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The food reference includes the healing properties of foods; in continuous print since 1983.

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An allergen-free, healthy eating program.
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Identify and remedy problems caused by bacteria, fungi, intestinal parasites and viruses.
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Eden Foods

The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Resource for Healthy Eating (Paperback) by Rebecca WoodCover of New Whole Foods Encyclopedia
480 pages, 9 ¼ x 7 ½ inches, illustrations, paperback. List price $20.00.

The bible of nutritional eating–now fully updated for the twenty-first-century kitchen.

The average American’s awareness of the relationship between diet and mental and physical well being has virtually exploded since The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia was first published in 1983. There has never been a greater selection of whole foods available at even a typical grocery store-but the choices can often be dizzying.

This new edition shows consumers how to select, prepare, store, and use more than 1,000 familiar and unusual foods to maintain optimum health and heal what ails them. Readers of Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser- as well as anyone concerned about the quality of the food they ingest- will make this the go-to resource on good nutrition.

This updated edition of The Whole Foods Encyclopedia includes:

• More than two hundred new entries
• A new index featuring home remedies
• Line drawings illustrating unusual foods
• Resources for hard-to-find foods
• A fully cross-referenced format with sidebar recipes throughout

The New Fully Revised Edition is now available!

Cover of New Whole Foods Encyclopedia   PURCHASE NOW

Excerpt — Bitter Melon
Sample Recipe — Fresh Mineola Jam

“An essential reference to keep on your shelf of well-used food books. This book reminds us of the many levels in which is meant to nourish us. It is a gift.” — Sally Schneider, author of The Improvisational Cook

“This will become my bible! A much needed complete reference book for healthy living and eating, filled with information and studded with wonderful anecdotes, Rebecca Wood’s encyclopedia of foods is a “must” on any bookshelf!”   — Nora Pouillon, Chef/Owner, Nora’s, Washington DC. America’s first Certified Organic Restaurant.

I first met Rebecca Wood when we were both teaching at a pristine mountain retreat center in the Canadian Rockies. I can still recall her delightful cooking class dishes composed of wild herbs, whole grains, recently harvested vegetables from the garden, and freshly plucked berries. Meeting Rebecca, I found her attuned to the present and exuding a sense of ease. In speaking with her, I could only begin to plumb the depths of her life experience, which included her natural cure from cancer, and studies with expert cooks, shamans, and master healers. Through the medium of whole foods, she has invested incredible time and effort in bringing a healing message to the world.

A few years later, with her revision of the Whole Foods Encyclopedia in hand, I was enthralled by the lore, insights, recipes, properties of foods, and her intuitive awareness that so clearly touches every part of her writing. One senses mastery and integration. . . In summary, what distinguishes The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia is the blend of wisdom and wit, the personal stories, the anecdotes as well as the hard science you would expect from such a seasoned researcher as Rebecca Wood. She has studied, grown, written about, sought out, and taught whole foods and their cookery over the last thirty years. I can think of no one else in America with her expertise. No other reference is as complete. The book is a superb resource. May you be inspired to dive in and delight in foods that are elegantly simple. — Paul Pitchford, Author of Healing with Whole Foods (Excerpted from the forward of The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia.)

With a title like The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, you wouldn’t think that this kind of tome would make good bedside reading. But it does. If you’re a health geek like me, you’ll have a lot of fun perusing this book, whether in the kitchen or in bed. Rebecca Wood has assembled an A to Z guide to natural foods that is filled with useful and fascinating information on fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, soyfoods, herbs, spices, fats, seaweed—in short, everything likely to be found in a natural foods enthusiast’s pantry or fridge….

Basic information heading included is Medicinal Benefits, Use, and Storage. Each entry is packed with information, yet is written accessibly and there is often something surprising to be learned. For example, Wood is not a huge fan of soy foods but explains why in a way that is devoid of the overblown hysteria you find in some media. She does find favor in fermented soy foods like tempeh and miso, and her reasoned explanations convinced me to use tempeh more often and not always reach for tofu.

