• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com pie forums private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Pearl Sutton
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • r ranson
  • Joseph Lofthouse
master gardeners:
  • John F Dean
  • jordan barton
  • Carla Burke
  • Leigh Tate
  • Steve Thorn
gardeners:
  • Greg Martin
  • Jay Angler
  • Mike Barkley

How Many Of Each Plant To Grow As A Percentage Of Total Calories

 
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This coming season I want to redouble my efforts to grow all of my own calories while I wait for the forest garden to take off, and I've been trying to nail down how many of each plant to grow. To that end I've built a simple spreadsheet that considers what percentage of your diet you want to come from different staple crops and then calculates how many plants you should grow to achieve that based on expected (usually minimum) yields.

This is about growing calories, not nutrition. It should not be assumed that whatever mix of crops you choose is in any way balanced or that they provide adequate nutrition. It's merely a tool for determining how many calories you can expect to grow with a given mix of plants. Nutrition is a different spreadsheet. 😉

View the screenshot at the bottom for reference.

What the different sections mean:

CROP - Self-explanatory. These are the crops to be grown. The list includes crops that perform well in my region, or crops which I'm experimenting with. It doesn't include southern, tropical, or subtropical crops that won't grow in my region, or crops that require more heat than I can provide, or just things I'm not getting around to experimenting with this season. It doesn't include perennials, except where those perennials provide a crop the first year they are in the ground. I also haven't included a lot of the traditional grains (oats, wheat, etc.) since they generally aren't an efficient use of smaller spaces, plus the hassle of converting common planting densities and yields to yield per plant. The spreadsheet can easily be expanded with additional crops where the relevant numbers are available.
PERCENTAGE - This is the value that you change in the spreadsheet based on what percentage of your diet the crop will account for. You can plug in numbers and compare that to the number of pounds of that crop you need to produce in order to be able to consume that percentage. Alternatively, you can work out percentages by dividing how many plants you anticipate growing by the value under "Plants Per %". The value given as TOTAL will appear red if it is more or less than 100%.
CALORIES/POUND - The number of calories in a pound of this crop. Details about specific crops are given below.
CALORIES/YEAR - The number of calories you'd eat of this crop in a year if it made up the given percentage of your diet.
POUNDS TO GROW - The yield you need to achieve in order for that crop to provide the given percentage of your diet.
POUNDS PER PLANT - This is the number of pounds a single plant is expected to produce. More details are given for each crop below. Where yields can vary wildly, I either used the most conservative estimates available or, when values weren't readily available, I used the yields that are typical for my varieties/bioregion. Some species were given very low values because they don't perform well where I am, or I'm working with untested breeding material. Where your experience tells you these numbers should be higher or lower, change them, but also be mindful of the yields you might expect in a "bad year."
# OF PLANTS - This is the number of plants to plant based on expected yields and the percentage of your diet this crop will account for.
PLANTS PER % - This is the number of plants you need to add or subtract to increase of decrease this crop 1% relative to your total diet. For example, if the "Plants Per %" is ~2 for achira, and you want to increase it from 5% to 6% of your diet, you would need to add 2 additional plants. Can be used to work out what percentage your crop will make up if you already know the number of plants (such as if you are planting one row of a crop and you know how many plants fit in a row.) Simply divide the number of plants you're growing by the value in "Plants Per %" and you will be given the percentage. This can be helpful if you're growing a set number of certain crops and you need to figure out how much of other crops you need to grow to make up the difference in calories. This value will obviously change if you change the number people you're calculating for or the number of calories they consume a day.
AVG. POUNDS/DAY - I thought it would be useful to get a sense of how much of each food you'd be eating on average per day. Not that it's likely that you'll eat perfectly portioned rations of each crop each day, but it helps illustrate any glaring issues with the percentages that have been provided. If you can't eat 2+ pounds of squash every day, on average,  then it wouldn't be suitable to make squash 15% of your diet. Some of that is personal, and some of it is practical. Only you can decide.
# OF PEOPLE - Default is 1. If you're growing for multiple people, increase this number accordingly.
CALORIES/DAY - Default is 2000. This should be adjusted to your own caloric needs. Also, if you are filling this out for multiple people it assumes that their calorie requirements are the same. If that is not the case (such as if you are growing for children, or for adults with different activity levels, etc.), you can either figure out the average caloric needs for the entire group, or fill out the spreadsheet separately for each person. When it doubt, it is probably better to err on the side of growing too much; you can always give your surplus away.

You will likely also want to save some seed/tubers/etc. to replant. As is, the spreadsheet doesn't account for that, so you should grow a little extra just for seeds/replanting where relevant. It also doesn't account for one or more crop failures. I haven't put any extra thought into solving that problem other than to know that one should grow more than the bare minimum to be in the safe side, assuming you're depending on your food to feed you.

SPECIAL NOTES:
ACHIRA - I could not find caloric information for Achira anywhere. Eventually I found calories for a Vietnamese Canna edulis flour as well as a Feedipedia entry for achira that gives it an average dry matter of 24.4%, and from those numbers I calculated a caloric value of roughly 373 calories per pound for fresh achira, which puts it in the same ballpark as oca, potatoes, and sunchokes. The yield per plant comes from Cultivariable; this will be my first year growing achira, so I haven't confirmed those numbers for my garden.
AMARANTH - The yield per plant is roughly what my local seed supplier averages for the varieties they sell, though I've seen varieties marketed as having yields 2-3 times that amount from other suppliers. If you know that amaranth produces more (or less) grain per plant in your garden, adjust accordingly.
BEANS - I didn't break this up into different species and I provided yields based on a per plant yield report for pole beans that I gleaned from the forums here. Quarter pound per plant seems reasonable, but I haven't figured out what I average per plant to see if that's accurate. Take this value with a grain of salt until you know what the actual production for your varieties and region are.
CORN - I calculated the yield per plant for the variety of flint corn I grow based on average number of rows, counting the number of kernels in a row in their seed catalog picture, and calculating the weight per kernel based on the number of kernels per packet. I could've removed my corn from the cob and weighed it to get a more exact number, but I'm trying to keep my corn on my cobs until I figure out what I'm carrying forward as breeding stock, so... 🤷🏻‍♂️.
FAVAS - Yield is calculated from my own dry bean yield this past year, given that I picked a fair amount of fresh favas before letting a crop mature, and given that it was an especially bad year for pests and disease. I expect this to be the absolute minimum yield in a bad year that doesn't outright destroy the crop. In typical years, this number ought to be higher.
OCA - The yield given is for the two varieties I've purchased which are both newer varieties that produce under longer day lengths. Most varieties will perform poorer than this, all other things being equal. Cultivariable provides yields by variety for the most common types, so adjust this number accordingly.
POTATOES - Likely most people will have potatoes that yield at least double the amount I'm suggesting. Most sources suggest 2-10 pounds per plant. I'm working with true potato seed from Peru, so I'm expecting lower overall yields just because of the amount of variability. If potatoes are an untested crop in your garden, the 1 pound figure might be a safe assumption to work from until you actually have a yield to measure.
SUNCHOKES - Most sources suggest yield will be in the 8-10 pounds per plant range; I haven't yet harvested my first crop to compare, and late planting means it would not be indicative of a typical year anyway. The horticultural department at Perdue gives a range of 3-6 pounds per plant, and I've used their most conservative estimate for the basis of my calculations to be on the safe side.
SUNFLOWER SEEDS - I had read that large-headed sunflowers contain roughly 2,000 seeds per plant; assuming that's roughly accurate, I used that number along with the weight and number of seeds per packet to determine the yield in pounds per plant. Take this value with a grain of salt and adjust it based on your real world results.
SWEET POTATO - My region is not prime sweet potato growing country; the most conservative estimate I saw was 1 pound per plant, so that's what I used as the basis for calculations. In a more favorable climate you can probably expect considerably more than that, but I'm disinclined to hazard a guess.
TARWI - This is an experimental crop for me this year and there are not good numbers available for it. Tarwi is supposed to have an average of about 4 seeds per pod, so I did a rough count of the number of pods in a representative photo and multiplied that by the weight of the seed. It's not super accurate, but it's the closest I could get without a crop to measure. I anticipate that this number could be off by 25% or more.
WINTER SQUASH - I like to count the seeds and flesh as two different crops, but I don't have relative weights for the seeds and flesh of the varieties I'm growing. I've opted to include the calories for the flesh alone, but the seeds can obviously provide a considerable amount of calories and nutrition. 20 pounds per plant is the conservative estimate applied to squash grown without irrigation in my region, though yields of 50+ pounds are not unreasonable. If you know what yield squash get in your region, use that figure instead.

