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Staple crops  RSS feed

 
Posts: 177
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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R Ranson wrote:Most cowpeas, at least from my readings and trials, are daylight sensitive... Which basically means that my summer days are too long for them to flower/pollinate/set seed. By the time our days are short enough for the plants, we are too near our frost.

There is a cow pea that grows well in Oregon and Washington state that I hope to try one day. Carol Deppe sells a Fast Lady Northern Southern Pea that is a cowpea that I think will grow well in BC. I haven't tried it yet. But if these yard long peas (which are also daylight sensitive from my attempts to grow them) are related to cow peas... it might make for a potential breeding project.



Thank you, I knew I was forgetting something about cowpeas. I don't remember the name just now, but I did see one of the East Coast Canadian seed companies had cowpeas they were growing successfully. And I feel quite sure I've seen yardlong beans sold at Salt Spring Seeds at some point.
 
gardener
Posts: 1884
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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More thoughts on daylilies, when you dig up the tubers, it's near impossible to get them all. Instead of trying to get them and then replanting a few, I go at it from a "take most" attitude. I think there will be bigger tubers when they aren't so crowded, but the regrowth of the tops will take longer to get to the very lush state, for grazing, and there won't be as many flowers (for pesto or whatever you want to do with them).

Seems like some things are "staples" because they make a lot of calories, and can be stored to eat during winter.

Seems like the only way we can let them go to maturity, instead of eating the blossoms of the squash, instead of eating the greens of the oil plant, the green beans the sweet peas, the tender favas, instead of eating the corn in the milk stage when it is so sweet, to get a crop to storage stage if we have these other things like the very versatile day lily to eat, so I wonder, does that count as a "staple"?
 
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Nothing I've grown called "drought resistant" has survived the summer for me even with irrigation except in my buried wood garden. I couldn't irrigate enough in the summer even to keep so-called "drought resistant" crops alive. The most drought resistant plants I grow are those which can go dormant in the summer. Ones I can think of right now are Canada onion (our large native onion), perennial leek (aka elephant garlic), asparagus (not a staple), artichoke (not a staple), cardoon (also not a staple). I'm probably forgetting some...



I hope this isn't too off-topic, but we were reading this and something occurred to us...see, we're in a situation very much opposite of Tyler in hot/dry Texas: cold/wet Maine. We actively seek crops and companion plantings that can 1) handle waterlogged soils or 2) help dry out overly wet areas. We build raised planting areas for better drainage. We grow like crazy over the short "not-frozen" summer months to store for the long winters. The idea of growing during the cooler/wetter season and store for the dry summer is good, but what about your (Tyler's) situation can you actually change to enable more reliable growing of such storage crops as discussed in the thread?

What's helped us to tackle the situation in a more enlightened way, rather than going in with fill and drain tile like so many conventional peeps would, is to look at what mother nature does in the natural succession for areas like this cold, wet, clayey mud puddle we chose to sink our roots into. I wont go into all of it here but suffice to say that mother nature provides drainage, over time, through successional generations of species building up soil and disturbance actions like fallen/uprooted trees, eventually allowing for something like a walnut or chestnut to grow where a floodplain once existed. By recreating, mimicking or directly applying the methods nature uses to do this, we "speed up" an otherwise generations-long process...intentional disturbances and smart planting can shorten a 200 year long process into a single human lifetime.

I know how it works here...which species and types of disturbance are at play, but what about the hot/dry places? I'm not familiar enough with the dry and arid regions to come up with disturbance suggestions, though I know many have proven super-effective and have a long history of use. What types of "super tough, hardy and tolerant" plants move into areas where there's little water for long periods and intense drying heat during the summers?

Well, what comes to mind immediately is cactus. Sure, there's very little edible cactus - prickly pear is about the extent of my "edible" knowledge of these tough desert critters. But what I do know is that there are dozens, or even hundreds, of species of cactus that will store massive amounts of water over the dry season. Some reach prodigious proportions, storing dozens of gallons of water, casting opaque, water preserving shadows under/around themselves, and have either deep, penetrating root systems that are able to tap moisture well out of reach of many other plants or have large, sprawling footprints creating a subsurface sponge to soak up every drop of rain or dew that happens along.

And it's not just the cactus out there storing water. Another thing I found, while researching melons a while ago (trying to decide if growing cataloupe on our green roof would be smart...it wouldn't be), was the ancient relatives of the modern melon that grow in the african deserts. In otherwise barren, nearly waterless landscapes, these vines would sprout during the "less dry season" and produce large "fruits" filled with water. While in New Mexico for a time, I noticed something growing on the banks around the sides of the roads that I could swear looked like watermelon. It struck me as strange and I pursued it no further...I was always too busy or in a rush to get somewhere so never stopped to check. Could it be another, or even the same, water storing "melon" ancestor? Perhaps a variation of the notorious "pig melon" I've heard about? Any which way, it was a vining plant with huge, bluish leaves and large, watermelon shaped fruits...they were obviously storing water.

So my observation is this: in wet climates, mother nature creates above ground drainage through mounds and organic matter, but in dry climates, mother nature creates above ground water storage through various cactus and melon fruits.

