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What is the easiest calorie crop to grow and process?  RSS feed

 
Gilbert Fritz
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If I wanted to grow lots of calories in a cold temperate climate, which would the the easiest things to grow and process? For instance, rye is easy to grow but hard to process.
 
Shawn Harper
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My guess says a short season maize or potatoes.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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So all you want is caloric count and easy processing? 
What about calorie type?
Protein is easier to digest and utilize but doesn't stay in the body very long.
Carbohydrates are longer lasting calories but harder to digest and utilize.
Nutrient stability is another issue you might want to consider if you want calories that you can store outside of your body.

Legumes and squashes are easy to store, easy to grow and provide both carbs and protein. also peanuts are little powerhouses in easy to open containers that will store well.

Then there is the nutrient density issue, what good are calories if you get little nutrient values from them?
 
David Good
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:If I wanted to grow lots of calories in a cold temperate climate, which would the the easiest things to grow and process? For instance, rye is easy to grow but hard to process.


Potatoes are your best bet. After that, Jerusalem artichokes in a big swath. Flint corn is also easy to process and I like it much more than rye as a survival crop. Large, long-storage winter squashes such as "Boston Marrow," if possible.

And a source of meat is a really good idea. Dried it keeps for a long time.

Dry beans are good in empty spaces as well.
 
David Good
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:

Then there is the nutrient density issue, what good are calories if you get little nutrient values from them?


Bryant is correct that nutrient density is important. There's not one "Holy Grail" crop that has it all. It's a good idea, after getting lots of calories in the ground, to also grow smaller plots of garlic, kale, cabbages and other highly nutritious items, as well as learning to forage for wild greens and berries.
 
R Scott
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"Don't put all your eggs in one basket"

You want to grow a variety, just because one will fail in any given year. 
 
David Good
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R Scott wrote:"Don't put all your eggs in one basket"

You want to grow a variety, just because one will fail in any given year. 


Yes, absolutely. I grew 5 varieties of yams, 5 cultivars of sweet potato, 2-4 types of corn in borrowed plots so the types wouldn't cross, multiple types of beans, 2 species of chaya, 4-5 varieties of cassava...

...counting on one thing leads you to Irish Potato Famine territory in a bad year.
 
Marco Banks
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Sweet potatoes are so easy to grow and are tremendously productive.  If you get your slips started indoors well before planting time, you can get them out soon after frost danger is past and they'll produce abundantly.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm also a big fan of sweet potatoes although they don't grow well for me - I think mostly because my soil is still too heavy. They also seem to require a good deal of irrigation.

 
r ranson
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I'm putting a vote for chickpeas - and pulses (dry beans and peas) in general.

Pulses are nutrient dense, easy to store, and there is a pulse suited to just about every climate.

Early this spring, I planted chickpeas.  I didn't have to water them, the made lots of food, dry down and to harvest, I cut them off at the base (I could have used my scythe for easier harvest, but as it was a small patch, I used a knife), dry them further inside, put the plants on a cloth and did a little dance on them to release the chickpeas from the pod. Today I'll winnow them.

These are by far the least effort staple crop I've grown so far.  Even easier than fava beans.

Squash and potatoes are pretty easy to grow here too.


But as for the 'easiest' calorie crop?  That is going to depend on where you live and your style of cooking/eating.  The only way to discover what the easiest crop is for you is to grow a bunch and then decide which you like best.
 
eric koperek
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TO:     Glibert Fritz
FROM:     Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT:     Calorie Crops
DATE:     PM 8:34 Wednesday 3 August 2016
TEXT:

(1)     Grow turnips.

(2)     You can grow more calories per acre by planting turnips than by planting any other food crop.  C4 plants (like maize) are more efficient at converting sunlight into sugar, but turnips (a C3 plant) grow much faster and tolerate cold climates.  You can harvest a crop of turnips every 40 days.  Grow multiple crops in sequence.  Over the course of a season or year this adds up to a great mountain of calories, about 19 tons of turnips per acre every 40 days or 9 crops per year = 171 TONS of turnips per acre every year (365 days).  No other crop, temperate or tropical, can match this productivity.

ERIC KOPEREK = erickoperek@gmail.com

end comment

 
Tyler Ludens
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It may not be possible to eat enough turnips to supply sufficient calories to survive, if eating a homegrown vegan diet.  It is barely possible with potatoes, if one eats several pounds per day.