That more or less sums up my little project. I build little calculators and such like this for kicks. It's not ready for prime time yet, but if people are interested I'll try to finish it up and make it available as soon as our home internet access had been restored.
Screenshot_20201118-230808.jpg
[Thumbnail for Screenshot_20201118-230808.jpg]
 
steward
Posts: 10900
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
3148
3
hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Nice spreadsheet Mathew!  A couple wrenches to throw into the works...

Just because you harvest 400 lbs of potatoes on September 1st doesn't mean that the last few will still be edible on the following August 30th.  Many of your crops are storable for a year but the potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash may not last without creative processing.

While those numbers may give you the 2000 calories per day that you need, can you see yourself eating 1.1 lbs of potatoes and 2.5 lbs of squash every day?

In my area, the best I can do is 3 butternut squash per plant (6-9 lbs).  Hopefully I'm a bad gardener in an inopportune location and the yield numbers you're going with are close for you.

I'd consider adding carrots, beets, turnips, cabbage, onions and peppers to the mix.  Even if a particular crop isn't a high calorie component (jalapenos?), it can make eating a lot more fun.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mike Haasl wrote:Just because you harvest 400 lbs of potatoes on September 1st doesn't mean that the last few will still be edible on the following August 30th.  Many of your crops are storable for a year but the potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash may not last without creative processing.



Well, you don't need potatoes to to last until August because the first early crop will be available to harvest in June or July. And it's a given that you will focus on the most perishable crops first, or else preserve what you won't eat in time by canning, drying, or freezing. And as shown by Oregon State University's research, growing squash without irrigation (just like they'd been for all but the last fraction of a percentage of human history) dramatically increases the storage life. They say that squash grown without irrigation will definitely last until late spring or early summer, but for good storing varieties most people report storage times of 18-24 months or more. Likewise, storage crop potatoes can easily last a full year under decent (not good, just decent) storage conditions. They won't look as pretty, but they're perfectly edible. Here's Charles Dowding roasting up 11 month old potatoes by way of example: https://youtu.be/FDycyYTYX6w

Mike Haasl wrote:While those numbers may give you the 2000 calories per day that you need, can you see yourself eating 1.1 lbs of potatoes and 2.5 lbs of squash every day?



Considering that we buy our potatoes by the 50 pound sack? And considering potatoes and squash were the staves of life for millions of people for thousands of years, and many more millions of people after they were introduced to Europe? In The Resilient Gardener, Carol Deppe reports that adult Irish males, prior to the potato famine, were consuming roughly 14 pounds of potatoes a day during the fall and winter (they were also active enough to use the 4,000 calories provided by that quantity of potatoes, though I've also seen baseline calorie expenditures in cold environments reported at around 5,000 calories... maintaining body heat just requires that much energy.) Once you subtract imported bread and rice, those calories have to come from something. It'd be like going to Asia and saying "but you could never eat rice every day."

Squash is admittedly a harder sell for me because I've been scarred by bland, lifeless, supermarket squash. When I've had good homegrown squash, it's a treat, but that has not been my typical experience  That's why I specifically point out not making squash 15% or more of one's diet if one cannot eat 2 pounds a day on average (a typical acorn squash, give or take.) In reality, I'd be hoping that my potatoes produce considerably more than the conservative 1 pound per plant that I've allowed so that I can instead feed the squash to the chickens (which is the other alchemical solution to the storage problem... if you can't eat it, convert it into eggs and meat.) But in reality, lots of squash can be hidden in soups, mixed roasted veggies, breads, deserts, etc. I've never had so much squash that I had to TRY to fit it into my diet. But since I'm working on a squash breeding project this year, I'm simply going to have a lot of squash to deal with and learn to love. I will likely have 2+ tons of squash to deal with.

Mike Haasl wrote:In my area, the best I can do is 3 butternut squash per plant (6-9 lbs).  Hopefully I'm a bad gardener in an inopportune location and the yield numbers you're going with are close for you.



Cucurbita moschata (i.e. butternut) does not grow in my region (or yours, by the sound of it.) It's too cool here, and the part of our season that's warm enough isn't long enough to grow them properly. Obviously, people still try to grow it here (and try to breed varieties for our region), and get yields about like what you report, whereas I regularly see yields of 50+ pounds for butternuts grown in regions that they're adapted to. And while I've seen a few reports of people's butternuts lasting for 18 months, more often I see storage times of a measly 4 to 6 months. Pointless to grow here as a staple crop.

The best squash for our area is Cucurbita maxima. A single maxima squash is generally larger than your entire butternut harvest combined. Steve Solomon reports a 20 pound yield without irrigation, and a 50 pound yield by adding 5 gallons of irrigation per plant ever 3-4 weeks during the heat of summer (in an area with no rain for 3-4 months.) For some of the smaller fruited varieties like Buttercup, I've seen reported yields of 50 pounds without irrigation in the next town over from me. And with a storage life easily in excess of 7 months, and frequently in excess of 12 or 18 months, it just doesn't make sense to grow other species as a STAPLE crop. For flavor or variety, sure, but not as a staple.

