking for the trickier items. As recommended in the introduction, if you are having trouble finding something the index will help you out.
Once you have located the food you were searching for you are greeted with well-organized and sorted information. If you are specifically looking for the health benefits of a specific food a quick glance will bring the reader to the "health benefits" heading. Some of the other headings are: culinary uses, varieties, buying tips, full nutritional information, definitions and general information. You will also find a wealth of relevant quotes, folklore and stories.
The amount of information on each item varies from a quarter of a page for some items to multiple pages for other. The scope of product covered is truly amazing. I consider myself a fairly educated food professional and I loved the number of items I kept coming across that I either had very little knowledge of or in many cases had never heard of.
I know that they say not to judge a book by its cover, but you can take a line from the cover of this one "a guide for adventurous cooks, curious shoppers and lovers of natural food". Whether you are new to cooking, a culinary student or a seasoned professional this is an outstanding resource that will be well broken-in in no time.
by Jennifer A. Wickes
Whole Foods Companion is a wonderful resource about foods from the earth. The author, Dianne Onstad, brings us more information in this revised and expanded edition based on her 1994 success!
Dianne Onstad is involved in nutrition education, as well as in the promotion of organic whole foods. She even has a special interest in living and raw foods.
In this impressive reference book, you will find information such as: Buying Tips, Culinary Uses, Health Benefits, Lore and Legend, and General Information on Fruits; Vegetables; Grains; Legumes; Nuts, Seeds and Oils; and Herbs, Spices and Other Foods. There is also a glossary and an extremely comprehensive index.
Despite not having any photographs, this book is quite extensive and thorough. I tried to find obscure items within this text, such as loquats, and I actually did find them. I, also, tried to find some misinformation, such as health information, and was unable to do so. Onstad has done an excellent job once again!
In today's world where everything is prepackaged, I find books such as Whole Foods Companion to be a welcome and refreshing change to becoming a healthier eater.
For anyone interested in understanding more about their food, how to select it, cook it and what health benefits it provides, then this is a fantastic food reference book of encyclopedic proportions!
From Kirkus Review
In the mood of the Whole Earth Catalog, this reference work manages to be both comprehensive and groovy, a certain winner for people who care to know more about the food they eat. Providing information in six categories (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts seeds and oils, and herbs spices and other foods), Onstad is a pleasant, engaging guide. She begins with a representative entry: the Akee. Never mind that its importation to the U.S. has been banned because of possible health hazards; it's a fruit popular in Jamaica, and the author describes its appearance, culinary uses, and health information. Soon to follow is the apple, which gives Onstad the opportunity to truly flower--she details over 40 varieties, each with their unique flavors and properties. Health benefits and nutrition charts are extensive and wide-ranging, and buying tips advise the reader on what to look for--firm flesh, a particular color, and appropriate season. Lore and legend, where applicable, appear in shaded boxes, and tasteful black-and-white drawings are scattered throughout. Bulk aisle buyers will particularly like the grains section; finally, some advice on what to do with amaranth.
Subtitled "A Guide for Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers & Lovers of Natural Foods,"
the Whole Foods Companion surely fits its title. This 513-page compendium of reference
material also includes nutritional and holistic health information.
The topics cover fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and other plant-based foods. No
previously-breathing food items are included. Each entry includes a breakdown of
nutrients, along with general background information, culinary uses, and health benefits.
Some entries may also include buying tips, by-products, and details on different common
What sets this reference book apart from most others is the inclusion of historical
facts, botanical name origins, and lore. The history notes and botanical name origins for
each food item give a fascinating perspective into foods we often take for granted. Lore
and legend information boxes accompany the majority of the entries giving further insight
into timelines and ancient uses.
The two indices are listed by common English name as well as botanical name, making it
easy to locate your target food. The entries include basic common fruits, grains and
vegetables, as well as the uncommon, from Akee to Yellow Dock. Ms. Onstad's writing style
presents the information in a manner that is far from dry, yet packed with facts.
Information is the focus, but the book is also lightly peppered with black and white ink
drawings by Robin Wimbiscus. Also included is a two-page chart of cooking times and
proportions for grains and legumes.
Each cookbook collection needs a food reference manual. The Whole Foods Companion fits the bill admirably. The information is extensive without being overbearing. Readers interested in holistic health benefits and food history will especially enjoy this
You can do a lot of things to improve your health, but none is more important than good nutrition, and none will do much good without it. In the face of massive confusion over conflicting claims about the nutritional value of different foods currently on the market, this book is an invaluable and detailed guide to natural foods that answers a lot of questions for newcomers and old hats, too. It is a perfect companion to your cookbooks, and ought to be required reading for restaurant chefs everywhere. No mere collection of dry nutritional information, Whole Foods Companion also goes into the origins and naming of different foods and explains some of the legends and traditions with which they have been associated. Dianne Onstad explains in great depth the benefits of eating whole foods. After reading this book, you won't look at commercially canned vegetables without thinking of what you're missing by eating them instead of real food.
From Publishers Weekly
Dianne Onstad's The Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers & Lovers of Natural Food provides an encyclopedic guide to hundreds of natural foods. The book is arranged alphabetically within subject categories (fruits from "akee" to "wood apple"; vegetables from "arracacha" to "yautia"). There are also chapters on Grains; Legumes; Herbs and Spices; and Nuts, Seeds and Oils. Onstad explains how to find, fix store and preserve whole foods and describes health benefits, lore and legends. With 100 illustrations and 360 tables, this is a boon for health-directed foodies.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Did you know that cucumbers were once thought to ward off snakes? This is one interesting tidbit of information offered by Onstad, a member and librarian of the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to nutritional and environmental education. The book's mandate to educate and entertain is achieved with an interesting blend of botanical, culinary, and folk information. Organized into broad subject categories like Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains, the text then explores individual food items in detail. Entries open with botanical names and a description of the plant's properties followed by buying tips, culinary uses, and a nutritional/calorie chart for the food in its raw, cooked, or preserved state. The entries are visually interesting, with sidebar information highlighted in boxes reminiscent of Windows screens and botanical line drawings sprinkled throughout that give the feel of an herbal. Informative without being too technical, the text appears to be well researched. Geared to the general reader, this work is nonetheless encyclopedic in its design and content and would make a good addition to any reference collection or kitchen.
--Elizabeth Braaksma, Thunder Bay P.L., Ontario
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Onstad's authoritative and thoroughly up-to-date dictionary of foodstuffs is bound to be popular among chefs, vegans, gastronomes, and those simply curious about the origins of what appears on their plates. This work exceeds the standard definition of a useful reference; it's well written and filled with accessible information. About 400 entries are featured in six categories: fruit; vegetables; grains; legumes; nuts, seeds, and oils; and herb, spices, and other foods. Each entry includes nutritional value, general information, buying tips, culinary uses, and, when appropriate, health benefits, lore and legend, by-products, and descriptions of the more popular varieties.
A definitive guide to the rapidly expanding world of whole foods, this book offers buying tips, culinary uses, health benefits and nutritional tables. It includes detailed entries on hundreds of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, herbs and spices, nuts, seeds and oils, and also shows how to shop for, prepare, store and preserve whole foods. It is intended for chefs, nutritionists, gardeners, herbalists and vegetarians.
Instead of augmenting a diet with additives and supplements, today's food lovers want whole food--as fresh, unrefined and organically grown as possible. Whole Foods Companion is a complete guide to the amazing wealth of natural foods now found nearly everywhere. It includes detailed entries on hundreds of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, herbs and spices, nuts, seeds and oils. 100 illustrations. 360 nutritional tables.