Turnips 22 calories per 100 grams

Potatoes 93 calories per 100 grams
 
David Good
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R Ranson wrote:
But as for the 'easiest' calorie crop?  That is going to depend on where you live and your style of cooking/eating.  The only way to discover what the easiest crop is for you is to grow a bunch and then decide which you like best.


Yes. This. When I wrote Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, the thing that made it true to the title was that I tested a wide range of crops in a specific climate, then worked out the best yielding and easiest to grow. You could literally feed 4-5 families on yams and chaya if you had an acre... but only in the right climate. In Tennessee I stuck to potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and squash for calorie crops. Where I currently live, it's yams, breadfruit, tropical pumpkins, pigeon peas and bananas/plantains.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I'm in a cold high desert where the choices are limited, though Jerusalem Artichokes do grow here. Are they healthy as the bulk of a diet? While I know they can be processed to turn the inulin into fructose, I thought a high fructose diet was not a great idea in the long run.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Reading up on nutrition information for Jerusalem Artichokes, they seem like a healthy food.  I don't think you could get all your calories from them, because they have fewer than potatoes.  If the ones I'm growing now prove to be reliably perennial, I plan to plant and grow more, since neither my husband nor I seem to have any digestive trouble from them, and they are growing better than most things in the garden right now.  As far as fructose, I don't think any kind of pure sugar is healthy as a large part of the diet, but only a supplement. For a non-vegan, it might be healthier to feed extra roots to an animal, and then eat the animal or its products.
 
R Scott
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Tyler Ludens wrote:It may not be possible to eat enough turnips to supply sufficient calories to survive, if eating a homegrown vegan diet.  It is barely possible with potatoes, if one eats several pounds per day.

Turnips 22 calories per 100 grams

Potatoes 93 calories per 100 grams


Plus you can get into toxicity levels of some nutrients if you eat that much of any one staple. 

Meat is a great calorie and nutrient concentrator, but if you won't/can't eat it you have to work extra hard to get nutrient density. 

 
Casie Becker
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I've noticed in some of the older stories that I read that the shear size of the meals that were considered normal in European countries sometimes sounds unbelievable. I think this is due in part to more high calorie foods being commonly available. (much more animal products, sugars, grains, potatoes, cooking oils)

I thought potatoes were a real miracle crop; in part because they packed so much nutrition and calories into a much smaller portion than any of the crops available before. Until that time people where surviving entirely on much lower calorie produce and animal products. The poorer classes had severely limited amounts of those animal products also. Where were they getting the bulk of their calories until then? I think the hard to process items usually became luxuries of the wealthy.
 
Tyler Ludens
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The most dramatic example I think is the Irish right before the Potato Famine.  They mostly lived on potatoes, eating several pounds per day for an adult man.  Most other crops were being exported.  I think they may have had some milk also, which kept them from some deficiencies.   As R Scott points out, it isn't safe to depend on one crop.

 
r ranson
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Casie Becker wrote:I've noticed in some of the older stories that I read that the shear size of the meals that were considered normal in European countries sometimes sounds unbelievable. I think this is due in part to more high calorie foods being commonly available. (much more animal products, sugars, grains, potatoes, cooking oils)


Most of the recipes from the middle ages are for feast days and for the upper crust.  They made the feast as large as possible partly because they wanted to show off and partly because at the end of the meal, the excess food was given to the poor as charity - take care of your poor and they take care of you was a common attitude in the early middle ages. 


A lot of European countries only had one meal a day, so it needed to be big.  During the Middle Ages in England, it was usually in the late morning for labourers.  Cooking two or three times a day takes twice or three times as much fuel as only cooking once.  It also takes extra time.  It makes sense to cook only once a day and have a snack in the morning and another snack in the evening. 

There is a theory now that when you eat the main meal of the day is an important aspect of how your body converts the calories.  Different body types have different needs.  For example, if I eat a meal at about 11 and again at 4pm, I only need a few calories to get me through an active day.  But if I eat outside that time, I need three or four times as many calories to get the same work done.  the bbc has a test you can take to get an idea of when it's most efficient for you to eat


Casie Becker wrote:I thought potatoes were a real miracle crop; in part because they packed so much nutrition and calories into a much smaller portion than any of the crops available before. Until that time people where surviving entirely on much lower calorie produce and animal products. The poorer classes had severely limited amounts of those animal products also. Where were they getting the bulk of their calories until then? I think the hard to process items usually became luxuries of the wealthy.