Mike Haasl wrote:I'd consider adding carrots, beets, turnips, cabbage, onions and peppers to the mix.  Even if a particular crop isn't a high calorie component (jalapenos?), it can make eating a lot more fun.



This spreadsheet is for field crops, not garden crops. The crops you mention are all crops that are grown IN ADDITION to the staple crops, not instead of. It would take 16 pounds of turnips a day to reach 2,000 calories, and most people likely don't eat that many in a year. And given that the average daily stomach capacity for an adult is around 5 pounds, it just doesn't make sense to include them in a calculation of STAPLE crops (5 pounds of carrots wouldn't even break the 1,000 calorie mark.) The crops you mentioned will make up the bulk of the diet BY VOLUME, and contribute necessarily to the nutrient density of the diet, but from a calorie standpoint, they're effectively 0. The point is to not die; for the first 5 months of the pandemic I averaged less than 1200 calories a day and I was eating carrots from the garden hand over fist. You simply cannot survive on any of those crops.

The point of this spreadsheet isn't that it's all that you grow. The point is calories. Seasoning and nutrients are easy. If I grew no vegetables, I could easily forage enough greens and berries to make up the nutritive part of my diet. The reverse is not true. If I grow nothing but vegetables, there's fat chance that I can forage enough calories to fill the deficit, especially with the relative lack of nut trees and wild game in the area.

And even if you grow and eat enough vegetables to offset some of these staples by a few pounds, it's hardly a problem to have some beans and grain left in the pantry next year. In fact, that should be the goal. Have enough in storage that you have some breathing room rather than constantly being down to your last calorie.

This isn't for people who are gardening as a hobby, or people who can afford to drive 15 miles into town and buy food on a whim. This is for subsisting on what you grow, and for those of us with $200 in our pockets to make it through the next 12+ months. Calories are the problem you have to solve in that situation; everything else is secondary. How many kale plants to grow is a question you ask after you make sure you're not going to bed hungry, not before.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3013
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
408
books composting toilet bee rocket stoves wood heat homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I won't comment on the detail of the spreadsheet, but i strongly recommend reading Carol Deppe's book "The Resilient Gardener". She explains what she grows and why, and how she ensures a varied diet through the year while growing her own staple crops. She also talks about acreage per crop etc...
 
steward
Posts: 5682
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
2256
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm not interested in doing the counting, but in case anyone is, here is a photo. I estimate that about 1/4 of the seeds in a sunflower head are empty. (Those near the center, and near the outer edge.)
2020-mammoth.jpg
Mammoth sunflower
Mammoth sunflower
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Michael Cox wrote:I won't comment on the detail of the spreadsheet, but i strongly recommend reading Carol Deppe's book "The Resilient Gardener". She explains what she grows and why, and how she ensures a varied diet through the year while growing her own staple crops. She also talks about acreage per crop etc...



That was one of the books I referenced above and in the construction of the spreadsheet. Hence squash, beans, corn, and potatoes being the primary crops represented, and my comment about turning excess squash into eggs. Definitely a recommended read.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I'm not interested in doing the counting, but in case anyone is, here is a photo. I estimate that about 1/4 of the seeds in a sunflower head are empty. (Those near the center, and near the outer edge.)



Sunflowers are definitely one that I don't have good numbers for. This was my first year attempting sunflowers for seed, and the variety I got was not well-adapted to my growing conditions. Out of two packets of seed I got one flower that made it (mostly) to maturity. It produced maybe 80 seeds, and maybe half of those will actually be viable.

That, along with it being a bad year for cucurbits here, led me to thinking about landraces again and stumbling upon/devouring all of your Mother Earth articles. I've got you to blame for a lot of the new breeding projects I'm starting. 😂

I'll reduce the yield estimate for sunflower by 25% and revaluate after next season.
 
pollinator
Posts: 592
Location: Chicago
169
dog forest garden fish foraging urban cooking food preservation bike
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is a very interesting project you are undertaking!  For yields of sunflowers and other native American staple crops, you might look at Buffalobird-Woman's account as told in "Native American Gardening, Buffalobird-Woman's Guide to Traditional Methods," Gilbert L. Wilson, Dover Publications Inc.

She describes Hidatsa farming, storage, and preparation methods for corn, squash, beans, and sunflowers.  I am told the text is available at http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/buffalo/garden/garden.html now as well.

I find it interesting that she treats "winter" squash as a secondary use of the crop, the primary use being dried "summer" squash used as a vegetable throughout the year.
 
pollinator
Posts: 715
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
183
forest garden tiny house books
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I spent a while figuring out what percentage of our calories from which crops this year, too. I didn't figure out yields since we're not at the point of being able to grow everything yet anyway. Your spreadsheet would be super handy for that.

I agree with you on focusing on calorie crops, not vitamin/mineral/flavour crops. I included parsnips, beets,  and carrots as calorie crops, however. I only looked at one source, but I saw parsnips providing 700+ calories/kilo, and carrots and beets in the 400 cal/k range. That makes parsnips way better than potatoes and beets and carrots pretty close to squash for calories.
 
Jan White
pollinator
Posts: 715
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
183
forest garden tiny house books
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Oh, and someone can correct me if I'm way off, but I don't think sunchokes are a very good source of calories. They're mostly inulin, which we can't digest, so all those calories are going right through us.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mk Neal wrote:This is a very interesting project you are undertaking!  For yields of sunflowers and other native American staple crops, you might look at Buffalobird-Woman's account as told in "Native American Gardening, Buffalobird-Woman's Guide to Traditional Methods," Gilbert L. Wilson, Dover Publications Inc.



That and Lost Crops of the Incas have been on my "to read" list for a while, but I haven't had the gumption to sit in front of a screen long enough to read them (I actually have Buffalo Bird Woman's account open in another tab as we speak.) Carol Deppe mentions the dried squash in The Resilient Gardener and either bred or evaluated varieties for use as drying squash, though I don't recall the specifics. IIRC, she was using C. pepo varieties, which we typically think of as "summer" squashes (though there are notable exceptions like acorn and delicata.) She recommended the large slices as an alternative to bread, which I thought was an interesting use.

I suppose I should re-emphasize that I'm not trying to emulate any system or tradition (though I obviously take some inspiration from what was successfully done here in the past), but rather create a system-agnostic tool that allows people to grow as much or as little variety at they desire and their growing conditions allow (I'd love for it to have crops like cassava, yams, black eyed peas, and all the other things I can't grow... I just don't have numbers for those crops.) Personally, I like having lots of diversity, both from a resilience standpoint, and from a nutrition/dietary variety standpoint. But there's nothing stopping someone from setting everything else to 0% and potatoes to 100% if that's honestly the only staple food they wanted to grow.