The question, then, is why? The plant itself could just go dormant for the summer and revive when the rains return, right? Why bother storing all this water, especially above ground in a form that's likely to be attacked by thirsty pests and disease. Why waste all that energy moving water around, especially "up", when it's easier to just "hibernate" through the dry? Immediately, my mind runs to mycorrhizae and sharing of resources with the surrounding flora. A "mother tree" cactus acting like a water tower. Water-filled fruits that eventually get buried or rot down to provide water to the community when it's needed most, in the driest part of the year, long after the melon vine has died back or gone dormant.

It seems silly at first, but could it be true that the primary purpose of these desert plants storing all that water is to actually help "irrigate" their little patch of dirt? Has there been any research done on cactus and their mycorrhizal relationships and "mother tree"-ing behavior? I'm no scientist but it certainly seems reasonable and likely. Looking for evidence out there in the real world of this, I've noted that every time you see a picture of a natural cactus, you find various forms of brush and grasses growing around it...where there's no brush or grasses, there's generally no cactus. Not a hard and fast rule I'm sure and likely that there's evidence to the contrary as well, but it's something. I'm not a desert guy (my time in New Mexico was spent hiding indoors from the winds and wondering when the black widows / scorpions would finally take me out!) but those in the dry and arid climates that take some time to observe will most certainly know if this seems right.

It's a thought. Again, hope it's not too off-topic as it's not so much about the staple crops themselves but potentially a way to ensure they can survive a climate like Tyler's (or Ranson's, or anyone else in the swaths of overly hot/dry summer). Planting a few water-storing cactus/melons might ensure a staple crop can be grown in the first place.
 
pollinator
Posts: 10119
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Our native Prickly Pear cactus will sometimes die in drought. The non-Opuntia cacti which survive do so by shrinking down below the surface of the ground. Our native "melon" Cucurbita foetidissima bears fruits which contain very little water (and are pretty darn tiny)...

I'm not sure exactly how to implement the cactus-and-melon strategy in trying to grow food...Or are you saying the cactus and melons themselves are the food? (Sorry, just having trouble understanding the exact idea here)
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Our native Prickly Pear cactus will sometimes die in drought. The non-Opuntia cacti which survive do so by shrinking down below the surface of the ground. Our native "melon" Cucurbita foetidissima bears fruits which contain very little water (and are pretty darn tiny)...

I'm not sure exactly how to implement the cactus-and-melon strategy in trying to grow food...Or are you saying the cactus and melons themselves are the food? (Sorry, just having trouble understanding the exact idea here)



I'm thinking of them as a "support species" - not necessarily edible themselves but there to accumulate a necessary nutrient, much like nitrogen fixing trees or other nutrient accumulating species like comfrey for chop-and-drop that we're all familiar with. In this case, it would be water being harvested and the mycorhizzal network helping to distribute the resource in the way we're just starting to really recognize the redistribution of other nutrients in the wooded forest systems. I'm definitely not an expert on any of this stuff so wouldn't have any scientific evidence to back it up - just a thought on what might help in growing things for an area that's difficult like yours

Anything that captures and holds moisture, can "mine" it from deeper down, or can help reduce heat stress/moisture loss from the soil through shading would be incredibly valuable to me in a situation like yours. Any tools in the toolbox can and should be used in my opinion, regardless of the "native"-ness of the given species, to regenerate and restore the lands, and if in doing so, you get food out of it, all the better. Many times, species that were once found abundantly in an area are no longer found due to our (human) changes to the land through use & misuse...for example, here on my mud puddle and in the surrounding couple of miles, we had what appeared to be zero oak trees due to the logging that's been done (most recently about 8 years ago now), even though they're fairly common all around the surrounding area. A neighbor mentioned that he, growing up here, has never seen oaks in this specific area in his 20-something years but his father tells of a time when they were dominant (some 40+ years ago). After "helping" things along a bit, repairing some of the damage that was done to the hydrology, we've had about a dozen red oaks sprout from acorns buried who knows how many years ago Chestnut, too, has been nearly wiped out (between blight and logging, though the blind panic to cut down every chestnut in the eastern US when the blight hit didn't help matters). A few mature trees, though, were found just one town west of us during aerial surveys, in wetter conditions than we have here, and that area is now part of a (hopefully blight resistant) chestnut restoration effort...so just because it's not growing there now, doesn't mean it doesn't belong there.

In other words, some of the species that would help to repair/maintain your specific biome might be missing today. Considering that the main issue you face is drought and heat during the summer, and there's nothing apparently helping to mitigate this in your area right now, it's likely that something that was once plentiful was cut down, burned, browsed or otherwise removed from the system. Water storing cacti and melons are just a couple things that came to mind that might be "mitigaters" necessary to your environment, if that makes sense.
 
Posts: 82
Location: BC Canada Zone 5&6
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As I read through this I notice people saying carrots, cabbage, turnips,radishes etc are not really staple crops because they have very little energy or calories. They are good to eat but not a staple. I beg to differ and want to suggest something as food for thought, pardon the pun. Yes, we need high calorie foods but they are very taxing on the body. Also since storing these veggies can be difficult for some they can be over looked. Some people can food but if you can veggies there is even less calories and almost no purpose to eat them.

My suggestion is fermenting. If you eat your staple foods balanced with fermented veggies you now have a healthy balance filled with live enzymes and probiotics. I personally think I would survive longer eating nothing but fermented veggies then any "staple"food.