A really interesting thing is the difference between the official reports of what peasants and labourers ate and what they actually ate.  In the country, there were many extra sources of food from hedgerows to poaching.  Many of the ways they processed food helped to provide much of the needed nourishment.  For example, looking at the official peasant diet in medieval England, it isn't enough to survive.  Add beer to the equation, and you could probably triple the calory consumption - 4 or 5 pints of beer a day, plus beer used in cooking. 

I suspect there is a great deal more to how the peasants ate in the middle ages than current historians think.  Looking at more recent history during the two world wars, my family lived in the country.  Officially, the stuck to their ration allowance, but unofficially, they ate better during those times than any time before due to foraging and creatively acquiring 'wild chickens' and trading it for other people's chocolate or sugar rations.  Peasants aren't going to admit to gathering food in criminal ways and most are too proud to admit to foraging 'bread and cheese' (hawthorn shoots) and the like.  I think it will be interesting when historians start to think like subsistence peasants and take into account how much influence these creative methods for acquiring food had on the diet.
 
Casie Becker
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I love how much I can learn on this site, about such varied topics. Thank you. It had actually slightly bothered me when I came across these descriptions of multiple course meals in so many stories and I couldn't imagine how they could stand it.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I imagine quality of diet plummeted after the Enclosure movement, when common lands were taken away from the peasantry and rich people hired gamekeepers etc to keep folks from harvesting from the land.

 
r ranson
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I imagine quality of diet plummeted after the Enclosure movement, when common lands were taken away from the peasantry and rich people hired gamekeepers etc to keep folks from harvesting from the land.



Absolutely.  I think that the enclosure movement was a symptom of a much larger social change .  I know it seems a little off topic, but I think it's history is hugely relevant to this question.  People use to grow staple crops for a living using simple methods that did not degrade the soil.  We can learn from what they did. 
 
Gilbert Fritz
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The enclosure movement was huge; "sheep ate men," as a man of the period put it. An early version of Industrial farming vs. peasants or gardeners. With a quarter acre plot, and grazing, foraging, and wood rights on the commons, peasants were much more secure; local landowners testifying in favor of enclosure pointed out that access to the commons made the peasants "lazy and insolent" or in other words, not able to be controlled.

Maybe we should start a new thread on the enclosure and the beginnings of industrial ag. in Britain.
 
Amit Enventres
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To get back on topic, I once did a study of high calorie count per sq ft, in a drier climate, and found nut trees are the winners, hands down. If you add in the fact that most trees can have other things living in their understory (including chickens), they are unbeatable...except if you have a ravenous squirrel population and nut-eating-worm infestation, but chickens should help with the later.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Here in Denver, very few nut trees make it. Hazelnuts are about the only candidate, now that the walnuts have been killed off by Thousand Cankers.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm not convinced nuts qualify as the easiest calorie crop to grow in a drier climate.  I have tried with pecans and almonds, and they died (not enough irrigation).  Also they take many years until bearing age.  So I would tend to say, nuts might be the easiest calorie crop if you already have them, but not if you have to start them from scratch.

 
Amit Enventres
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Gilbert- makes me sad about nut trees. Trees here are suffering the same sort of fate. Supposedly a whole species of birds was wiped out when the native chestnuts were killed off. I hate to think what the death of the so many other food trees jeopardized by disease right now will do. The air might loose a lot of song.
 
Jay Grace
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Grow a dual purpose pig, meat and lard.
Feed pig vegetable scraps.  Cook vegetables in lard with pork.
Enjoy more calories from one pig than you could get from growing a small garden for a few years.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think it would not be easy, actually very difficult, to grow a pig in my climate.  I'd need to be able to produce sufficient extra vegetables to have enough "scraps" to feed a pig, and I don't even produce enough extra to feed a few chickens. I think it might be easy in a moist climate, but not in a hot dry climate or a very cold climate.  I imagine in order to accumulate lard, a pig has to be well-fed, not scraping along on a few scraps.

 
Kyrt Ryder
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In part it depends on the breed you're working with Tyler. Lard Hogs [Asian Heritage Hogs- AKA Potbelly Pigs- and American Guinea Hogs and Kune Kune (still overpriced, you'd likely want to stick to the first two)] are very easy keepers that pile on the fat at the cost of not growing as much muscle as quickly.