Of course, there are limits to universality. Though I'm generally presenting the lowest expected yields from the information I find (or my experience or best guess where the information is lacking), there's so much that can drive those numbers even lower (poor soil, bad weather, pest/disease pressure, poor fertility management, planting at the wrong time, etc.) Growing unsuitable crops, varieties, or poorly maintained/maladapted seed can quickly make the yield 0. I'm sure I could work out how much extra of each crop one would need to grow to cover losing your most calorically significant crop, and that would probably be sufficient. But there's no accounting for everything.

The numbers I provide might serve as a jumping off point, but it would be important to actually weigh the crop each year, see how it compares, and adjust the numbers accordingly. Or get those numbers from someone local to you with similar management practices. All while practicing a bit of pessimism. Assume you'll get less next year rather than assuming you'll get the same or more. The last thing you want is to not get a crop that you're depending on.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jan White wrote:I agree with you on focusing on calorie crops, not vitamin/mineral/flavour crops. I included parsnips, beets,  and carrots as calorie crops, however. I only looked at one source, but I saw parsnips providing 700+ calories/kilo, and carrots and beets in the 400 cal/k range. That makes parsnips way better than potatoes and beets and carrots pretty close to squash for calories.



That's a good catch with the parsnips. I've never grown my own since I've always found them to be kind of sickeningly sweet (at least, sweeter than I generally want in a savory dish), but home grown is always better, right? Knowing now that they have so many calories, I'm inclined to add them to the garden this year and give them another chance.

As far as sunchokes go, that's the caloric value for raw sunchokes. I'm not sure how the inulin factors into that number, but I would be inclined to assume that those are actual digestible calories in a raw state. But I've heard (though haven't seen a study which provides specific numbers) that both acid (lemon, vinegar, etc.) and/or long cooking times convert the inulin to digestible starch. Traditionally they were supposedly baked in pits for 24+ hours. A more modern method I've seen recommended is to steam/simmer them on top of a wood stove for 24+ hours. I'm replanting everything from my measly harvest this year so I can get a decent harvest next year, but the method I'd planned on testing is to cook them in a sous vide (hot water bath). That way they're sealed and pasteurized, so could be cooked for 24+ hours without spoilage (this is also how I like to cook ribs or other meats with lots of connective tissue, since it takes about 36 hours of cooking at low temperatures to break down said connective tissue.) Barring a study to confirm the rate and efficacy of inulin conversion, I suspect the only way to know for sure is to eat them both ways and see how gassy one gets (though, I suspect there'd also be a flavor difference if the inulin was converted.) I'll do some digging and see if I can find actual numbers. I feel like there might have been something on Cultivariable...
 
Jan White
pollinator
Posts: 715
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
183
forest garden tiny house books
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mathew Trotter wrote: I'm not sure how the inulin factors into that number, but I would be inclined to assume that those are actual digestible calories in a raw state.



I've heard that calories are calculated by looking at the grams or protein, carbs, and fat in a food and assuming 4 or 9 calories per gram, depending on macronutrient.  If that's correct, digestibility wouldn't be factored in.  I got that from an article talking about how cooked food tends to be higher in calories than the same food raw.  You won't see that when you look up calorie counts, though.  And that's because they use the grams of each macronutrient like I mentioned above, instead of actually getting out a bomb calorimeter.

I'd forgotten about the long cooking times converting the starch, though.  That probably makes a big difference.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jan White wrote:Oh, and someone can correct me if I'm way off, but I don't think sunchokes are a very good source of calories. They're mostly inulin, which we can't digest, so all those calories are going right through us.



It looks like inulin conversion is a function of time, temperature, and pH. The lower the pH and the higher the temperature, the less time it takes to achieve 100% conversion. I didn't see any examples of inulin conversion in the absence of acid, but the abstracts I perused showed 100% conversion between 45 minutes and 5 hours, depending on temperature and pH.

Recommended methods for home consumption were to boil in lemon juice or ferment in order to increase the acidity. Based on the relationship between acidity, time, and temperature, I suspect that simply cooking them for a long time as suggested previously would work, but obviously it would take in excess of 5 hours in the absence of acid. It's probable the 24+ hour recommendation is accurate if conversion without strong acidity is possible.

And without inulin conversion, Cultivariable did suggest that the number of digestible calories was about half that of potato.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
steward
Posts: 5682
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
2256
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

I realized that I have data on sunflower for my farm, because I grew a seed crop of them this year for Snake River Seed Cooperative.  

Approximately 50% of the planted seeds didn't germinate, or got culled for being off type, or blown over by a wind storm. Actual seed increase, in safe storage at the end of the season,  was 80 times what I planted.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
I realized that I have data on sunflower for my farm, because I grew a seed crop of them this year for Snake River Seed Cooperative.  

Approximately 50% of the planted seeds didn't germinate, or got culled for being off type, or blown over by a wind storm. Actual seed increase, in safe storage at the end of the season,  was 80 times what I planted.



That seems light to me, though I suppose that's the point of erring on the low side. Losing half of what was planted and getting a return of 80 times means there'd be ~160 seeds yielded per plant. When I divide the sunflower you posted into roughly 144ths and count the seeds I come up with roughly 1,100-1,300 seeds across the entire head. That would be approaching 10 times the reported yield. Even accounting for 25% empties, that's a massive difference... And I don't think my count is THAT off. Maybe it is. That's the difference from about half an ounce per plant to a quarter pound, give or take a bit depending on how you factor the weight of a seed. (I've seen between 188 to 300 seeds an ounce for Mammoth.)

Either my count is way off, or the seed you produced was significantly lighter than the seed you started with, or your losses were significantly higher than 50%, or something.

At the lower extreme, they hardly seem worth planting.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
steward
Posts: 5682
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
2256
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

I don't grow sunflowers as a food crop on my farm, only as a seed crop. I can't process them into food using human-scale equipment.

Yield of sunflowers is much lower than corn, wheat, or beans, which can all be processed and prepared for eating with simple tools like a stick and tarp.



 
pollinator
Posts: 1435
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
22
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If you want to live from your garden I would count things differently. Its about starch protein and fat. Starch is potatoes protein is already more difficult and fat only doable if you slaughter or milk.
 
Jan White
pollinator
Posts: 715
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
183
forest garden tiny house books
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Angelika Maier wrote:If you want to live from your garden I would count things differently. Its about starch protein and fat. Starch is potatoes protein is already more difficult and fat only doable if you slaughter or milk.



I understand your point, but still think Matthew's calorie method works.

Unless you're eating an extremely limited diet, it's almost impossible to not get enough protein. On a fairly limited diet, it might be necessary to eat a couple specific foods to top up an amino acid or two. Those foods would be in the flavour/nutrition category that can basically be whatever else you can forage or happen to get in the ground that year. To put things into perspective, a kilo of potatoes provides 16g of protein. My daily protein requirement is about 45g.