Fermenting veggies is so much easier then canning and if done right can actually last in a cool place for up to a year. Have fun with it by mixing herbs and spices and a variety of veggies all in one jar. There are many recipes on the net. It is as simple as grating or slicing veggies, adding a bit of water and salt ( best use himalayan) adding some weight to keep the veggies under the liquid. Let it sit for 1-4 weeks and you are good to go. I do mine in one gallon jars and when done put in pints or quarts. Anyway, something to think about. I personally believe fermented veggies are my staple because I get live enzymes, probiotics and nutriition to aide in my health.

Here is one link to understanding the basics of fermented foods. http://wellnessmama.com/2245/health-benefits-fermented-foods/
 
Posts: 19
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Getting my husband on board is easy. We have a bit of an obsession with pushing how self-sustainable we can be. So he's game. I do the gardening, unless I need help with some heavy lifting, and he takes care of the animals. Every year we do a little more. We haven't bought meat going on 6 or 7 years. 80-90% of our produce comes from our garden (I can not seem to give up bananas which we can not grow, and we routinely buy carrots because we have such problems with worms in them when we grow them, pretty much everything else we grow and have just learned to eat in season.) We do buy bulk whole grains (wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat) and dry beans (beans, lentils, chick peas) due to space constraints living on a little over 1/5 of an acre. In the future I would like to move to a larger property where we would have space to grow grains and dry beans and have goats and pigs, but for the moment it isn't feasible so we do what we can where we are... which is surprisingly a LOT.

Jerusalem artichoke!!!... I love this plant. It does so well here, seems to have no pests or diseases, and requires no effort. It is really tasty raw or cooked. Thankfully no issues with gas for me or my husband. Both my parents tried it and had gastrointestinal problems though, so if its new to you try it in moderation before going all out...

Winter squash (butternut, in particular... it's my favorite and keeps really well on the shelf. We're still eating squash from last fall and will be for a while yet until the spring garden really gets going)
Pumpkin... doesn't keep as well as the butternut, but still yummy especially in soups

Turnips. One of the few annual root vegetables that provide us good yields and don't end up with too many pests, plus we use the greens cooked in soups and stir frys.

Kale. While I know this does not provide a lot of calories, it provides a lot of bulk to our meals and lots of nutrients especially through the winter months. We eat a lot of kale.

Hazelnuts (slowly incorporating as the trees grow and produce more... lucky these are my absolute favorite nut and they also happen to be one of the best suited to my climate)

We also have planted many fruit trees which will provide more as they get a bit older. In the mean time I just go around town asking all the people who are letting their fruit just fall and rot if they mind me picking it. In the last two years I've only had one person say no.

I have given up on potatoes. I never get a good yield and they are almost always wormy.

We also hunt, raise rabbits and will be adding chickens soon.

Adding some new additions to the gardens this year to see how they pan out as root/calorie crops

-English Walnut
-Cinnamon yam (dioscorea oppositifolia)
-Tiger Lily (lilium lancifolium)
-Ground nut (apios americana)
-Camas (cammasia quamash)
-Chinese artichoke (stachys affinis)
-Hog peanut (amphicarpa bracteata)
-Spring beauty (claytonia virginica)

I am also interested in, but still trying to source or just haven't got around to trying...
-dandelion root (we eat a lot of the greens already)
-daylily (we eat he flowers/buds but haven't tried the roots yet)
-skirret
-salsify
-arrowhead (sagittaria latifolia) I thought maybe I could try growing this aquatic starchy root along with some tilapia fish... probably a project for a few years down the line, but definitely keeping it in the back of my mind
-I also want to try foraging skunk cabbage as it is SO abundant here in the spring. I'm not sure the added step of thoroughly drying before cooking to make it safe/edible will make it worthwhile though. But maybe. I could dry a bunch of roots in the spring and save to cook throughout the year. We'll see.

After reading everyone else's responses I'm thinking I should try broad beans/favas again. I have a lot more garden space than I did last time I tried them and I think as a "filler" before its time to put out the tomatoes or in areas I have nothing else to plant might be useful. Definitely neither my husband's or my favorite, but we used to not like kale either and now we love it so who knows. I may also try corn again, or sorgum, but it just seems to me like it is kind of needy, and not best suited to our climate but a lot of people do still grow it here.

 
Posts: 11
Location: Livermore, CA
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I'm having a nice time with chayote squash, which we call "home defense gourds" in a playful spirit. I also toss supermarket potatoes into the garden whenever I don't get to them quickly enough in the kitchen.
 
gardener
Posts: 3558
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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A recent post got me wondering about the definition of "Staple". So I looked up a definition on Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staple_food wrote:A staple food, sometimes simply referred to as a staple, is a food that is eaten routinely, and in such quantities that it constitutes a dominant portion of a standard diet in a given people, supplying a large fraction of the needs for energy-rich materials and generally a significant proportion of the intake of other nutrients as well. The staple food of a specific society may be eaten as often as every day, or every meal, and most people live on a diet based on just a small number of staples.



I have been including in my definition of staple crop the idea that it needs to be easily stored... Easy storage may contribute to a crop being used as a staple, because then it is more readily available more often. But I'm relaxing my definition of staple to foods that can be produced and eaten in large enough quantities to provide a dominant portion of the diet.

For some members of my family, their staples are sugar, wheat, soybean oil, potatoes, and dairy.

I tend more towards beans, corn, squash, potatoes, eggs, coconut oil, and meat.

 
pollinator
Posts: 1133
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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By the official definition of staples, then I don't have a staple crop. And that's just fine with me. I happen to have chosen a region to settle where I can grow year around. Thus I have access to a wide variety of foods. No need to concentrate upon a few storage crops to get me through a non-growing season.

