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What staple crops are you growing?

 
pollinator
Posts: 145
Location: west Texas (Odessa/Midland)
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Our best new success this year - rampecante, also called trombolino, squash.

Makes both summer squash as young fruits and winter squash as older, both delicious and useful.

The summer one is better than zucchini to me and the winter has a slightly sweet taste, smells almost like cantalope.

And it was prolific even here in west Texas where we are lucky to get anything to grow.

Where I bought seed

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Young vine
Young vine
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Summer squash
Summer squash
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Mid summer kind of inbetween
Mid summer kind of inbetween
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Mature on hill
Mature on hill
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Mature Winter
Mature Winter
 
Posts: 49
Location: Alberta, Canada
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I am going to be attempting to grow okra this upcoming season with the intent of focusing on seed production rather than the pods as a vegetable (although I'm sure I will still have many meals of crispy roasted okra as well).

I picked up The Whole Okra by Chris Smith last year and was positively enamoured by his permaculture approach to okra. He cooks with the leaves, pods and the seeds, even making paper from the fibres.

Okra is interesting to me as a potential staple crop because of its general low-maintenance nature and high protein seeds. I got my hands on a pound of okra seed flour to try out and frankly it was excellent. I'm an experienced gluten-free baker and have a bunch of allergies (including maize, a real struggle for an aspiring homesteader) so I went right to work evaluating the flour's behavior. Its somewhere between almond flour and coconut flour in terms of baking properties, and tastes rather vegetal, but it does go well with both sweet and savoury recipes. Once I got its quirks down, it was really an easy to work with flour. It is also extremely filling, I added just 1/4 cup into a flatbread recipe and I was completely full with just 2 flatbreads where I'd normally eat 3 or 4. As far as I can tell this seems like a really strong alternative staple crop, with lots of protein, a decent fat content and being so filling from such a small amount.

I guess my real question is, has anyone here ever grown okra for seeds? Are they challenging to get shelled out of the pods? Are they difficult to mill with their seedcoat and fat levels?
 
Posts: 243
Location: rural West Virginia
52
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I really like Carol Deppe's book, but for me another book has been more helpful: Cindy Conner's Grow a Sustainable Diet. Two reasons: one is geography. Deppe lives in the Willamette Valley (and I note many posters live in the PNW), which has a very different climate; I live in West Virginia and Conner lives in central VA, very similar climate to mine. Example--Deppe can't grow moschata squashes because her area doesn't get enough summer heat; but I never do well with the maximas she depends on, probably because of borers. It rains all year here. No problem getting plenty of tomatoes and peppers in our long growing season with plenty of summer heat--but put that together with the moisture and our big issue is blight and diseases. The other reason is that Deppe's personal issues happen to be different than mine. She has celiac disease and a bad back. I did find her long discussion about figuring out her dietary issues and solutions helpful, as suggestion for how one might go about figuring out one's own.
I agree with everyone who said potatoes are #1. They're easy to grow, easy to store, and there are so many good ways to cook them. Sweet potatoes are another important staple, also easy to store, and easy to grow except a bit tricky to produce slips, which are usually not available around here and expensive in catalogs. Deppe also mention eggs, and that's an important one for us too. Fruit is good, and while I haven't solved the problem of squirrels stealing all my tree fruits before they're ripe, berries are quite reliable. I only wish I could grow nuts; I don't think walnuts or pecans or almonds would produce here; there are black walnuts and hickories but I haven't found any that come out of the cracked shells with reasonable effort. We tried grafting pecans onto native hickories (related) but at the rate they're growing, our great-grandchildren may get to watch the squirrels stealing them all. We tried the hazelnut-filbert cross, and most didn't even survive--I have one that did and it has grown to a good size but has never produced a nut. So that leaves peanuts, which have produced well for me except the last couple years, when I wasn't vigilant enough about gaps ion the rabbit-proof fence, and rabbits wiped them out. Incidentally this is a virtue of black-eyed peas and asparagus beans, which are two variants of the same species--rabbits do not touch them, nor do bugs.
 
pollinator
Posts: 132
Location: Mississippi
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I'm interested in these very varied answers; and have a few thoughts:

One, there are folks mentioning radishes and spaghetti squash.  That is fine but these are rather low calorie foods...I would not call them staples.

Also, it is a really good thing to dig a little, and learn where the food is on a given food plant.  ie, agastache/anise hyssop (lamiaciae) was an important food of many Plains Indian tribes.  Fine; but you look it up and the info is all about tea, the pics show the plant in flower.  The Native Americans used it before flowering, plucking the delicious anise-flavored leaves (which are large and numerous only before flowering); they were often cooked with or eaten along with meats.  You have to really be a reader to find this info.  I am worried about folks who simply buy books and stuff, but don't yet "walk the walk".  