Fat actually isn't as hard to get as people think either. I lived for about ten years as a raw vegan, getting the vast majority of my calories from fruit. Just eating fruit and veg, about 5% of my calories were from fat. Eating a handful of nuts and seeds or an avocado a day was enough to bring that up to 10-15% of calories. The sun and squash seeds in the garden could go a long way. Matthew mentioned feeding crops to livestock, so I think he's got it covered either way🙂

My understanding of the spreadsheet is it's more about Matthew ensuring basic survival off his land than anything else. I think it would be super handy.

 
Jan White
pollinator
Posts: 715
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
183
forest garden tiny house books
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I just double checked my numbers, and parsnip is actually about equal with potato for calorie count, maybe a little lower, not more. Still good, though.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Angelika Maier wrote:If you want to live from your garden I would count things differently. Its about starch protein and fat. Starch is potatoes protein is already more difficult and fat only doable if you slaughter or milk.



Tarwi is 40% complete protein and 20% fat. Corn and beans combined are a complete protein. Amaranth is 14% complete protein and 7% fat. Sunflowers are 21% protein and 51% fat. Squash seeds are 30% protein and 49% fat. Potatoes are upwards of 20% protein when they're not grown in badly degraded soil (see Carol Deppe's The Resilient Gardener for the historical protein content of potatoes and Steve Solomon's The Intelligent Gardener for a discussion of when plants produce protein versus carbohydrates.)

Steve has lived as a "vegetabletarian" for almost 40 years (in fact, it's probably been 40 years at this point, given that The Intelligent Gardener came out 8 years ago.) What he means by that is that he lives almost entirely on the vegetables from his garden, but won't turn down meat or animal products if that's what's offered at the dinner table of someone else's home. He's doing just fine living off the garden without slaughtering or milking. I myself was vegan for 7 years when I moved to the city and could only get factory farmed meat and animal products. Would I prefer to get some calories from meat? Yes. But is it necessary? No.

No, this spreadsheet doesn't give a way to dial in specific macronutrients, but as seen by the competition between popular diets at every combination of macros, humans can survive at pretty much any macronutrient breakdown as long as they have enough calories. And considering I've lived on almost entirely rice and beans for the past 9 months (and only 1200 calories a day for more than half of that), this constitutes a welcome variation. My goal isn't to build a tool that spits out a perfectly balanced diet (I'm not a nutritionist, I'm a gardener), it's to make sure I have enough to not go to bed hungry. This is for people that have been displaced from their subsistence farming roots and simply have no idea how much food has to be grown to support a single person (which describes most of us in the developed world.) And again, this isn't supposed to be the sole source of food. You're also supposed to grow (or forage) nutrient-dense but calorie-poor vegetables, and raise livestock (or hunt, fish, and trap) if one is so inclined, and all of this to support the production of perennial food systems AKA food forests. Within a year or two, part of these calories will be complemented by berries and other precocious perennials, within 3 to 5 years they will be complemented by most fruits and the most precocious nuts, and finally by the slowest to mature fruits and nuts over the following 5 to 45+ years. For one to two years? Humans can survive even if it's not a perfectly balanced diet. Animal products need not factor into that, but if they do (I myself have chickens), then as I've already stated, it's not really a problem to have beans, and grains, and seeds left on the pantry shelf at the end of the year. Anything perishable can be fed to livestock, composted, bartered, or sold. But those products have far more protein and fat than your post suggests and can do just fine in the absence of animal products.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jan White wrote:I just double checked my numbers, and parsnip is actually about equal with potato for calorie count, maybe a little lower, not more. Still good, though.



Haven't added them to the spreadsheet yet, but they're on my mental list for this coming year. Actually, I might go add them now to see how things balance out...
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mathew Trotter wrote:

Jan White wrote:I just double checked my numbers, and parsnip is actually about equal with potato for calorie count, maybe a little lower, not more. Still good, though.



Haven't added them to the spreadsheet yet, but they're on my mental list for this coming year. Actually, I might go add them now to see how things balance out...



Turns out that past me was already planning to give parsnips another go and added them to my order list for this year...
 
pollinator
Posts: 1881
Location: Denmark 57N
477
fungi foraging trees cooking food preservation
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I certainly wouldn't want to eat that diet, I couldn't eat that much potato and squash. But it is a very interesting spreadsheet and I guess you could add extra pages for protein/fats etc and add other products like eggs without really doing much extra to it.  I know you don't have perennials on it but cider and beer were major contributes to calorie count back in the day. For us most winter squash are hit or miss but boring pumpkins generally make it with a yield of 40lb per plant minimum. they last until around December but would need preserving past that. Potatoes I would say you're fine on them, early potatoes can be ready by June and will give around 1/2 lb per plant at that stage but main-crops give 2-4lb for us so it all balances out, (however you would need to make adjustments for how many of each type) There is only a month or so without decent potatoes, and the stored ones may not be their best by June but if you keep them dry they will still be edible if a bit soft. Parsnips are very good, high calorie and very easy to plant and harvest they are harder to store than potatoes.

For my climate I would have to swap beans for peas, beans cannot be relied upon to produce a storable crop here but peas always will. Sunflowers, sweet potatoes oca and corn are also all out, in fact that list wouldn't work for me at all, but the spreadsheet behind it is very interesting.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2484
Location: 4b
644
dog forest garden trees bee building
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just a couple random thoughts, disregard as necessary.

1)  Articles I have read lead me to believe that it is impossible to get enough B12 from a vegan diet, so keep that in mind if you are going to try to eat vegan.

2)  Be sure and factor in for those times of a complete crop failure of one or more types of plants.  I have had years when I lost nearly everything except a couple types of plant.

3)  I have lots of room, so I plant several times as much of everything as I think I will need.  If you save your seeds (everyone does, right?) it doesn't cost more except with regards to time.  Excess is easy to give away or feed to chickens.

3)  I feel sorry for people that think parsnips are food

4)  I would never try to survive on what I can grow in my gardens alone, and I probably have much larger gardens than most people.  I consider chickens necessary.  Eggs have lots of fat and complete protein.

5)  I love squash, and I grow many hundreds of pounds of it a year, but if I had to eat nearly 3 lbs a day, every day, I think I would rather starve.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Skandi Rogers wrote:I certainly wouldn't want to eat that diet, I couldn't eat that much potato and squash. But it is a very interesting spreadsheet and I guess you could add extra pages for protein/fats etc and add other products like eggs without really doing much extra to it.  I know you don't have perennials on it but cider and beer were major contributes to calorie count back in the day. For us most winter squash are hit or miss but boring pumpkins generally make it with a yield of 40lb per plant minimum. they last until around December but would need preserving past that. Potatoes I would say you're fine on them, early potatoes can be ready by June and will give around 1/2 lb per plant at that stage but main-crops give 2-4lb for us so it all balances out, (however you would need to make adjustments for how many of each type) There is only a month or so without decent potatoes, and the stored ones may not be their best by June but if you keep them dry they will still be edible if a bit soft. Parsnips are very good, high calorie and very easy to plant and harvest they are harder to store than potatoes.

