Best foods to grow in a survival garden

 Personal preparedness and gardening experts list the 10 best types of food for an emergency garden, based on criteria like calorie density and how easy each crop is to grow for a wide range of people. Whether you plant ahead of time or just keep seeds on hand for a potential future catastrophe, these are the foods you’d want to grow when you need to feed yourself to survive.


When you’re buying food from the market in normal life, you don’t have to think about the differences in what it took to grow one type versus another — all that matters to most people is taste and purchase price.


But there’s a lot of variables from one crop to another when it comes to the qualities that matter for an emergency scenario. This means it’s worth being smart about what you grow. Sure, anything is better than nothing, but you’ll be much better off with just a few smart decisions.


Let this list be a guide and not a prescription. For example, we don’t recommend lettuce because it’s tricky to grow and not especially nutritious, but don’t let that stop you if that’s what you want. The same goes for tomatoes. Nothing beats a homegrown tomato, but they’re a lot of trouble for the nutritional gain. That said, pretty much every gardener grows tomatoes or at least tries.


For a survival garden, you want the bulk to be calorie-dense crops like winter squash, sweet potatoes, and potatoes. You then want to round out your calorie crops with flavorful and nutritional plants like amaranth and garlic. Many calorie-dense crops, like winter squash and potatoes, take all season to grow, so you want easy but nutritious crops like green beans you can harvest throughout the growing season.


The best survival crops for most people:


Winter squash — easy to grow, easy to store, calorie-dense

Sweet potatoes — nutritious and you can eat the leaves

Potatoes — the starchy superfood that fueled European conquest

Field corn — high in calories and can be distilled

Amaranth — grows like a weed, good for greens and edible seeds

Beans — green beans during the growing season, dry beans for storage

Cabbage — nutritious cool-weather crop, can be turned into sauerkraut

Turnips — another nutritious cool-weather crop, edible roots, and greens

Garlic — super easy to grow, packed with nutrients and flavor

Perennials — fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, and other food crops that produce year after year

What makes a good survival crop

Easy to grow. Some food is very picky, while others ‘grow like weeds’ even when you try to kill them. A survival situation is no time to roll the dice on delicate snowflake vegetables such as carrots.


Works well in a wide range of climates or geographies. You might find a niche crop that grows well in your local area and meets the rest of these criteria — if so, great, grow it. True yams are an excellent survival crop, for example, but they need a tropical environment. For this list, we focus on food that can be grown by the widest range of people across typical American climates. Which also makes the crops more forgiving to unusual conditions as the climate crisis worsens. That said, some things may not work where you live — sweet potatoes don’t do well in cold Northern climates, and cabbage and potatoes can be tricky in hot Southern ones. But you can probably grow most of what’s on this list.


Nutritionally dense. Once you’ve got the hard parts of gardening down and are producing food, your main challenge in these scenarios will be yield — can you produce enough nutrition with the limited resources you have. So if you’re going to put in the effort, you may as well get the most survival-bang-for-your-buck. You could grow a whole field of celery, for example, but it’s not going to keep bodies functioning the way a potato will.


Easy to store with a relatively long shelf life. Again, keeping things simple and less risky by avoiding foods that come with more ‘baggage’ when you’re trying to preserve and store them. In the type of emergency where you are depending on this food, for example, that means you’ll likely want your harvest to last for at least a few months through the winter. And you might not have refrigeration, the ability to salt or can for preservation, and so on.


That said, long-lasting foods also tend to take a long time to grow, so it’s good to also plant things you can eat in season, like amaranth greens and green beans. Sweet potatoes are a 1-2 punch since you can eat the green leaves as well as the sweet potatoes.


Easy to harvest, both in terms of when you can harvest them and how. Favor crops that have wider, more forgiving windows of time when you can harvest them. And you’d rather avoid foods that are tough to harvest, such as requiring a lot of painstaking manual labor or specialized equipment. eg. Wheat is a great survival crop in theory, but you have to thresh and grind it, so it’s overly labor-intensive for most people.


Taste is less important than some people think. “But in this kind of scenario, having my favorite food will help my mental health and will to survive!” Yes, mental health is very important, but this isn’t the way to check that box. Even if you normally hate things like potatoes, squashes, and legumes, there are solid reasons why those foods beat out other options — better to have 1,000 potatoes you hate than a handful of your favorite niche food.


Won’t upset your stomach. A lot of people grow Jerusalem artichokes as a survival crop. Yes, it grows absurdly well and is nutritious, but Jerusalem artichokes also give many people diarrhea, which you obviously want to avoid in a survival situation. (Pigs apparently love Jerusalem artichokes, so maybe consider them if you want to raise your own bacon.)

Best foods to grow in a survival garden

source: theprepared.com

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