But before moving here and developing a homestead farm, I would say that back in NJ my staples were potatoes, onions, wheat, dairy, beef, and eggs.....all purchased at a store or restaurant.
 
Posts: 221
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
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In terms of calorie density and how much we actually produce and eat

1. Potatos
2. pig lard and some tallow (pasture grass and acorn calories transformed) here is an article calculating lard yield from american guinea hogs - windward.org
3. other root crops (parsnips, turnips, sunchokes)
4. winter squash (lots of winter squash but it's not nearly as calorie dense as potatos or fat)
3. apples and other fruit (we make cider / wines as a means of storing the apples without so much fiber, makes it more calorie dense)

otherwise we buy soft white winter wheat from growers in goldendale washington.

This is for a community of 5-10 people in semi-arid cold temperate pine-oak woodland. 25 inches of precip, 6 month growing season, hardiness zone 5-6. long hot dry summer (4-6 month without rain).
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 334
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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I know Tyler mentioned it before as an instance of *not* growing "staple crops" when viewing such as potatoes, wheat, corn/maize, etc, but it's really starting to drive home to me the whole notion that the permaculture philosophy lends itself very readily toward a more paleolithic diet.

For instance, in most cases, the design philosophy steers us toward perennial cropping systems that require less work and produce not only food but also multitudes of other benefits (stable soils, microbial life, bird nesting sites, shade, fuel and fiber, etc etc). By their nature, most perennial crops will produce vitamin dense but relatively low calorie fruits, fibrous stems that aren't so digestible to people but work great for feeding ruminants, or starchy/fatty nuts that aren't the best basis for human diets but make excellent feed for other livestock solutions like pigs. This all in contrast to the simpler starch and sugar carbohydrates that the modern Standard American Diet is based around.

This makes it a more "sound" decision from a resource standpoint to utilize the meats from livestock, that are/should be already used as an integral piece of the system to manage plant growth and insect populations, perform soil tillage and weed control, introduce and cycle microbial life, etc, than to focus on trying to grow annual-type "staple crops" that not only take more effort on our part to seed/maintain/harvest but tend to be more prone to diseases or "bad years" and, by their annual nature, aren't quite as "stable" in naturalized or nature mimicking systems (more exaggerated soil disturbance and the eradication of competing "weeds" being necessary to their success).

I remember a line from Mollison in a PDC I watched years ago now where he said that the only thing that should ever leave your property should be walking off with its own 4 legs. He was talking about how much more value you get from raising livestock on the land in a properly managed way than you'd ever get from growing a market garden of tomatoes and squash, applying both in the typical monetary sense and the somewhat more superfluous "monetary equivalents" sense. I think he even said that the most valuable part of the animal was left on the ground in a pile before he left

So, growing acorns and hazelnuts to run pigs through produces a lot more than bacon and ham, but that is pretty much what you end up eating come "harvest time". This as opposed to, rather than in conjunction with, digging potatoes or threshing grains, which gives you little in valuable byproducts and just might even be detrimental to your health.

I don't know - it's something that's been on my mind a lot lately as I look at the growing evidence from the scientific community pointing to organ meats, bone broths and fermented foods being of such a higher caliber nutrition-wise than potatoes, rice and lentils, plus all the research pointing to the sugar/cancer connections, issues with sugar/carbohydrate metabolism and the toxic byproducts/free radical production from it, and the whole "everyone's gluten intolerant"/legumes contain anti-nutrients (phytates) thing.

Perhaps the issue of staple crops is an area where we need another paradigm shift, even within the community?

All that said, I'm really looking forward to getting our potatoes in and the bean trellis set up this season. All the warmth up here the past few weeks has given me spring fever
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 10119
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Tristan Vitali wrote:
Perhaps the issue of staple crops is an area where we need another paradigm shift, even within the community?



That could be another topic. Though I'm glad this thread has sparked thought on the subject of staples, a lot of the comments, to me, would be more suited to their own topic. For instance there's a topic http://www.permies.com/t/47669/paleo/Paleo-Diet-Permaculture-Diet about how permaculture fits with a paleo/primal style diet. On the subject of staples, there's no demand that someone eat just corn, wheat, and potatoes. Someone could grow and eat 30 plant-based foods which supply the bulk of carbohydrates. It's the carbohydrates - calories -, to me, that constitute a "staple crop." For instance, I eat a lot of salad, but I would not call salad a "staple crop" because it does not contain many calories. I want to learn to grow and eat more kinds of tubers and bulbs, because those plants do well here due to their drought resistance. But corn, wheat, and some other common grains are difficult to grow.

Also, I want to be able to talk about crops, diet, staples, etc without talking about eating animals, because some people don't eat animals. I could/should have put this thread in the vegan section and titled it "vegan staple crops" but did not at the time realise that might be necessary in order to stay on topic.
 
Posts: 70
Location: Coastal Southern California
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If you live where they can grow, avocados can supply many calories. Use them in salads with all sorts of cooked, cooled veggies, not just lettuce. And with beans, corn products (tortillas), etc. An excellent, nourishing food.

I'll also second (or third) winter squash, mainly kabocha types. My favorite is tetsukabuto, which is unfortunately a hybrid, but it does so well here and tastes better than any other (to me) that I don't begrudge having to buy seed. They also store very well.
 
