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Nut trees as urban staple crops?

 
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Location: Oregon (Portland Metro) Zone 8B
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I know they say you need like something like 5 acre per person to feed a human being right? Like this makes sense assuming a "standard modern diet". We're talking corn, wheat, meat etc.

But realistically is it possible to reduce that land requirement by changing what we consider to be staple crops? For example if your average city lot had several semi-dwarf trees of various fruit, nut, olive etc varieties , plus maybe a backyard animal crop like chickens, rabbits etc might a couple or small family (i.e 2 parent plus kid) be able to get closer to self sufficiency on say 1/4 acre or less? I don't assume they could EVER reach full self sufficiency because of how much FEED animals require, and how hard it is to get enough nutrient input into the soil, but certainly dependence on the global industrial food system could be lessened? And perhaps this model of using more indigenous and traditional staple crops would improve community resiliency to climate change??

One of the things that got me thinking about this was reading more about traditional indigenous diets of the PNW and how the majority of their calories came from nuts (Nut meal/flour) fruit and wild animals. I was reading Parable of the Sower last year and one of the food sources referenced by our apocalyptic main character was acorns.

I wish I could jump ahead 5 years to when all my fruit and nut trees are fully producing and see just how much they can supplement the diet or even in what places home grown crops could replace commercial staples.

PS: Try not to be too harsh on my silly ideas i'm young and still dreaming!
 
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Most nut trees are fatty, it is advised to also eat starch.

So plant chestnuts if applicable in your location, those are high in starches.

I have read somewhere that in fromer times, the rulers wanted the commoners to get rid of the chestnut trees,
because with the chestnut tree in their backyard the commoner was less likely to go to work to earn coin to exchange that for food.
 
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I think nut trees are a great idea (I've planted monkey puzzles, but that is long term thinking!) chestnuts would have been high on my list, but they don't grow well here. Other pine nuts may also grow well for you, but these are all big trees. In a limited area you may be better with hazel nuts of some variety.  For all nuts you will need to think about critters.  They seem to get them first and are not so fussy about whether they are properly ripe. Acorns I haven't tried myself, but are an easy food to forage in a mast year, so you could give it a try before planting mighty oaks! They will probably need leaching (soaking in water) to remove some of the bitter taste.
Personally for welfare reasons I wouldn't take on animals unless I could be sure of a food supply for them: eg. no more rabbits than will graze on my lawn. If you need to buy in grain when it is in short supply I believe it's better to eat/grow it yourself than feed it to animals. However animals that convert cellulose that we can't eat to something useful we can, may be appropriate.
 
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agreed on nuts being a nearly ubiquitous staple. there’s info elsewhere on this site to help inform acorn-leaching.

not a silly idea! don’t let them tell you that!
 
pollinator
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Rebecca Marcella wrote:I know they say you need like something like 5 acre per person to feed a human being right? Like this makes sense assuming a "standard modern diet". We're talking corn, wheat, meat etc.

But realistically is it possible to reduce that land requirement by changing what we consider to be staple crops? For example if your average city lot had several semi-dwarf trees of various fruit, nut, olive etc varieties , plus maybe a backyard animal crop like chickens, rabbits etc might a couple or small family (i.e 2 parent plus kid) be able to get closer to self sufficiency on say 1/4 acre or less? I don't assume they could EVER reach full self sufficiency because of how much FEED animals require, and how hard it is to get enough nutrient input into the soil, but certainly dependence on the global industrial food system could be lessened? And perhaps this model of using more indigenous and traditional staple crops would improve community resiliency to climate change??



I think you're trying to compare apples and oranges here, 90% of that 5 acres is for animals.  
I'll do a little comparison here of two staples (or possible staples) hazelnuts and wheat since these are things that grow here and I can find statistics for. (figures for the UK)

1 hectare of hazelnuts 8 years old for example should produce about 3.5 tonne of nuts. about 30% of that by weight is the actual nut so you get 1050kg of edible nut per hectare.  which is approximately 6.6 million calories and 156kg of protein

1 hectare of wheat produces 8 tonnes  using it as is there are minimal losses (whole wheat as grain or as flour) so that is  13.6 million calories per hectare and 960kg of protein

So switching the calorie crop from wheat to hazelnuts in this climate increases land needs by a factor of 2 If we were to grow potatoes instead of wheat then the conversion is even worse. they produce close to 30million cal per hectare.

1 hectare of hazelnuts produces enough calories for 3 people, 1 hectare of wheat is enough for nearly 7 people and one of potatoes is enough for 15 people. Obviously none of these are rounded diets but it gives an idea of how much land is needed for each basic crop, there is a very good reason why peasants all over Europe dropped all their old staple crops and switched to potatoes.

I grow a annual vegetable garden of 1/2 of an acre, I sell the produce from it but if we were to eat it ourselves it would meet all of our calorific needs plus some, of course I do not grow a balanced diet as I grow what sells and makes money, but calorie wise you do not need more than 1/2 acre for two people. Traditionally where I live now 2 acres (roughly) was considered enough land to support a family.
 
pollinator
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Rabbits and chickens are not difficult to maintain on what you can grow or compost (insects for chicken).  Even with a small=ish yard you could probably dry/store/gather enough  for your small number of breeding rabbits over the winter.   Apples, pumpkins, kale and winter hardy veg and sunflower seeds plus hay  you might get away with not buying any or only a small amt. of grain.   With eggs, rabbit, and if you can add a source for fish I think you'd be in good shape for protein/fat needs.  Then add nuts to this and it sounds even better.   Done on very small acreage.  
 
pollinator
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This presentation, "Nuts As Staple Foods," is pretty informative.  
 
 
Rebecca Marcella
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R. Han wrote:Most nut trees are fatty, it is advised to also eat starch.

So plant chestnuts if applicable in your location, those are high in starches.

I have read somewhere that in fromer times, the rulers wanted the commoners to get rid of the chestnut trees,
because with the chestnut tree in their backyard the commoner was less likely to go to work to earn coin to exchange that for food.



Why is the high fatty content a problem? I would assume it would be a good thing in the same way that indigenous artic people ate high fat diets from animal fats. Also couldn't you get enough carbs and sugars from the fruit sources?
 
pollinator
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I don't mind growing and harvesting potatoes and almonds/nuts. But due to my laziness/incompetence I don't really see myself harvesting tiny grass seeds like wheat to get most of my calories.
 
pollinator
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While nut trees may not produce as many calories per acre as grains or potatoes under ideal conditions, I think they have many advantages over such crops in an urban environment.  A field of wheat takes up a lot of ground-level space which is then not usable for other things.  

Flat open spaces are at a premium.  A wheat field in the park makes the park less usable and less enjoyable.  A walnut tree  in the park provides shade for a picnic area.  

Also, nut trees provide all the usual benefits of trees--  capturing rainfall to lessen runoff into the storm sewer, cooling the summer air through shade and evaporation, providing habitat for wildlife, and generally improving our quality of life.  Nuts are a food crop that can enhance an urban streetscape much more than wheat or potatoes would.
 
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