Must-Grow Crops For Survival
It seems like everyone has their must-have garden vegetables (and fruits). For example, just about everyone wants to grow tomatoes, because they’re delicious, and they’re useful for so many purposes. They’re also pretty high in vitamins and, of course, they contain the powerful antioxidant lycopene. But unless you’re going to can them or dry them, they really don’t store that well.
Sure, you can plan to plant your favorites in your survival garden. We all deserve treats, after all. But it’s important to plan for more than just those delicious treats you feel life wouldn’t be worth living without.
When planning a garden for survival purposes, you need to think of four important elements:
- How calorie/nutrient dense is the crop?
- How well does it store?
- How easy is it to grow?
- How long does it take to grow?
Not every crop you plant will fit all four elements perfectly well, but it’s a good idea to choose crops that fit as many of these four elements as possible.
Let’s take a look at some of the crops that are ideal for growing for survival gardens.
Potatoes are not a quick-growing crop, but they are dense in calories, store quite well, and are relatively easy to grow. They produce more carbohydrates per square-foot than any other crop commonly grown in the U.S., and more protein per square-foot than any crop other than beans. They contain vitamin C, plus calcium and other minerals.
They’re also incredibly versatile; you can serve them baked, boiled, fried, au gratin, scalloped, stewed… they can be used as a thickener in soups, stews, gravies, etc. You can even use them to make potato candy!
For storage, make sure to keep potatoes in a cool, dry place, and immediately discard any that have begun to rot, as those will encourage others to rot.
Like white potatoes, sweet potatoes are calorie-dense, but they are also very nutrient-dense, as well. They are relatively easy to grow, requiring minimal care, but they do need quite a bit of nutrients in the soil.
Both potatoes and sweet potatoes can be grown in bags, large baskets, or plastic tubs to save garden space.
Check out this article to learn how to grow potatoes in a bag!
Potatoes and sweet potatoes can be left in the ground all winter if you add a thick layer of leaves or straw, but if there is a very hard freeze you’d do best to harvest them all and bring them inside.
Greens aren’t particularly calorie-dense, but they are very nutrient-dense and grow pretty quickly. They also don’t need a lot of sun, unlike fruiting crops and root crops.
It’s especially beneficial to grow turnip greens, because you get the roots to eat in addition to the greens, making them a great plant to grow to get the most bang for your buck from small spaces.
Carrots grow pretty quickly, and you can grow a lot of them in a fairly small space, because each carrot only requires about one square inch of growing space. You can even store them directly in the garden over the winter by mulching them with a thick layer of leaves or straw in the fall. Unless you get a very deep freeze, they will usually be fine in the garden for all or most of the winter, allowing you to harvest them when needed.
Plus, carrots are exceptionally high in nutrients.
Corn isn’t extremely high in nutrients, but it is calorie-dense, and it’s pretty easy to grow. Plus, you can make the most of your garden space by growing runner beans with your corn so the bean vines can climb the corn stalks as natural stakes!
Corn is contains vitamins B1, B5 and C, as well as phosphorous, manganese, and it’s pretty high in dietary fiber.
Sweet corn is ideal for eating fresh, and dent corn (also known as field corn) is ideal for drying and using as cornmeal. Corn can also be used to make hominy, and dried hominy can be ground into grits.
Beans & Legumes
Beans have the highest protein yield per square-foot of any crop commonly grown in the U.S., and most varieties dry well for long-term storage. Try growing a variety of beans, peas, and lentils, such as broad beans, pinto beans, fava beans, green peas, and all sorts of lentils.
Peanuts are also legumes, and they are high in protein and store quite well. You can dry them, or roast them and grind them into homemade peanut butter!
Pumpkins & Squashes
Pumpkins and other squashes (especially winter squashes like acorn and butternut) are high in nutrients and fairly high in calories. They’re pretty easy to grow, but they do need a lot of nutrients in the soil, so you’ll need to use a lot of compost or fertilizer to get them to produce at their peak.
The only major drawback is that their vines can take up quite a bit of space, so they’re not ideal for small space gardens.
Zucchini isn’t ideal for its vitamin content, nor is it high in calories, but since zucchini plants are massive producers, you can grow a lot of food in a small space. A single zucchini plant can produce 6-10 pounds of zucchini in a single growing season! It’s absolutely staggering how much food can come from one plant.
Zucchini also stores fairly well, lasting a month or two in storage because of its thick skin, but it will dry out and become less palatable after a few weeks in storage.