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survival foods

 
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I plan on building a few hoop houses and growing food for my family. I think we face tough times ahead and wonder about my neighbors and how they will feed their kids. I figure they will see my hoop houses and come asking for food. I would like to give them something to eat. But what? what grows well and would fill people's bellies? Or what would be a good food to grow for my family as well. my plan is for a garden with a variety of veggies. Salad makings and stuff to stir fry. If I were to feed others it would be better if it were something that could be cut/picked and still keep growing. While writing this, potatoes come to mind. Miners lettuce and Purslane. I would appreciate any ideas.
 
gardener
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Location: southern Illinois.
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What grows well often depends upon the grower as well as a variety other factors.  In my high tunnel, I have the most luck with salads greens and tomatoes.  I have grown carrots as well.  I find vines tend to take over.  Keep in mind that it does not rain inside your high tunnel. Make sure your plants get enough water.  I am at the boundary of zones 6a & b.  I have decided not to attempt to grow in the high tunnel in July and August.
 
pollinator
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Potatoes and beans give the most bang for your buck as far as calories go.  Both generally grow very easily and with minimal care.  Plenty of other things grow easily (or can be foraged) that can help fill in vitamins and minerals lacking in those two, but in a real survival situation, calories are what you need most.  If you have the opportunity to add in some chickens, eggs are high fat and protein, things that are very hard to get from veggies alone.  They also supply B12 that is pretty much impossible to get from plants.

If you have space, I would really encourage getting some trees and bushes to supplement.  Plant once and they feed you for many, many years.
 
pollinator
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For me, soup peas are quick and reliable. You can often get two crops in in a year. I plant mine in the fall so they come up early in the spring. If your winters aren't too cold and/or you have good snow cover peas will overwinter.
 
pollinator
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Another one of those, it depends situations. I go with what ever produces the most good food for me with the least effort. I'm in southern Indiana and I grow a wide variety of things. Lots of greens, mostly in the form of turnip, radish and mustard. Also of course tomatoes, some peas and corn. When it comes to survival or sustenance foods I look for things that produce well and are easy to store, preferably without much processing or freezing.

I used to focus a lot on potatoes and winter squash but in last couple decades they have become much harder to get a good harvest. Hot droughty weather, bugs and diseases make for total or near total crop failure more often than not. I also don't consider it a sustenance crop if it doesn't make seeds or if it won't produce a crop in just one season from seed, like potatoes. So again it depends on your weather, soil and other growing conditions.

Beans is a big focus of mine but sometimes they don't do all the well either. In years they do however they can produce a multi-year supply so I will continue large plantings of them for the foreseeable future.   I never used to grow sweet potatoes much but a few years ago discovered some seeds and have since developed a line that consistently produce a nice crop from seed. I find them much easier to grow and store than potatoes. I still grow a few potatoes each year but the sweet potatoes have largely replaced them as a storage crop.

I also recently discovered cowpeas and am extremely pleased with them. This year for example when the beans were badly impacted by drought and bugs the cowpeas produced like mad.  Peanuts as well grew far better than I expected despite the plants being clipped by rabbits a couple of times.

My advise on this topic is to not be too influenced by recommendations, descriptions of nutrition or calories or what not. Instead plant a variety of things, even if they are not traditionally  grown in your area or if you are not familiar with them. Your soil and weather in fairly short order will help you decide where to focus your efforts as far as those key sustenance crops.
 
pollinator
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I wonder if encouraging your neighbours to start down the gardening path might be a good proactive measure. A lot of calories can be grown in container gardens.
 
gardener
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I'll state the old saw: Grow what you eat and eat what you grow!

Your current weather patterns are everything. If you can successfully grow a high-calorie crop, that's important, but don't exclude things like the Chinese or American Chestnut and some other nuts which are high calorie perennial options if the weather is appropriate. Around those crops, learn about edible "weeds" as some of those are super high in nutrition and if they like your garden, they're not much work.

Sometimes you can find a "slightly" domesticated version of a local weed - we've got dock, so now I'm trying to get some varieties of Sorrel going that are in the same family. I regularly add things like that when I'm making bone broth. A friend and I recently made Arugula/Purslane pesto and it was really good and froze nicely in an ice-cube tray. Many people eating the "standard American diet" are high on calories and low on nutrition, so consider not just growing better options, but actually finding recipes to help the neighbors think outside the box. If you're really worried about their children, get those children on board. I found kids would often try something I gave them, that they would have refused at home, particularly if other kids are demonstrating acceptance of the new food. Kids can be taught to chop veg and stir soup, so don't take all the work on your shoulders!
 
pollinator
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What climate you have will influence what you can grow. and not the zone the zone is pretty meaningless for annual plants  it only tells you what the minimum winter temperature is expected to be. For me in hoop houses I grow tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the summer and potatoes in the spring. but those potatoes are not storage potatoes but high value "new" potatoes. For optimum calorie usage they would never get under plastic that space is way to valuable.
 
gardener
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Location: Monticello Florida zone 8a
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Dry beans and peas. Potatoes. Root crops. Maybe an aquaponic barrel to grow fish and helps balance temperature while fertilizing the soil.
 
gardener
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In my climate, some of the crops named here are difficult/unreliable.  The trick is finding what grows easily and reliably where I am.  So far, the champion crop for me is okra.  Put seeds in the ground, water if the drought gets extreme, pick pods early and often.  Stuff chews on the leaves but not enough to matter, and I've never seen anything but people eat a pod.