For my climate I would have to swap beans for peas, beans cannot be relied upon to produce a storable crop here but peas always will. Sunflowers, sweet potatoes oca and corn are also all out, in fact that list wouldn't work for me at all, but the spreadsheet behind it is very interesting.



Then you'd really hate to see how my numbers have evolved. 🤣 I'm now at well over a ton of squash. Granted, I'm breeding squash, and the numbers are reflecting what I'm actually going to be planting and I'm at over 200% of caloric intake overall using relatively conservative yields. But, I also cracked open one of the squash I'm saving seeds from and compared the weight of the seeds to the weight of the flesh. Obviously without comparing yields from multiple squash and multiple plants those numbers aren't super helpful, but it would work out to roughly 1 pound per plant based on the numbers from that one squash... and as far as I'm concerned, the seeds are the star of the show.

But it brings up another point. I've had the displeasure of comparing store bought squash to home grown this week. The store bought squash was insipid. The home grown squash was nearly orgasmic. Which makes me think that most people are either making judgements based on the quality of what they're getting at the store, or else they're so used to getting calories from processed oil and sugar that getting enough calories from whole foods seems insurmountable. I know that I couldn't eat that many store bought beans, but my home grown beans are amazingly flavorful.

I also think people tend to see these numbers and imagine eating these ingredients whole and minimally processed. No, I couldn't eat 2 pounds of squash a day if it were simply roasted or steamed. But it could be turned into bread, pancakes, ravioli, pasta sauce, soup, dumplings, pie, flan, ice cream, curry, chips, fruit leather, etc.

But at the end of the day, I see squash as a survival crop. Something you can grow a ton of because you can, but with the hope and expectation that you'll have enough fruit, vegetables, nuts, meat, eggs, etc. that most of it will end up going to feed livestock, but you still have it just in case.

And thanks for reminding me about peas. I have them in my seed order, but I haven't actually looked up numbers and added them to the spreadsheet yet.
Screenshot_20201120-114735.jpg
[Thumbnail for Screenshot_20201120-114735.jpg]
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Trace Oswald wrote:Just a couple random thoughts, disregard as necessary.

1)  Articles I have read lead me to believe that it is impossible to get enough B12 from a vegan diet, so keep that in mind if you are going to try to eat vegan.



Valid point. I wasn't planning on it, but I was vegan for 7 years and never actively supplemented b12, though I undoubtedly had enriched foods at some point. There are bacteria which occur in some ferments, and which appear in people with healthy gut flora, which are the vehicles with which commercially produced b12 is created, but in a world of antibiotics and a whole list of -cides, one shouldn't expect that gut flora will do a sufficient job. Attaching a list of b12 producing bacteria because I found it interesting.


2)  Be sure and factor in for those times of a complete crop failure of one or more types of plants.  I have had years when I lost nearly everything except a couple types of plant.



This was one such year. Pest pressure was through the roof because of the mild winter we had, and then my dog was out of commission for three weeks and the deer took that opportunity to mow just about everything to the ground. We also didn't have water or electricity until September-ish, so production slowed down with the drought of summer.

So far I've worked it out to about double what I need, assuming conservative yield estimates (but certainly higher yields than 0.) Given what's more typical for a lot of the crops I'm most familiar with, I'd put a liberal estimate at about 4 times what I need. And that's just from these "staple crops". It doesn't include yields from livestock, hunting, foraging, and the little bit of production I'll get from my young food forest. I'm considering that extra which will offset my staple production.



3)  I have lots of room, so I plant several times as much of everything as I think I will need.  If you save your seeds (everyone does, right?) it doesn't cost more except with regards to time.  Excess is easy to give away or feed to chickens.



This past year was the first year that I had a proper garden on acreage. A lot was from saved seed, but I'm still building up my seed stock. Everything that I'm buying in, I'm buying in bulk, though I do have some things I'm more limited on than I'd like, and things like corn where I technically grew enough plants to prevent inbreeding depression, but I want to buy in some extra genetic material to be on the safe side.



3)  I feel sorry for people that think parsnips are food



I'm going to give them an honest try this coming year, but in general I agree. I've never had home grown, so maybe that will change my mind.



4)  I would never try to survive on what I can grow in my gardens alone, and I probably have much larger gardens than most people.  I consider chickens necessary.  Eggs have lots of fat and complete protein.



I technically had a small winter garden before I got my chickens, but chickens were basically the first thing I got after we "finished" building. That first egg was a serious morale boost. Where we were camped out on the property was about half a mile from where we built, so I didn't have much garden the first few years.



5)  I love squash, and I grow many hundreds of pounds of it a year, but if I had to eat nearly 3 lbs a day, every day, I think I would rather starve.



I basically consider it survival food? Other than the seeds, which I genuinely enjoy freshly roasted. But I understand the "rather starve" sentiment. I got that way with chickpeas. That and rice were two of the big things I had stored up going into lockdown, and I eventually got to the point where I'd have a few bites and feed the rest to the chickens and just not eat that day.

I weighed the seeds and the flesh from one of my squash, and though not as ideal as averaging several squash from several plants, I used those numbers to provide a rough estimate of the seed yield relative to flesh on the spreadsheet. But really, the goal is to have better yields than the bare minimum so that I can have more of the crops I really enjoy (plus what I hunt, forage, grow in the vegetable garden, harvest from the food forest, etc.) and save the squash for the animals. Plus, I expect to sell or trade a lot of it for things that I can't produce (yet) like butter. I expect squash to be one of the things that'll actually bring in a bit of income this year.
Screenshot_20201120-140521.jpg
[Thumbnail for Screenshot_20201120-140521.jpg]
 
pollinator
Posts: 261
Location: SE Indiana
147
dog fish trees writing
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love your spreadsheet and anxiously awaiting the nutrition version. I assuming as long as you know the initial values you can just plug in any crop you want.

I wish I could grow squash but the bugs and diseases here make for total crop failure more often than not. Potatoes also have become very difficult to produce in quantity and near impossible to produce seeds. My long storage fresh produce is sweet potatoes which in my climate can produce well above your figure so I've replaced both squash and potatoes with them. I don't yet know what an actual yield per plant is as I have been focused on breeding and haven't attempted to learn their actual preferences to maximize production let alone attempted to provide it but even in poor conditions, soil and water wise, its above a pound per plant. Sunflowers are a bust here too, would cost more calories keeping the birds away than you'd get although I reckon if things got bad enough you could eat the birds.

I also would have a hard time producing all of our calories from just my garden but with sweet potatoes, beans and cowpeas I could make a stab at it. Looks like from your sheet if I add amaranth I could really boost it.