One other thing is to be aware of the uses of the other parts of plants you do grow: sweet potatoes, for example, all have edible leaves.  In the Philippines, they use the young leaves in salads as well as cooked!  However those varieties yield a really tiny tuber.  Ours, here, tend to have soapy-tasting leaves; I am planning to grow purple Hawaiian ones to test their leaves for edibility.  It is good to know, however, that even the soapy-tasting ones are fine well-cooked and none are toxic.

Beans, squashes, many other garden plants have edible shoots and leaves.  Pumpkin leaves are an esteemed potherb, in West Africa; which is counterintuitive, because of their fuzziness but that disappears when they are cooked in a stew!  

It is good to be aware of varieties, too, of a given garden crop, that can be selected for more edible parts.  For example, I adore pea shoots; but it took me a while to learn that the best ones come from snow peas, and some of the bush-type low-growing sweet peas.  The rest have such a large amount of tendrils that you feel like you're trying to chew a mouthful of wire, even though the sweet little leaves are tender.

So generally, what I am saying is personally, "No" to those canned survival seed kits, and "Yes" to DIY study and practice, and good old trial-and-error.  I am getting pretty old, and the learning curve has been humongous.  Maybe I oughtta write a book...
 
Posts: 28
Location: Woodbury, Minnesota
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The Caloric Myth: Calorie counting has become a religion in Western countries — We have it all wrong,  Energy we use.
The one that gives the most energy when consumed (raw or cooked).
Staple Crops:  Sweet potatoes, Fresh peanuts , squash (many good ones), beans, kale (pesto, dehydrated, pickled, raw), root veggies, plenty of weeds that grow around, berries, apples, nuts & seeds, and many more.
 
Posts: 68
Location: Indiana
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Karen McVause wrote:Our best new success this year - rampecante, also called trombolino, squash.

Makes both summer squash as young fruits and winter squash as older, both delicious and useful.

The summer one is better than zucchini to me and the winter has a slightly sweet taste, smells almost like cantalope.



I grow and love this squash as well.  They don't seem to be bothered by disease or vine borers.  One minor correction- It is called "Tromboncino".  The vines can grow up to 40' long.  I grow them up a fruit tree in my mini-orchard and the vines grow around in the canopy.  That allows me to get two harvests out of my fruit trees each year.  First the fruit and later the squashes.
 
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I find these posts incredibly useful except for one thing. It seems as though everyone here knows each other and where everyone lives, saying things like, “I’m a bit north of you” or “down here.” As a newbie here on the site, it would be great to have some idea of where “down here” is! We might be neighbors or half a continent away. Think of how much more helpful this thread could be . . .
 
Cujo Liva
Posts: 68
Location: Indiana
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Dusty Rhodes wrote:I find these posts incredibly useful except for one thing. It seems as though everyone here knows each other and where everyone lives, saying things like, “I’m a bit north of you” or “down here.” As a newbie here on the site, it would be great to have some idea of where “down here” is! We might be neighbors or half a continent away. Think of how much more helpful this thread could be . . .



Welcome to Permies, Dusty!

Understanding location is pretty easy.  When you post, there is some info on the left under your user name.  If you edit your profile (upper right corner), and expand the "About You" section, you can add your general location.  Then people will know where you are located which is quite handy when answering questions that are climate or location-specific.
 
author & steward
Posts: 4722
Location: Southeastern U.S. - Zone 7b
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Dusty, welcome to Permies!

Most of us only know others' locations because they set them in their profiles. When they post, their name and number of posts is displayed, and if added, whatever location they wish to give.
 
Karen Lee Mack
pollinator
Posts: 145
Location: west Texas (Odessa/Midland)
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Cujo Liva wrote:

Karen McVause wrote:Our best new success this year - rampecante, also called trombolino, squash.

Makes both summer squash as young fruits and winter squash as older, both delicious and useful.

The summer one is better than zucchini to me and the winter has a slightly sweet taste, smells almost like cantalope.



I grow and love this squash as well.  They don't seem to be bothered by disease or vine borers.  One minor correction- It is called "Tromboncino".  The vines can grow up to 40' long.  I grow them up a fruit tree in my mini-orchard and the vines grow around in the canopy.  That allows me to get two harvests out of my fruit trees each year.  First the fruit and later the squashes.




Thank you for the name correction!!

Also THANK YOU for pointing out that it is more resistant to the squash bugs. One of the few good things about growing food in wet Texas is that we don't actually have a lot of pests. But we DO have squash bugs and they are voracious so I was delighted to find that the tromboncino seemed to be resistant - maybe because it does grow so much vine. We plan to grow it over an arbor next year. So lovely to  hear someone else loves this plant!
 
pollinator
Posts: 474
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Karen McVause wrote:

Cujo Liva wrote:

Karen McVause wrote:Our best new success this year - rampecante, also called trombolino, squash.

Makes both summer squash as young fruits and winter squash as older, both delicious and useful.

The summer one is better than zucchini to me and the winter has a slightly sweet taste, smells almost like cantalope.



