Lets say that some kind of long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI survival situation happens. Whether its war, food shortages, some kind of new disease,,, something happens to disrupt modern society. What food group would you want to have stockpiled?
Instead of saying what single food would be the most important to stockpile, lets look at it from a “food group” point of view. The fact is, there is no single perfect food. Humans are omnivores, meaning we are designed to eat a wide range of food.
Man can not live on bread alone, nor can we live on meat alone.
Lets look at four factors in selecting our food group
History – how long has mankind used the food group.
Ease of growing – how easy is the plant to grow. We should be looking at long term survival factors.
Production – how much food does the plant produce.
Storage – how easy is the plant to store.
[Related Article - Stocking Seeds]
For the past 7,000 years or so mankind has moved from the hunter-gather lifestyle, to a farmer-gardener. What plants have sustained mankind? We have greens (radishes, turnips,,etc.), squash, zucchini, corn, okra, wheat, beans and peas, watermelons, various grains, fruit trees, potatoes,, only to name a few.
As for the history part, there is no single crop that stands out. The Romans noted that greens were good for humans and livestock. Watermelons and wheat where imported from Africa to Europe over 2,000 years ago.
Corn, beans, squash and sweet potatoes fed various groups of native Americans in the pre-Columbian era.
Ease of growing
This is where things get important. When picking a certain food group to stockpile, consider the input:output ratio, how much effort does a plant need to produce a certain amount of food?
How long does it take the plant to mature?
How much rainfall or water does the plant need?
How much land needs to be cleared?
How much fertilizer does the plant need?
What types of fertilizer does the plant need?
Plants with large green leaves or tall stalks (cucumbers, greens, spinach and corn for example) require lots of nitrogen. Without nitrogen the plants simply will not grow.
Each plant requires a certain type of fertilizer, or a certain combination of fertilizer.
But there is one type of plant that supplies a lot of its own fertilizer, and that is peas and beans. Peas and beans return nitrogen to the soil that helps in plant growth.
Lets talk about the room that plants need to grow. Most plants either grow straight up, like corn or okra, or grow on a vine like cucumbers, or grow outwards like squash and zucchini.
One thing that sets peas and beans apart is they grow in either vine or bush form. If you want to grow beans on a section of lattice work, buy climbing beans. If you want a bush, buy peas or beans that form a bush. Depending on your garden arrangement, you can buy certain types of beans and peas to fit the situation.
Once the garden has been worked, the seeds planted, everything has gone just right, the time has come to harvest the food. How much food do you need to last you and your family through the winter?
Does the plant produce once, then die, or does it keep producing over and over?
For high producing plants we are looking at okra, peas and beans, squash, greens (turnips and mustards), zucchini, potatoes, asparagus, garlic, grape tomatoes,,, to name a few. Asparagus and garlic are slow to get started.
Corn – Some people consider corn a high producing plant, but the effort:production ratio is low. Lets not forget corn is a favorite food for wild animals, such as raccoons. Corn is included in my seed stockpile, but it is not very high on the list.
Cucumbers – cucumbers can be a very high producing plant. But, cucumbers require lots of nitrogen and do not contain very many nutrients. If you already have nutrient rich crops growing and have some extra nitrogen rich fertilizer, then sure, why not grow a few plants of cucumbers, especially if you have a pressure cooker to make pickles from the cucumbers.
Okra – If you want a crop that produces a lot of food, as in producing a 5 gallon bucket every few days, look no further then okra. Okra production depends on 3 things – fertilizer, heat and water. As long as you have some food fertilizer, some hot weather and plenty of rain, okra will keep producing.
Grape tomatoes – Produce a tomato about the size of a grape. This makes them easier to eat for people who do not normally like tomatoes. Under the right conditions, grape tomatoes can be a very high producing plant. Expect to get a handful of grape sized tomatoes every few days. For tomatoes to reach optimal production, the plants are going to need a well balanced fertilizer. Normally I just use 13-13-13 on my tomatoes. After a collapse of society, commercial fertilizer might be a little difficult to find.
Beans – Another good high producing crop is beans, such as snap beans. Unlike corn, okra and tomatoes, beans do not require nitrogen containing fertilizer. Adding nitrogen helps, but beans and peas add nitrogen back into the soil.
Spinach – Packed full of nutrients, but requires nitrogen to grow well.
Radishes – Fast growing, sprouts can usually be harvested in 2 weeks after planting, with the whole plant ready to harvest in around 30 days. Like a lot of greens, the whole radish is edible so nothing goes to waste.
Squash and Zucchini – Require a well balanced fertilizer, packed full of nutrients, can be eaten raw, takes several months before the plant starts producing food, deer and pest resistant, can cross pollinate so the saved seeds can result in a hybrid.
Potatoes – usually grown from sprouts from other potatoes, easy to grow, stores well for long periods of time.
After the crop has been harvested, now what? How are you going to safely store the food your family just spent several months growing?
Corn you can husk, dry and store in a cool dry place, or use a pressure cooker to preserve the corn in a jar.
Okra, squash, peas, beans, potatoes,, can all be preserved with a pressure cooker/pressure canner.
Potatoes can be stored in layers of straw. As long as the potatoes are kept dry, they should last 6 months. Usually around January the potatoes will start sprouting eyes.
Beans and peas can have a spring run through them, hung up and dried. Or shell them and let the beans dry, they store in a cool dry place.
In my opinion, peas and beans are probably the best garden seed you can stockpile. Pinto beans are a good source of protein, and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.
Since beans and peas produce some of their own nitrogen, this means the farmer has to supply less nitrogen to the garden.
Beans return nitrogen to the soil, which makes them ideal companions for high nitrogen requirement crops.
Wildlife love to eat bean plants. So the plants can be placed in an area where you want to attract wildlife for hunting purposes.
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