There is a selection of wild berries and greens here to forage but biggest prize there is nuts, especially pecans. I have on occasion filled my truck bed completely with pecans and they keep fine in a metal garbage can on the porch. We also have plentiful small game. Rabbits, squirrels and turkeys are plentiful, I love turkey. Fish, frogs and crawfish can also make a nice meal. I'm not at all big on dragging a deer carcass up and down steep hillsides but it's an option if all else fails.  

 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mark Reed wrote:I love your spreadsheet and anxiously awaiting the nutrition version. I assuming as long as you know the initial values you can just plug in any crop you want.

I wish I could grow squash but the bugs and diseases here make for total crop failure more often than not. Potatoes also have become very difficult to produce in quantity and near impossible to produce seeds. My long storage fresh produce is sweet potatoes which in my climate can produce well above your figure so I've replaced both squash and potatoes with them. I don't yet know what an actual yield per plant is as I have been focused on breeding and haven't attempted to learn their actual preferences to maximize production let alone attempted to provide it but even in poor conditions, soil and water wise, its above a pound per plant. Sunflowers are a bust here too, would cost more calories keeping the birds away than you'd get although I reckon if things got bad enough you could eat the birds.

I also would have a hard time producing all of our calories from just my garden but with sweet potatoes, beans and cowpeas I could make a stab at it. Looks like from your sheet if I add amaranth I could really boost it.

There is a selection of wild berries and greens here to forage but biggest prize there is nuts, especially pecans. I have on occasion filled my truck bed completely with pecans and they keep fine in a metal garbage can on the porch. We also have plentiful small game. Rabbits, squirrels and turkeys are plentiful, I love turkey. Fish, frogs and crawfish can also make a nice meal. I'm not at all big on dragging a deer carcass up and down steep hillsides but it's an option if all else fails.  



I got a couple of birds for dinner this year, and the neighbors got the blacktail buck that destroyed my garden (almost 350 pounds, which is pretty obese for a blacktail... they couldn't even drag it up to the road with 2 ATVs and winch.) I had a bunch of wheat pop up from a mulch that our excavator operator had put down, and which I'd planned on harvesting since it was here, but the squirrels beat me to it. And they always disappeared before I could grab the gun, otherwise I would've had a few meals of squirrel. City life ruined me, anyway. I'm not as good of a shot as I was as a teenager.

Amaranth is definitely a powerhouse. I think it was before Bountiful Gardens went out of business, they had a variety that was advertised as producing 1½ pounds of grain per plant. While I sincerely doubt it would produce that much in my climate, I would still be inclined to make it my primary crop if I was limited on space. I imagine it would also make an effective trellis for beans, just like in a three sisters garden, though I haven't personally tested that. I think Suburban Homestead on YouTube used amaranth as a trellis for cucamelons.

I wish sweet potatoes were more reliable here. I grew some slips from supermarket potatoes and planted them this past year, but it was so late in the season by the time I actually got slips off of them that I didn't get a yield out of them. I moved what was left of one of the plants into the greenhouse after we got a light frost, and I'll see if it comes back up after the weather warms. I think our winters are mild enough that I could overwinter sweet potatoes with enough mulch over them, assuming rodents and disease don't get them.

If you are growing cowpeas in an area where they'll actually grow well, the minimum yield that I found in my research was actually closer to 1 pound per plant. I have a variety that's theoretically adapted to our climate, but I have my doubts about them reliably producing that much in my climate. I figured a quarter of that was a good guesstimate for my area, but I could be way off in either direction. I'll know more after next year.

Have you tried seminole pumpkins? It sounds like you're in the right climate for it, and I think they're bug and disease resistant, though I have no experience growing in a climate like that.

And I'm not sure how much nutrition information will make it into the spreadsheet, since it's intended as a baseline for what to grow and excludes a major chunk of the diet... it could never paint the whole picture. I might add in macros just to get a baseline, but I don't know how useful that information is. If you read Steve Solomon's The Intelligent Gardener, he discusses how the mineral balance of the soil effects how much protein plants make relative to carbohydrate. Carol Deppe also has a discussion on potatoes and how the average protein content is now about half of what it used to be. I could simply parrot the macro values provided by the USDA, but presumably most of us are building better soil than what commercial crops are grown in, so the nutrient profiles of our foods are likely to be wildly different. Meanwhile, carbs and protein are the same number of calories per gram, so calorie values should stay consistent regardless of growing conditions. Just by growing according to permaculture principles, basically all of the nutrition data that's available will be wrong.

The only big nut harvest I could get from the property at the moment are acorns, which I might decide to actually deal with next year. There are native hazels, but they're relatively low yielding and the squirrels usually get them first. I do want to propagate them and spread them around the property in the hopes of growing more than the squirrels could ever get to. The only other thing I know of growing in the area are black walnuts, but I don't know of any growing on public land where I'd have access to them. I'd love to get a few started out here. I just put some chestnuts in the fridge to stratify, so I'll have those in a few years (assuming the "raw" seeds I got from the store aren't heat treated like the majority of commercial chestnuts are.)
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Does anyone have good numbers for dry peas (Pisum sativum, not cowpeas, etc.)? I converted the numbers I got from industrial scale variety trials, and the numbers just seem off. It worked out to a yield of like 7 peas per plant, which seems like a massive underestimation. I mean, I'm all for using conservative yield estimates and being pleasantly surprised when the yield is higher than that, but 7 peas per plant seems like they're massively under-performing from my experience with peas.

I mean, I suppose if I replicate their planting density over one of my 400 sq. ft. rows, that works out to 11-18 pounds, which I suppose isn't unreasonable for that amount of space (not that I'll have enough seed to replicate their planting density.) But that still seems like a massively low per-plant yield.
 
Skandi Rogers
pollinator
Posts: 1881
Location: Denmark 57N
477
fungi foraging trees cooking food preservation
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mathew Trotter wrote:Does anyone have good numbers for dry peas (Pisum sativum, not cowpeas, etc.)? I converted the numbers I got from industrial scale variety trials, and the numbers just seem off. It worked out to a yield of like 7 peas per plant, which seems like a massive underestimation. I mean, I'm all for using conservative yield estimates and being pleasantly surprised when the yield is higher than that, but 7 peas per plant seems like they're massively under-performing from my experience with peas.

I mean, I suppose if I replicate their planting density over one of my 400 sq. ft. rows, that works out to 11-18 pounds, which I suppose isn't unreasonable for that amount of space (not that I'll have enough seed to replicate their planting density.) But that still seems like a massively low per-plant yield.



For low peas I get around 4 pods per plant for high peas that's 8 pods per plant each pod is about 8 peas for the short and 10 peas for the tall. It is a very low yield per plant you get with peas planted for maximum yield per area. you can get a lot more yield per plant but you lose yield per acre.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Skandi Rogers wrote:For low peas I get around 4 pods per plant for high peas that's 8 pods per plant each pod is about 8 peas for the short and 10 peas for the tall. It is a very low yield per plant you get with peas planted for maximum yield per area. you can get a lot more yield per plant but you lose yield per acre.