Though this is not a cookbook, there are a few dozen recipes for basic uses for natural foods that you may not in fact find in most cookbooks, including how to make nut and seed milks, vegetarian gelatin, nut butters. But sometimes you’ll run across something fun and lovely like Lavender Pound Cake or Rhubarb Spring Tea.

Though anything you’d like to find out about is easy to access due to the alphabetical arrangement of the book, the index alone is worth the price of admission. Here you’ll not only find the entries themselves, but if you want to find a food or herb that has particular healing property, look for that property or ailment in the index an it will lead you back to appropriate entries. For example, you can look up foods for improvement under  Brain Foods, Sedatives, Stimulants, etc.; particular vitamins and minerals; there are index entries for Pain and Congestion; if you need support for a particular body part you can look up Eyes, Liver, Lungs, etc.

If you want to learn about more arcane ingredients like mesquite, lychee, or psyllium, or just want to make better use of more common items like pumpkin seeds, garlic, and bananas, there isn’t a better book with which to do so. – Nava Atlas,

If you eat natural foods, or want to learn more about them, reading The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia will be a treat. The book is an invitation to learn the lore, health properties, and use of more than a thousand familiar and unusual foods and herbs. Each entry consists of a description, a little history or legend, the health benefits, and how to buy (or find) and use it. Author Rebecca Wood clearly delights in her subject–her writing is warm, like love letters to these intriguing foods. “I don’t know what I love most about asafetida–its knock-your-socks-off sulfurous aroma … or … its pungent but pleasant and satisfying flavor,” she writes of the herb also known as devil’s dung. “I also love the way the word rolls off my tongue.” Not all the entries are complimentary, though–Wood tried to like banana squash, but ended up feeding it to her chickens.

Dotting the food entries are sidebars of recipes, preparation suggestions, and weird information that doesn’t fit anywhere else: how horses get sunburned, why young wives fed their elderly husbands celery in the 1600s, tips for not crying over onions, and how to harvest natural chewing gum, for example. You may start by looking up a particular food, but you’ll linger, reading just for the pleasure of it. — Joan Price

Wood has offered up a comprehensive listing of the world’s whole foods. She briefly describes the origins and characteristics of each product of nature, and then she outlines its traditional health benefits. Paragraphs follow on use of the item in cooking, and buying hints to ensure the best version of the product for the uninitiated. An abundance of cross-references help guide the reader through multiple names of the same food. Occasional recipes dot the text, and their simplicity makes them attractive. Illustrations help identify some of the more obscure items such as cardoons, but more thorough graphics would help even tyros in the field. Health benefits claimed for these foods assume agreement with the philosophy of the whole-foods movement, and one may marvel at such sentences as “Garlic and ginger are effective folk remedies for jet lag.” Libraries with high demand for books on natural foods should add this volume to their reference collections. — Mark Knoblauch, Booklist, June 1999

There’s a tendency to let a book entitled The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia languish on the shelf until you really want to know something practical like how to make chicos or how to substitute honey for sugar in a recipe. Even this reviewer let at least a foot of other “must read” material accumulate on top of Rebecca Wood’s latest opus while waiting for the opportune moment to tackle it. What a surprise to find it as fascinating as anything else in the stack!

A renowned teacher of nutritional cooking and healing, this book is her latest in a line of successful whole foods topics. Rebecca’s writing style is as fresh as the ingredients she would have us use, and her anecdotal research is as ample as the scientific facts, rich experience and practical instructions she offers.

Hardy sustainability types will be glad to know how to do things “from scratch” like make our own baking powder. Doubting scientific types may be more accepting of amaranth as a cereal grain if we know it belongs to an “elite group of photosynthetic super-performers which botanists call the C4 group.” Artists who are looking for ways to market original work might take a look at Kalamazoo Michigan’s technique for introducing a new celery variety.

“May all beings be well-nourished” is an appropriate dedication for Rebecca’s book. I feel my life is nourished in many ways by reading it. I will now choose a balsamic vinegar knowing that the brand I choose must say “tradizionale” in order to fulfill the destiny of its taste. My next encounter with the seaweed “alaria” on the Maine coast will be enriched by having learned something about it. It doesn’t surprise me that “alfalfa” originated in Arabia and was called “father of all foods,” but it is good to know the dangers of eating commercially-grown alfalfa sprouts and how to circumvent them (cook them or sprout your own).