Posts: 8
Location: Culver, IN USA
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

I'm with you on the potatoes. We harvested less potatoes out of the ground than we planted, which is just plain sad. We probably did a bunch of things wrong, though, and it didn't help that the deer and the ducks loved eating the stalks.



I'm surprised you had problems with ducks eating your potatoes. We grow 1/8 of an acre of potatoes each year, and typically have had huge problems with Colorado potato beetles. The commercial chemical sponge potato farmers in our area typically crop dust theirs as often as 2 times per week with fungicides, which kill our bees. But they also send the CPB packing - right to our little farm. I used to counter with a spinosad spray, but it cost about $80 each application, typically needed 4 times per season, and spraying is an annoying task.

The last two years, we ran our egg ducks through the potato patch. If they ate any potato plants, it was never a significant quantity. I believe potato plants are poisonous to ducks, anyway. they did trample a few, but not too many. But they eagerly devoured the potato beetles. One day in the patch, and 8 ducks removed almost all of the beetles (while potatoes without ducks were skeletonized and produced nothing). Did that a few times, and was still able to remove the ducks for the required 6 weeks before harvest. We also got duck eggs, which are used to make the best baked goods and ice cream ever.

It worked great until one night when a mink got in through the portable electric net fencing and decapitated all of the ducks. Pre-duck, we would get about 1900 pounds of potato harvest in an average year. Two years ago we harvested 3460 pounds, and last year 4520 pounds. Last year was an abnormally good potato year for everyone, though... But that's about 40% new potatoes and fingerlings, not just big, heavy potatoes.
 
Chad Gard
Posts: 8
Location: Culver, IN USA
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Mick Fisch wrote:
Seriously though, if someone wants to be 'food independant', they really need to figure out how they are going to get their oils. Back home in Alaska we used to harvest hooligan (candle fish) and I know they were an incredible fat source for local native/homesteader populations.

I have a feeling that this is one of those areas where we might be being a little unrealistic. I buy my vegetable oil at the store, so someone somehow is making it in bulk and cheap. How hard is to transfer to a small scale? I looked up one of the sites listed on this string and it was talking about a liter or so of oil for an hours worth of grinding from sunflower seeds. Not sure that's efficient enough for me. My current leaning, in zone 4,5 or 6 is to look at lard production, but I am more than willing to be convinced that there is a better way.

Has anyone out there actually personally harvested a significant amount of oil from something other than olive or animal/fish?



I considered getting the Piteba home oil press, enough so that I once tried one out. I'm not sure the slow rate of production is all that much of a problem, when you consider that most any home-grown-and-pressed oil is going to be raw and unprocessed and likely to go rancid quickly. So, when I tested, I did sunflower seed oil. In a normal week, I might use a cup of vegetable oil (unless I'm making zucchini bread, as my recipe for that uses a LOT of oil). It took about 20 minutes to set the thing up, feed it some sunflower seeds, crank for a bit, store a cup of oil, and toss the pulp to my friend's chickens. That's not too bad.

I you're wanting a source of oil to last a few months, it's not so practical. Lard is probably easier/more practical for, say, a large family. What's really missing is a small commercial scale oil press. There's not much available between a tiny hand-cranked and a $40k mid-scale expeller press. Perhaps something a small community could go for collaboratively, like the grist mills of old. But for "food independence," it would be great for someone to come up with something that could crank out something on the order of 3 or 4 gallons per hour...

That said, I tried growing oilseed sunflowers. It was hard to find initially seed that was an open-pollinated variety (I'm not going to buy seed for oil production every year! Must be able to save seed for something like that), and then I could only find small garden sized packets. Bought 20 packets, and saved all of my seed for the first two years to get enough to grow 1/8 acre of sunflowers. Then the next two years, the birds moved in and ate most of the seed shortly before it was ready to harvest, leaving me with only enough to replant. This year I'm going to try sweet corn again in the plot that would be rotating to sunflowers, thinking I've built up our soil enough to make it worth trying again... On the small scale, at least around here, veggie oil might need to be produced from something other than sunflowers to make it practical...
 
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Ran across an article on NPR about Tiger Nuts/Yellow Nutsedge/Cyperus esculentus. Supposedly a really annoying perennial weed in certain areas, but has an edible root with quite a bit of nutrients and with protein between that of a tuber and a nut. It's been cultivated and used as a crop since Egyptian times, and still used to make horchata drink in Spain. It tastes, supposedly, of almonds, thought the texture leaves much to be desired.

Anyway, it's another perennial food source that I had no idea about, and it grows like a weed. Sounds like a plus to me! Also, it's supposedly one of the new "superfoods" that's all the rage right now. So, if you've got the weed, maybe there's a market for you at you're local health food store!



Another article on Mother Earth News: Nutsedge, the Edible Garden Foe

And, another one here: https://goingtoseed.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/chufa-nuts/. With tips on how to grow and clean them. And pictures! These are some itty bitty tubers! EDIT: These are pictures of Chufa nuts, which have the same scientific name, but are slightly larger and die in the cold up in Quebec (I've yet to see just how cold they need to be!)

 
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Nutgrass is the bane of any gardeners existence. Those "nuts" are connected by the slenderest of long roots that break when trying to pull the darn things up. How one would be supposed to harvest them due to their growth habits of leaving that darn nut in the ground is beyond me. Chufa must be a curse word meaning "I am despicable". There is no way I would ever, ever actually plant these things on purpose. And you gotta be careful too as Chufa is in a lot of wild game plot mixes. Know what you are planting lest you introduce a terrible invasive on your property.