I had a suspicion that it came down to the optimum yield per acre being at a spacing that sacrificed yield per plant. I imagine trellising would also increase the per-plant yield, which might be practical on a home scale (depending on how many you're growing) but wouldn't be on acreage.

While there's something to be said for optimizing the yield from a given space, for the home grower there's also the economics of the seed itself. If you can get 75% of the crop by halving the planting density, that might be a better use of the seed and one's labor.

What plant spacing are you using to get those yields?
 
Mark Reed
pollinator
Posts: 261
Location: SE Indiana
147
dog fish trees writing
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Peas are another crop that is becoming more and more iffy here. I always plant a few for fresh eating but no way could I depend on them for even a modest fraction of total diet. This was the first year I grew cowpeas and I was shocked at their vigor and production. I planted one little trial patch about 3' x 12' in the worst part of the garden in the root zone of a big oak tree. I didn't tend or water them at all and I got a 2 liter pop bottle full of seeds plus some that we ate, thinking I'll plant a couple 50' beds in the back garden next year.

Mathew, about sweet potatoes, I've been breeding them for some time but like I said have not bothered to research all that much on their preferences to maximize production. I am fairly confident they do not like temperatures below 50 F so I don't know what one that had it's foliage frosted will do in storage especially if it doesn't have a significant storage roots. I'm 100% positive though  that if you have a south facing window in your house you can easily grow them as houseplants all winter and eat the fresh greens as much as you want. Come spring a week or so before you're expecting night temps above 50 just clip off some small stems and make your new plants to put out. They do better as new starts rather than setting out a root bound plant, any three or four inch piece with a growing tip will sprout roots in a few days.  
 
Skandi Rogers
pollinator
Posts: 1881
Location: Denmark 57N
477
fungi foraging trees cooking food preservation
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mathew Trotter wrote:

Skandi Rogers wrote:For low peas I get around 4 pods per plant for high peas that's 8 pods per plant each pod is about 8 peas for the short and 10 peas for the tall. It is a very low yield per plant you get with peas planted for maximum yield per area. you can get a lot more yield per plant but you lose yield per acre.



I had a suspicion that it came down to the optimum yield per acre being at a spacing that sacrificed yield per plant. I imagine trellising would also increase the per-plant yield, which might be practical on a home scale (depending on how many you're growing) but wouldn't be on acreage.

While there's something to be said for optimizing the yield from a given space, for the home grower there's also the economics of the seed itself. If you can get 75% of the crop by halving the planting density, that might be a better use of the seed and one's labor.

What plant spacing are you using to get those yields?



The short peas are two rows on a 3ft bed with 1inch between seeds, the tall peas are one row on a 3ft bed with 1 inch between seeds. I get slightly more weight per plant from the tall peas(6ft high) but less weight per bed. I am harvesting fresh, so need to be able to walk up and down between the rows easily. you could have less gap between the rows if you were only going to come in once and do a single destructive harvest. I plant and trellis around 350ft of tall peas each year.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Mark Reed wrote:Peas are another crop that is becoming more and more iffy here. I always plant a few for fresh eating but no way could I depend on them for even a modest fraction of total diet. This was the first year I grew cowpeas and I was shocked at their vigor and production. I planted one little trial patch about 3' x 12' in the worst part of the garden in the root zone of a big oak tree. I didn't tend or water them at all and I got a 2 liter pop bottle full of seeds plus some that we ate, thinking I'll plant a couple 50' beds in the back garden next year.

Mathew, about sweet potatoes, I've been breeding them for some time but like I said have not bothered to research all that much on their preferences to maximize production. I am fairly confident they do not like temperatures below 50 F so I don't know what one that had it's foliage frosted will do in storage especially if it doesn't have a significant storage roots. I'm 100% positive though  that if you have a south facing window in your house you can easily grow them as houseplants all winter and eat the fresh greens as much as you want. Come spring a week or so before you're expecting night temps above 50 just clip off some small stems and make your new plants to put out. They do better as new starts rather than setting out a root bound plant, any three or four inch piece with a growing tip will sprout roots in a few days.  



That's good to hear about the cowpeas. I hope that my test plot this coming season performs similarly. Only time will tell.

And that's why sweet potatoes aren't a great crop here. We can have 40-50 degree temperature swings between day and night because we're between the mountains and the ocean, so even if we hit triple digit temperatures during the day it's a rare thing for our lows to be above 60. Our lows hold pretty stably in the mid-50s, regardless of daytime temps, so heat loving crops just flounder here. Okra is one of the things I'm trying to breed for our climate... I think the best plant I've had so far produced maybe 4 pods. Still got my work cut out for me. But at least I got a good seed crop this year, and I'll be adding one or two more varieties to the mix this year.

The sweet potato I brought in had a healthy looking root system, in my estimation, just not good eating size. If it has enough energy to sprout again, the plan was to take cuttings from that to plant a bed in the ground. If it doesn't, I can always start another batch of slips. We don't have heat yet, other than small electric heaters to keep just the bedrooms warm at night, so I don't know if I can actually keep it warm enough for growing them out inside. It might be about 10 degrees warmer inside than outside, once you factor in the insulation, but that would put it at the mid-50s at best during the day, and not worth getting out from under the covers after about 7pm. I tolerate it marginally better than sweet potatoes would. 😂
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Skandi Rogers wrote:

The short peas are two rows on a 3ft bed with 1inch between seeds, the tall peas are one row on a 3ft bed with 1 inch between seeds. I get slightly more weight per plant from the tall peas(6ft high) but less weight per bed. I am harvesting fresh, so need to be able to walk up and down between the rows easily. you could have less gap between the rows if you were only going to come in once and do a single destructive harvest. I plant and trellis around 350ft of tall peas each year.



Those are good numbers to have. I would want to harvest some fresh, but most could be left for a single destructive harvest. I could have one row in front with easy access for fresh harvest and several more behind that I wouldn't touch until they were mature. That's more or less how I do my beans.
 
Mathew Trotter
pioneer
Posts: 416
Location: Oregon 8b
109
monies dog forest garden fungi foraging homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've added scorzonera to the list. Harvested my first root last spring from what had overwintered and it was to die for (reminded me a lot of cassava.) The yield and calorie densities are about equal to parsnip, and I'd much rather have the scorzonera. It's another one I'm upping my production of this year.

I know scorzonera and salsify are generally lumped together, but I'm not sure how the yields/calorie counts compare. I ended up going with scorzonera over salsify when I went to buy salsify seeds, so I haven't actually grown salsify yet.
 
He baked a muffin that stole my car! And this tiny ad:
100 ways to cut one's personal carbon footprint - in order of tons of carbon
https://permies.com/t/159647/ways-cut-personal-carbon-footprint
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic