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Growing Staples  RSS feed

 
James Colbert
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I am trying to grow a larger percentage of my calories. So I have compiled a list of staples that I would like to try. Some are more ambitious than others so I would like to hear of your experiences growing some of these crops. I live in a dry Mediterranean environment with zero rain during a long summer so any help there would be appreciated too. I have divided my staples into three categories which are for the most part annuals or quick producing perennials, no animals or fruit trees even though plenty of those have been planted.

Tuber: Potato, Oca, Yacon, Sweet Potato, Yam, Jerusalem Artichoke

Legumes: Runner Beans, Bush Beans, Scarlet Runner Beans, Soy Bean, Cow Peas, Lima Beans, Fava Bean, Long Bean

Grains: Einkorn, Emmer, Kamut, Spelt, Oats, Rye, Rice, Sunflower, Quinoa, Corn, Amaranth, Sorghum, Buckwheat, Barley

My goal for this year is to grow enough to sample and save enough seed for the next year. Please share your experience with these crops, pros, cons, and tips are welcome as are additional staple suggestions.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
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Location: Western Washington
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Hiya James,

First off how much land are you on? Some other things I would suggest as storage staples: Squashes,

and to a lesser extent turnips, rutabega, beets, carrots, parsnips, onions, leeks, and brusslesprouts would also be something I would look at. I have a bios towards soup though.

I have some decent experience with all of the above crops as well as potatoes. Some of the others I have limited experience with (such as wheat and various beans but I've never grown enough to make a serious stab at having them be winter staples)

So yeah... How much land you got, are you just feeding yourself, and in what sort of growing conditions would be three questions which may lead to more suggestions.

I see that its hot and dry, but like - soil type and if you can irrigate at all would be interesting.

Potatoes if you can avoid blight (beware of valleys they collect condensation and mists) are a good bet. I've grown enough potatoes in 16 150 foot rows to fill a standard industrial walk in refrigerator. Storage squash is great in my experience Even a small squash makes for a rich full and satisfying meal.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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The grains have varying difficulties in harvesting and using. I can't find a homestead scale oat huller. I can crack sorghum in my flour mill and sift out the hulls.

What do you have for storage facilities? Do you have a large root cellar?

Things to consider besides just which ones grow. Some are easy to store and prepare, some are practically impossible for a one man homestead.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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An advantage to fava beans is that in a mild climate you can fall plant and overwinter them and then get a crop as the soil dries down... a huge advantage in drylands. J-choke is a good backup food, as you practically ignore them and the keep expanding (in my climate), you might be drier.
 
James Colbert
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Landon Sunrich wrote:Hiya James,

First off how much land are you on? Some other things I would suggest as storage staples: Squashes,

and to a lesser extent turnips, rutabega, beets, carrots, parsnips, onions, leeks, and brusslesprouts would also be something I would look at. I have a bios towards soup though.

I have some decent experience with all of the above crops as well as potatoes. Some of the others I have limited experience with (such as wheat and various beans but I've never grown enough to make a serious stab at having them be winter staples)

So yeah... How much land you got, are you just feeding yourself, and in what sort of growing conditions would be three questions which may lead to more suggestions.

I see that its hot and dry, but like - soil type and if you can irrigate at all would be interesting.

Potatoes if you can avoid blight (beware of valleys they collect condensation and mists) are a good bet. I've grown enough potatoes in 16 150 foot rows to fill a standard industrial walk in refrigerator. Storage squash is great in my experience Even a small squash makes for a rich full and satisfying meal.


Hey Landon,

I am on 9 relatively flat acres. The soil is very good quality 1 to 2 feet of clay loam before hitting a clay subsoil. We have a high water table that sits at 8 feet. I want to try using an auger to drill down and establish trees without irrigation. My main goal is to feed myself and a few CSA members with food. I know this is not a one year project I just want to get started with a diversity of staples and build from there.

Squash is a good idea, I really enjoy butternut soup. They also make great winter animal fodder. I'll also add carrots, onions, turnips, and the like to the list.

I know that sepp holzer grows Einkorn so I am think there must be a practical way to harvest and de-hull in a homestead environment.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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Access to and willingness (and finances) to set up and use irrigation is going to be the main limiting factor for this and plenty of other questions in your climate (and mine).
I agree with Paul about favas.....they will grow during the wet winter. A lot of people grow them for immature shelling beans (which are more a vegetable than a storage staple), when dried down completely they have a thick tough skin that can be hard to deal with and digest. I found that cracking them in a blender briefly and then shaking and winnowing will get rid of a lot of the hulls. Peas grown to dry maturity (think "split peas") are similar in being able to grow through winter and mature as the season dries out. (Both of these have survived dips into the teens for me, with some die back but they sprout back out vigorously.
The other thing I'm trialing in the same vein is winter wheat. The other "small grains" (rye, oats, barley....) come to mind too. These should all grow over winter and mature in early summer like favas and peas....the challenge with them is storage and processing on a small scale. They're a good bit more "dither" than, say, corn; but they need a lot less water too.
White and sweet potatoes are my defaults for intensively improved and irrigated beds... in a hot summer climate they have two different seasons....white potatoes grow mostly in the spring and are harvested in early summer, and you can eat on them until sweet potato harvest in the fall. These will store all through the winter until late the following spring if you have good storage conditions (not too cold!).....
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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But in current time, what I'm eating a lot of (like, twice daily in some form) is ACORNS!! If there's a default Mediterranean staple, that seems to be it in a lot of places. Yes, they are a bit of "dither" to prepare, but not really that much worse than wheat or favas....and chances are they are already growing, free for the picking, in huge quantity, somewhere near by. I'm even feeding my chickens largely on acorn now.
Other trees to consider for longer term....the almond and the pistachio; dates (a 70 year commitment!), figs, and, especially, olives for oil. But extracting oil on a small scale is another thing that not much research seems to have gone on with....looking forward to playing with it!
 
Terri Matthews
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Location: Eastern Kansas
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Wheat is a chew and tasty addition to a hearty soup. I threshed them by running each stalk through the tines of a strong fork.

And, I have also grown red eyed peas, which I think are closely related to cow peas, and they LOVE heat and water! I picked the pods as they were drying and I set them outside to get dryer: most of the pods split as they were drying so it was very easy to get the beans.
 
James Colbert
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Acorns are a great idea. I was attempting to keep the list to annuals mainly but acorns are like the staple of ataples before the domestication of grain. Does anyone have any specifics on how much space it took to grow a years worth of any of the above mentioned staples? If you don't know how much a years worth is you can just inculde amount of space used and how much was produced. Any other specifics are welcome as well.
 
James Colbert
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As far as storage goes. There is nothing on site at the moment so most of the stuff will be in my kitchen cabinets. I do plan on building a root cellar or two. Maybe one for things that like it cool and dry like beans and grains and for things like cabbage and carrots will have an area that is cool and humid.
 
Alder Burns
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One of the biggest issues in storing homegrown dry staples....grains, beans, seeds, etc. is small insects. These or their eggs are often invisibly present on or in the stuff as it's being harvested, and they survive normal drying to hatch out later and mess with your stored food. One of the biggest insights I took from Mollison's book "Ferment and Human Nutrition" (which goes into depth about storage techniques of all kinds as well as ferment) is to heat the grain, after drying, to a temperature of 150 F for a half hour or so. Then cool and put into tight storage. This temperature is usually enough to kill the bugs and their eggs, but not the grain itself, so that it can still be sprouted, planted, etc.
 
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