I would plant lots and lots and lots if I was worried about feeding people.  Yeah, no, it doesn't have enough calories, but it fills bellies pretty well.  A little bit of meat (small game) goes a long way in a pot of gumbo.  I myself prefer to pick the pods tiny (especially if I planted too much) and roast them.  

It also dehydrates well for long keeping.
 
Ron West
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My interest in goats is because of what they provide. meat, milk, cream, and butter. Fats that help keep people alive. Butter for frying eggs and veggies.
 
Jay Angler
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Ron West wrote:My interest in goats is because of what they provide. meat, milk, cream, and butter. Fats that help keep people alive. Butter for frying eggs and veggies.

And manure for your garden! Nowadays people seem to overlook that incredible resource, but manure from animals you know have been treated humanely without toxic gick is a valuable resource.

A local organic farm breeds horses. When they have to treat a horse for worms, they contain the horse and all that manure goes to a separate pile for composting and only gets used on boulevard trees. The de-worming medicine can hurt helpful microbes, but sometimes if an animal is being sold, particularly across a border, they have to be given the medicine to get a Vet certificate.
 
Ron West
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I could get horse manure but I am concerned with what would be in it. It would make filling above-ground beds easier. I appreciate the replies.
 
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don't overlook peanuts a root crop with a lot of protein. they store well too
 
gardener
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There are a lot of great suggestions here, my two cents would add in potato onions (multiplier onions).  They are easy to grow in most areas, and are said to be about the second most productive crop.  (Supposedly staked tomatoes are most productive.)  Here's a thread all about potato onions:  Potato Onions

Potato onions also store well, and of course, are easy to propagate.  You can eat the greens or the bulbs.

I particularly like root crops that essentially perennialize  not only because most of them are delicious and relatively carefree to grow, but also because some of the roots or tubers always seem to escape harvest.  I'm rather thorough, but I've rarely been able to get every potato, oca tuber, sunchoke/sunroot, etc out of the ground.  So if one was worried about, say neighbors raiding their garden - these are great crops for making sure there are leftovers.  

(Unless your neighbors are voles, in which case, good luck.  haha!  Voles ate 1/3 of our 200 head garlic crop before my husband was able to catch them all.  There was no sign they were going to stop eating the garlic, either.  We know they were voles because my husband did manage to catch them, and after they were all caught the garden raids stopped.)

To me, the neatest thing about foods that multiply like potatoes, potato onions, sunchokes/sunroots, green bunching onions, sweet potatoes, oca, yacon, ulluco, chufa, etc is that they are things that provide more than just a meal.  Foods with those characteristics plus a little instruction basically fulfills the "teach a man to fish" concept. I think that's a way to build real security and local resilience.

Thanks for starting this thread.  There are so many thoughtful ideas in here!





 
pollinator
Posts: 3125
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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For survival:
-I would waste money on buying a barrel of cooking oil, that stuff is very calorie dense. Then sugar, followed by whole grains berry like rice, lastly a few bottle of multi-vitamin. We still need a solution for proteins though.

When it comes to actually growing nutrient dense food, these would be my recommendations:
-the cabbage family does great and it overwinters well, so perfect for a fall planting
-the spinach family does well in the summer month, and my rainbow swiss chard grew for two years, overwintering well.

Herbs in the mint/thyme family, celery/carrot family, and onion/chive family really helps to maintain our health and they make our food taste nice.

As for growing actually calories, our options are tubers, fruits and seed/nut/grain.
I don't recommend growing grains, nuts take years to grow. Seeds/Beans might be a good and sunflower and peanut would work.
Fruit are a good one, You can dehydrate grapes to raisins.
For tubers we have potatoes and sunchokes, obviously too to plant and harvest this year like the other non-leafy vegetables produce.

Might I also suggest honey bee hive. esp comb honey that requires less processing.
Chicken-Eggs might also be another option, and they can store for 6+ months too pretty easily too.

 
pollinator
Posts: 710
Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama), Zone 7B
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Something that will be ready late in the season maybe. Some Asian Persimmons (Astringent) and Gogi Berry are ready around Christmas time.  Some berries like Elaeagnus are ready in February.
 
pollinator
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Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
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For survival I would look at what was grown in your area by the indigenous people there.

They knew what fed the people and what grew in the area.
 
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Location: Pueblo, CO
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I believe amaranth does well in most places. Id also perhaps consider Jerusalem artichoke to be a survival food; tasty, spreading, perennial tubers! Ive heard of Swiss chard overwintering in zone 5 with a cold frame.
 
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