I suppose if I were starving, I could go dig some "I am despicable" nuts, Although the calories expended getting the darn things out of the ground, washing and preparing them would far exceed the nutritional value of them. And just why? There are so many other things much easier to harvest and eat, that taste a lot better too.

Yes if you have some growing, by all means go harvest them and eat them. But do NOT plant these on purpose. I suppose this would be a good thing to know if you were on the TV show Naked And Afraid.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Dana Jones wrote:Chufa must be a curse word meaning "I am despicable".



This made me laugh

Maybe a good candidate for planting in above ground, well maintained tubs where they can't escape...just dump the thing out on a tarp and harvest, then throw the soil to the chickens to be damn sure you didn't miss any before that soil goes back to your gardens
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Tristan Vitali wrote:Maybe a good candidate for planting in above ground, well maintained tubs where they can't escape.



Maybe a good candidate for domestication... Selecting for larger tubers and stronger stolons seems well within the skill set of many gardeners.
 
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The Egyptian variety has been domesticated for thousands of years!

We have some variety of nutgrass here, but like so many things, it doesn't invade. It might even be a native - I'm not sure how to tell them apart, they are all rather similar. I've not tried to dig up any "nuts" yet.

 
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I've been thinking about this for a couple days with a bit of difficulty.
I don't have a gardening/horticultural system nailed down yet and so the staple crops vary year to year as things move along. And my climate is so unpredictable that even if I did have a system nailed down, seasonal fluctuations would promote better growth of one crop than another year to year and so allowing for a lot of flexibility is beneficial for me. For two years I got a lot of potatoes, other years were mostly leafy greens and brassicas, and last year most of the calories came from fruit while the rest of the garden totally failed, hahaha. Most of my calories probably come from animal products at this point although I suspect that will change as I hone in my horticulture. I'm planning to continue the diversity of crops but I'd like to try growing more amaranth and corn for starchy goodness. I live along Corncob Creek, which got its name because of loads of corn remnants left by Northern Paiute people which were found by the first homesteaders and I suspect they'd know what was best for this area, even though the climate was cooler and wetter back then.
 
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I got some of those nutsedge mini-tubers and planted them in a couple different situations. We'll see how they do. I hope they actually taste like almonds.

 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I got some of those nutsedge mini-tubers and planted them in a couple different situations. We'll see how they do. I hope they actually taste like almonds.



I hope the do well for you. I got a bunch this year and they seem to be doing ok. low germination rates, but that is the fault of the squirrels. My suggestion, plant 3 times as much as you think you will need.
 
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One of my 'staples' is the legume in many different forms. This year I'm growing all sorts of them and hope to can and dry a lot to supplement what I've been having to buy. Also tubers such as potatoes, this year again I have it dialed in and a lot of them in.

Other staples are greens from miner's lettuce, dandelions, lambs quarter, plus leaf lettuces, I can get those from early to late (dandelions especially from end of Feb if the snow has left to into Nov just wild yard grown).

This year is also squash, tomatoes, and thanks to Joseph Lofthouse, will try for muskmelons. I plan on roasting and freezing or drying the tomatoes, the others are probably to be dried for later soup and stew. Muskmelons... an attempt at vinting. Heh.

My better half relandscaped some yard today, I commanded him to drag in the compost and this year the area will be garden. I will cover crop it next year. Win-win-win and win.
 
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Some really interesting thoughts Tristan and Tyler!

Tristan - The idea of some hot weather areas having staples similar to a paleo diet is quite accurate. We live in Western Australia - where hot desert meets the beach (its mediterranean climate means hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters). The diet of indigenous people here is based on roots / tubers / meats in winter, and berries / fish in summer. Very paleo.

Joseph - We grow our traditional staple foods like starch vegetables/ potatoes / yams in winter - but unfortunately, they don't store well in the summer due to the heat. I've talked with some friends from the cool northern hemisphere who grow potatoes in summer and then can store them through the cold winter - she tells me everyone gets sick of potato, lol ;P We eat lots of fruit in the summer, bananas, tomatoes etc Nothing stores long term so our "staples" usually come straight from the tree and inside. I define staple as being the primary source of calories / seasonal food - because nothing much can be stored for long in a hot desert / subtropical area.

Rue - Oooh avocados. I love avocados!!

Nicole - Eating weeds sounds like a very clever method of gaining some easy to grow staples. I never liked the taste of the ones I've tried with my weed forager book, but maybe I should focus on finding ones with tubers to roast. All of the leaves I've tried have been sooo bitter! i will see if I can roast some nuts instead.

Mershka - Most indigenous people gain their calories from meat - nothing wrong with that. Corn and meat is pretty yummy too - bonus!
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:What staple crops are you growing these days? ...

I'm currently growing several kinds of roots and tubers; Radish, Turnip, Carrot, Sweet Potato, Jerusalem Artichoke. The other staple crop that did well for me this year is Winter Squash; I seem to have two varieties; Tatume and something I don't know the name of that makes large oblong fruits. These fruits are too large for just the two of us to consume in a short period, so I'll have to figure out how to preserve them, probably by freezing the pulp.