I grow and love this squash as well.  They don't seem to be bothered by disease or vine borers.  One minor correction- It is called "Tromboncino".  The vines can grow up to 40' long.  I grow them up a fruit tree in my mini-orchard and the vines grow around in the canopy.  That allows me to get two harvests out of my fruit trees each year.  First the fruit and later the squashes.




Thank you for the name correction!!

Also THANK YOU for pointing out that it is more resistant to the squash bugs. One of the few good things about growing food in wet Texas is that we don't actually have a lot of pests. But we DO have squash bugs and they are voracious so I was delighted to find that the tromboncino seemed to be resistant - maybe because it does grow so much vine. We plan to grow it over an arbor next year. So lovely to  hear someone else loves this plant!



I started growing trombo a couple years ago and it's produced for me, way up here in Maine, far better than butternut ever did. Most moschata squashes are a no-go due to the shorter season, but the trombos seem to mostly make it before the frosts and freezes take the vines down.

So far, storage of fully ripened fruits seems good as well. I planted several patches, a few vines each, then let a couple of them patches run to full maturity while harvesting the fruits from the remaining patches as summer squash. Very prolific fruit setters either way, but with our short season, the fruits do need as long as you can give them to mature on the vine.

I've found the immature fruits to be delicious and much more substantial as a summer squash - they're not watery and even stand up well to the canning process without turning to mush (excellent as a side or added to tomato sauces over pasta, etc).

The immature fruits didn't sell as well as a standard zucchini or yellow crookneck at the roadside stand because they're "unusual", but the few customers who bought them said they like them way more. Mature, ripened fruits sold well this fall, though - on par with the pie pumpkins.

A huge plus is the huge numbers of fruits the vines produce - these acted as a major input for egg production (another obvious "staple crop" mentioned several times). Squash seem to produce so much better for us than potatoes, especially in the face of huge volumes of colorado potato beetle this last summer. Caloric density might be a little higher in the potato, but squashes are so much easier and less pest-prone.

Oh, and I should mention another new-to-me crop that I didn't notice mentioned in the thread so far. This one has become a staple in the last few years: the giant varieties of kholrabi. Lots of food value in these, including a decent amount of calories. We've had some come in near 10lbs, not woody at all, and they're very easy on fertility needs while still being pest resistant. Definitely another good one to add to the arsenal here in the north  
 
Cujo Liva
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Location: Indiana
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Wow.  That's quite a range for tromboncino- Texas to Indiana to Maine.

I appreciate that it is a dual summer/winter squash as well.  I have several in storage right now that I'll dig into periodically thru next spring.
 
Mary Cook
Posts: 243
Location: rural West Virginia
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Today's repost of this thread asked What is your FAVORITE staple crop, but I see the original thread asked about all the staple crops.
My favorite, hands down, is potatoes. They are at the top of the list on both calories per square foot and reliability--AND they're easy to store, for up to a year, without the energy requirements of canning or freezing, if you have a root cellar (which I do), AND they're about the most versatile crop to use in the kitchen. Apparently they're problematic to grow in some locales--my condolences.
I also grow sunflowers, corn, sorghum and beans but wouldn't call any of them really a staple. I've found no way to efficiently shell sunflower seeds, so those are for my chickens (they have the virtue of being high protein, leaving a high-carbon stalk for the compost, and they only need 70 days so they can follow an early crop). Corn I also grow for the chickens but should invest in a mill that can turn it into flour. Sorghum I grow for the syrup, give the seeds to the chickens mostly (but have ground them into a coarse flour which is no-gluten for those who worry about that) and I only grow it about every three years. Beans I seem to have digestive issues with so I grow a limited amount. I do grow winter squash, different varieties than those on the wet coast prefer--here there is plenty of sun for moschatas, and maximas rarely produce fruit, perhaps because of borers. But I've been trading most of the squash, and green beans, for goat milk.
Then there are sweet potatoes, another high-calorie crop. They are less reliable for me than "white" potatoes--some years I get a fine crop and they are even easier to keep, for me, than potatoes--I do wash them, then put them on my pantry shelf and they're perfectly happy till spring. Even cut ones heal over and keep. In early spring they begin sprouting, so i cut off the sprouting end and suspend it in water to start slips, and I can still cook the rest of the tuber. But last year some of my crop had yellow and black spotted leaves, and black patches with cracks on the tubers, and I avoided saving any of those for sprouting (they were fine for eating). This year some of what I just set out in the garden have dark markings on some leaves--they showed none of this till they were in the garden so I think it's the soil, not far from where I grew sweet potatoes last year and I recall leaving a heap of vines on the current bed while working on digging up tubers. Maybe some of the virus got into the soil...
Tomatoes are not high-calorie or high protein but I consider them a critical crop, and can quite a lot of sauce. onions and garlic are important nutritionally and high in calories pert square foot, plus garlic has the virtue of using garden space mostly when nothing else but cover crops needs it, over winter. I dig mine the last week of June, leaving space for many later crops.
 
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