The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia celebrates wholeness with a rich feast of fact and fancy. This is probably the only encyclopedia I will ever read cover to cover. I haven’t made it past “C”, even though the tome has made it into my select stack of bedtime reading. After reading that “In New York, Broadway zags off-course at the East 10th Street intersection because a cherry tree once grew there that was more valued than a tidy crossroads,” I slept soundly for the first night in weeks. — Anne Silver, The Crestone Eagle, July 1999


Balsam Pear, Bitter Gourd, Karela
(Momordica charantia)

The bitter melon is not a melon, but rather a summer squash similar to a cucumber in size and shape. Its lumpy, ridged skin is the color of pale jade and its dry flesh is a creamy white.

Medicinal Benefits Cooling and astringing, the bitter melon affects heart, liver, and lungs and has ifying properties. It is a traditional diabetic remedy throughout Asia. In clinical tests, it inhibits glucose absorption, increases insulin flow, and has insulinlike effects.

The bitter taste of this vegetable is due to its quinine content, which makes it good for reducing fevers, pain, and inflammation. It’s an especially good food-medicine for hot flashes, sunstroke, and a common summer cold with a fever. This melon also has diuretic and laxative properties. Nutritionally, it is comparable to summer squash. Bitter melon reduces pitta and kapha.

Use Bitter melon is available as a supplement; however, for a new culinary pleasure, enjoy it freshly prepared . . . but not raw, as one nibble informs you that some technique must be used to mitigate its bitterness. Cooking, pickling, and salting mellow its bitter flavor. To salt, slice the melon in halve lengthwise, remove and discard the brown seeds and the pithy core, salt it generously, and allow to stand for 15 minutes. Then rinse and squeeze out excess liquid before cooking. Taste it, and if the melon is still too bitter for your palate, briefly boil it in salted water, discard the water, and then cook it according to the recipe you’re using. Once cooked, it’s rather like a zucchini with a bitter tang. Bitter melon may be stir-fried, stewed, stuffed, braised, made into a curry, or pickled and used in chutneys.

Buying Look for bitter melons in Asian markets and farmers’ markets and, increasingly, in well-stocked supermarkets. Favor melons that are shiny, firm, plump (not shriveled), and pale green—if dark green, they are immature and extremely bitter. If orange, they’re overmature, soft, and so bitterly inedible. They will keep refrigerate in a perforated plastic bag for about one week. They’re available year-round.

Be Mindful Eat bitter melon moderately, if at all, during pregnancy or if you suffer from low energy with a cold, “empty” feeling in the stomach.

See Gourd Family; Squash; Squash, Summer.


Sample Recipe


The bright alive flavor and color of this instant “jam” make it an irresistible spread for toast, a filling for cake, or a topping for cheesecake or ice cream. Unlike most citrus rinds, Mineola tangelos, Meyer lemons, and some tangerines have a thin and sweet-flavored rind, so any of these would work in this recipe. The Meyer lemon, however, is juicier and so yields a creamy sauce rather than a jam.

It’s wise to favor organic citrus here, as the peels of commercial citrus are high in pesticide residues. I’ve adapted this recipe from Sally Schneider’s award-winning book The Improvisational Cook.

2 organic Mineola tangelos (about ½ pound)
½ cup honey
Pinch of unrefined salt
¼ cup unrefined walnut, palm, or coconut oil

Wash the tangelos and trim and discard their stem end to remove the thick nubbin of pith. Cut each fruit lengthwise into eights, removing any seeds as you go then cut each slice into several small chunks. Transfer to a food processor, add the honey and salt, and process to a coarse puree. With the motor running add the oil; let the motor run a minute or two, until you have a thick “jam.”

Adjust the salt and sugar until you get the right balance and serve immediately. The sauce naturally thickens about 30 minutes after it’s made—to thin, beat in a few teaspoons of orange juice or water.

See Rebecca’s other Book Titles 

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