My husband is from San Antonio, where a large Latino population has made Mexican candies very popular. He Candies winter squashes (especially pie pumpkins) like one would candy ginger to crystalize it. Chunks of peeled, deseeded squash flesh are boiled in a sugar syrup, then dried. In Mexican candied pumpkin, I have never seen any spices added, but Lee uses pumpkin pie spices. The result is a candied squash that tastes and has a texture like one would imagine a pumpkin pie gumdrop! here are basic instructions: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Candied-Pumpkin YUM!

Michi in Denton, TX
 
Tristan Vitali
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Mel Green wrote:
Nicole - Eating weeds sounds like a very clever method of gaining some easy to grow staples. I never liked the taste of the ones I've tried with my weed forager book, but maybe I should focus on finding ones with tubers to roast. All of the leaves I've tried have been sooo bitter! i will see if I can roast some nuts instead.



Have you looked for cultivated varieties of the various common weeds growing in your area? Quite often, there's varieties that have reduced bitterness or larger yields and they be nearly as successful in self-propogation if they're grown in their native conditions. Examples I've experimented with are "Magenta Spreen" and "Tree Spinach", which are cultivated varieties of Lambs Quarters...they're self seeding all over the place now...as well as "Golden Purslane" which is a more upright, larger and slightly more mild variety of the common purslane that grows through the cracks in driveways around here. Also, tricks like picking only the baby leaves, or covering with an opaque container for several days before harvest (known as blanching since the plant will start turning yellow/white) help to reduce bitterness - the latter is a common technique for dealing with the harsh bitterness of dandelion.

Mel Green wrote:
Tristan - The idea of some hot weather areas having staples similar to a paleo diet is quite accurate. We live in Western Australia - where hot desert meets the beach (its mediterranean climate means hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters). The diet of indigenous people here is based on roots / tubers / meats in winter, and berries / fish in summer. Very paleo.



Do you do any drying for preservation? I'd imagine drying things for storage would be quite easy as the dryness sets in for your summers, helping to extend your winter harvests' useful lifetime. I can't tell you how many dozens of pounds of dried potato flake I had stored back during my survivalist days Yams, potatoes, tomatoes, banana, etc are all easy candidates for drying and it can be done on the cheap.
 
Tristan Vitali
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Michi Harper wrote:
My husband is from San Antonio, where a large Latino population has made Mexican candies very popular. He Candies winter squashes (especially pie pumpkins) like one would candy ginger to crystalize it. Chunks of peeled, deseeded squash flesh are boiled in a sugar syrup, then dried. In Mexican candied pumpkin, I have never seen any spices added, but Lee uses pumpkin pie spices. The result is a candied squash that tastes and has a texture like one would imagine a pumpkin pie gumdrop! here are basic instructions: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Candied-Pumpkin YUM!

Michi in Denton, TX



That sounds friggin awesome
 
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Tristan Vitali wrote:

Michi Harper wrote:
My husband is from San Antonio, where a large Latino population has made Mexican candies very popular. He Candies winter squashes (especially pie pumpkins) like one would candy ginger to crystalize it. Chunks of peeled, deseeded squash flesh are boiled in a sugar syrup, then dried. In Mexican candied pumpkin, I have never seen any spices added, but Lee uses pumpkin pie spices. The result is a candied squash that tastes and has a texture like one would imagine a pumpkin pie gumdrop! here are basic instructions: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Candied-Pumpkin YUM!

Michi in Denton, TX



That sounds friggin awesome


It sounds too awesome. There is diabetes in my family history
 
Deb Rebel
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Lambs quarters, I grow that here (it volunteers). Fairly good soil and plenty of water, and pick leaves about the size of a thumbnail (or dime) will give you about the best tasting. Short on water, low PH soil, and heat makes it go bitter. I am allergic to lettuce and lambs quarters tastes 'warmer' and less water and the afterbite of the brassicas or the lettuce. It is one of my first spring greens. Even choicer is catching plants under 4" and taking all the leaves (as you weed) that are of any size. Once they go to seed making they turn bitter too. I let one grow this spring in my ground heated hoop, and just took it out (cut and dug) at close to 5' high, after one last harvest.
 
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We're trying not to make sugar a staple! The large winter squash turned out to be very good keepers, and if we hadn't eaten all of them, I bet they'd still be around. I planted many kinds of winter squash this year, but I don't know if we'll get any of those good keepers.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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A couple days ago, I finally chopped up the rest of the moschata pumpkins to make worm food. They were harvested 8 months ago in September. It's squash planting time, and I needed to plant the seeds.

I ate two maximas this week as well. Most of them didn't keep as well as the moschatas.
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:A couple days ago, I finally chopped up the rest of the moschata pumpkins to make worm food. They were harvested 8 months ago in September. It's squash planting time, and I needed to plant the seeds.

I ate two maximas this week as well. Most of them didn't keep as well as the moschatas.