I've been told of AGH who wound up getting too fat to breed from being kept on lush pasture [likely heavy on the legumes and forbs rather than dominated by grass.]

Another big point is shelter, pigs grow better when they can stay cool and stay warm.

All that being said, yes the food still has to be there in one form or another. Those sunroots you seem to be having success growing are a pretty good pig food according to others on this forum, and one they self harvest [perhaps they might need to be taught about them first.]
 
Tyler Ludens
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I can't see irrigating enough land to grow sunroots for pigs.  If I were throwing that much water around, I would want to use it much more efficiently, to grow fish. 
 
Casie Becker
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Considering how big a problem feral hogs are in parts of Texas, I have a hard time thinking pigs aren't viable here. Of course, the limiting factor is probably acreage. I don't know how much territory it takes to support those feral pigs.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I was thinking about feral hogs also, but I think they require many acres.  And they are considered quite destructive.

I don't know if something can be considered "easy to raise" if you have to fence huge areas for them, or irrigate feedlots for them.

Wild hogs in TX  http://www.invasivespecies.wa.gov/documents/squealonpigs/FeralHogPopGrowthDensity&HarvestinTX.pdf
 
Tyler Ludens
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I don't personally consider animals a "crop" by any common definition of the word, but since we've mentioned pigs as a crop, I wonder if ducks might be easier than pigs.  They also accumulate fat and are about twice as efficient as pigs at converting feed.  I'm looking at Muscovy ducks in particular, as being omnivorous like pigs.

 
Casie Becker
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My brother (in the middle of Austin) is across the street from a duck pond. Lots of very healthy ducks in his neighborhood.

Something to think about, if you have a pond near the edge of your property (and you live in a city or suburb area) You could set up a bench between the pond and the public spaces. You wouldn't have perfect control of what people feed them, but you could post a list of suggested treats for the birds the sign at the park across from my brother says to only feed them black oil sunflower seeds. I bet the majority (or all) of the food costs would be picked up people who wanted to feed the ducks at the 'park'. I know I've feed ducks at many parks, and I'm aware enough that I've tried to choose healthy options instead of just bread crusts.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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For me, the easiest high calorie crops to grow and process are dry-beans, corn, and squash.

They are crops that germinate quickly, and grow vigorously, so they compete well with weeds. Therefore, I don't have to spend a lot of effort on weeding. They don't require digging or hilling. In my hard clay-ish soil those are both labor intensive tasks.  Beans, corn, and squash store for a long time on a shelf at room-temperature.
 
Deb Rebel
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Potatoes, the pulses, and squash that keep (even pumpkins, the hand bred Dill's Atlantic Giant strains are rather bland but if not groomed to produce one huge fruit will put on a lot of fairly bland and thick shelled (meat) fruit that usually will keep a long time.)  Now then, don't expect just one crop to give you the calories. Build a solar powered dehydrator, and dry your squash and they will keep a lot longer! Same for tomatoes.
 
Paul Gutches
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I'm down in Taos, New Mexico...  west side of the rockies...  7k feet with a rather short growing season.

I can attest that chick peas do well, but are not a particularly productive crop.

Fingerling potatoes grown in plastic garbage cans are easy and happy growing in this climate.

Berries of all kinds should do well, dried for storage.  Lots of nutrition potential.

Quinoa is also very promising.
The first place it was grown commercially in the US I believe was San Luis, Colorado, due north from me.

I recently tried milkweed seed pods... an overlooked perennial with nice insectary benefits.
The young pods, cooked and peeled, were surprisingly tasty, but I'm not sure if they should be eaten in quantity, or how well they keep.
Certainly seems like a potentially easy source of protein, if not for people, for chickens, etc.

Other things to try would be Wisteria vine (certain types have an edible and nutritious seed/nut), Yellowhorn which produces a nutritious nut, ginkgo biloba (also for the nuts), hackberry (seed is edible and can make a nutritious and tasty milk), and hazelnut.

Hope this helps.

Paul G
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I never realized that wisterias could be edible, that is great information! Then again, late frost tends to catch the buds here.
 
Paul Gutches
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Almost forgot...

Pinon pine nuts and acorns can be foraged in most years.

If you're just looking to feed chickens... siberian elm (and other elms) have edible high-protein samaras, as does the acer (maple) family. 
They are edible for humans too, and even tasty, in my opinion. 

Hope this helps
 
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