Nice! In comparison, the best of our pepo type "New England Pie Pumpkins" only made it to about the end of February, harvested in late September. Of course, our storage conditions aren't the best they could be, but we've seen pretty dramatic difference in keeping pepo vs maxima vs moschata, with moschata making the best showing. Food for thought...err, uh, storage I mean
 
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Chestnuts
My 2 acre property is gifted with three over thirty year old chestnut trees.  I pray always for the wonderful soul who cared enough to plant them.  They are likely an Asian European hybrid planted in the sixties or seventies. If they remain, they will be here for  several hundred years or longer than all the maples  and the old falling down apple trees and pears, and longer than the sixties speed built house I live in.  Right now they are flowering, or the first is.  For the next month they will have these very strange space age flowers.  Each flower is a male and a female in succession.  You need three trees so the staggered succession of flowering allows the fruit to fertilize. Various bees pollinate the trees, but the flowers are after all the honey suckle and fruit trees, and berries.  It is a strong smell but brings in bees to the green beans and seeding lettuce and cabbage type plants.   I thought my one tree was less fertile, but now I realize it is just the first to blossom! In the fall the large tennis ball picker fruits will  open on a warm day following a cold snap and chestnuts will begin to fall. I will need to wear a hat to walk under them to save my noggin. I will need to wear thick shoes as the picker outer shells are worse than giant burrs.  But inside each burr is three beautiful nuts, though sometimes the nuts drop out before the burr falls when the weather is just right. I will protect my hand with gloves. I will stomp the burr with my shoe to break the nut loose. and  I will pick up a several gallons of chestnuts in a bucket, and invite my friends to pick up more. Kids are much faster at this then grownups. No one bothers with the little poorly formed nuts that will be half the crop this dry year. If you were hungry you could dry them and grind them.  We leave them as a gift to the varmints I guess!
Chestnuts are NOT like walnuts.  They are a starch, more like a bean.  They are starch, not a fatty food. You need to soak them in saltwater to get rid of a little wormy thing that seeks them out.  If you do not, they will get wormy over time. Then you wash them and dry them and cover them tight and  put them in the frig and keep them like fresh vegetables.  When they are right off the tree, I chew them with their dark cover over the nut. Of course if they are not just fallen fresh, they need cooking.  In that dark skin over the nut, is exactly what I need for my sore legs (veins). Like horsechestnut, it is a herbal treatment, but unlike horse chestnut it is edible. Dogs chew chestnuts like bones until they are sick of them, and squirrels go nuts. Deer invade my yard, and groundhogs and squirrels.  A chestnut night with a full moon is kind of like a creature party.   
If I needed a garden staple food, if I was hungrier than lazy, I could guard these ripening trees from the squirrels day an night and have ten times what i harvest.  But as it is I work not at all and have more than i need most years.  It is a literal pain to sweep up the burrs in piles.  They are a base under wood chips in most of my gardens near the trees. They decompose in about a year, but until they do the soil is going to scratch a bare hand.
To cook chestnuts, we score the dark skin in an x shape and microwave or put in a toaster oven until they pop.  We also stick them in the crock pot of meat or soup. They do not taste like a nut.  More like a potato really.  They have been deep fried and that is probably the tastiest prep but the most fattening way to eat them.
If you plant chestnuts, get good stock and get three trees AT LEAST to pollinate them. I have hundreds of seedling growing, but if I was trying to get more trees I would airlayer these known good tasting probably F1 hybrids someone bought from a catalog.   In the city it would mean a couple of neighbors would need to plant with me.  These would be people who would care to take care of these trees, a neighbor calls messy .  They are beautiful trees.  The Asian type are low and spreading and would not bother a tall electric wire, though maybe al lower telephone wire..  There is research now producing American type chestnut trees that are disease resistant and grow very tall and straight. Order from OIKOS, a Michigan Nursery. https://oikostreecrops.com/  ; If you have land that you plan to leave to descendants, or to a conservancy or in anyway keep for a long time, PLANT CHESTNUTS.  They should be far away from OAKS for purpose of cross contamination of pests.  You might never harvest them yourself if you are my age.  However, you give a gift of a staple food to posterity.  Paris made it through World War 2, harvesting chestnuts. Even now many French take holiday when the chestnuts fall.  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/nov/24/its-chestnut-season-in-southern-france/[quote] [/quote][quote] [/quote]The American Chestnut did not succumb to disease until the beginning of the 1900s.  Much of the forest of the USA was chestnut before the blight, and some wonder if this was facilitated by plantings  by aboriginal Americans. The large availability of chestnuts, which seed and reseed themselves with the help of squirrels, was a lot of why pioneers could LIVE OFF THE LAND. There was always this steady fall calorie source to gather for the hungry winter.

There are also black walnuts on this property but they do not seem to be harmful to the chestnuts.  I have no idea how to harvest a black walnut!  What an amazing strong shell.  Inside, the squirrels tell me there is something delicious.  Again if I was actually hungry I might figure it out.
chestnutinflower.jpg
[Thumbnail for chestnutinflower.jpg]
Chestnut Tree In Flower July 1
 
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Joseph! That is how you cook squash!?











That's awesome! Of course!

I love permies... if I spent all day catching up and reading it all, I wouldn't get anything done!
 
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This thread takes a while to get to the end of!

I've been concerned about staples for a while and did some searching before I went to IPCUK last year and came up with a list for different climate zones. I can't find it at the moment - it must be on my work computer. But here's the part I put on my poster which is just the mediterranean and temperate suggestions. I'm in the subtropics so we can grow bananas, avocados, sugarcane, sweet potato, maize. I remember wanting to go far enough north to have coconuts, but they don't fruit here. So the idea is, how much of our staples can we get from perennials?
 
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Keep in mind that a vast percentage of staple foods are fed to livestock who don't need to eat them, and fed to cars, so we don't need to worry about replacing all that capacity, just the amount needed to immediately feed humans.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/plugged-in/the-u-s-now-uses-more-corn-for-fuel-than-for-feed/
 
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Tomatoes! Ha! Anyone can grow that. Amaze your neighbors, grow your own shirt!
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