Prepping is personal pursuit and no two families prepare in exactly the same way. Each family has their own unique preferences and style, adding diversity to life. This uniqueness is evident in the methods used to produce food.
Recently we had an opportunity to spend an afternoon with some dear prepper friends and tour their survival garden. We observed a few hundred Butternut squash freshly picked and being prepared for storage, sweet juicy grapes hanging from vines and golden apples ready to be transformed into delicious cider or sauces. The October harvest teases the senses with its impressive display of colors, distinctive scents, cool mornings, sounds of scattering fallen leaves, and the taste of freshly harvested fruits and vegetables!
Clod B. Hopper (name changed to protect the guilty) and his wife had given a lot of thought to what they would need to produce in order to be healthy and survive an extended crisis. They have years of experience gardening using traditional methods with neat rows of corn and other veggies. One day as they viewed their beautiful handiwork they pondered which of all this food would they actually need to survive if they were on their own. After significant thought, they composed this list of requirements for vegetable candidates.
• Easy to grow
• Store well
• Most calories and nutrition for least amount of effort
• Propagation – must be able to easily save seeds for future crops
• Proven – must grow well in my garden
• Low water consumption
• No chemicals required for success
• Disease and pest free
After significant study and experimentation, the Hoppers have developed their perfect survival garden. These are the vegetables that made their survival list.
• Butternut Squash – This winter squash just happens to be a nutritional powerhouse. This year 24 plants produced over 300 squash. The squash bugs leave it alone. It is rich in vitamin A, C, B-6, potassium, magnesium and iron. The Hoppers store these delicious starchy vegetables on shelves in an unused basement bathroom. The window is left slightly ajar all winter long to keep it cool and provide ventilation. The butternut squash successfully stores for over a year. Clod has had some last for two years. It takes up less storage space than other squash, such as pumpkins, because the center is solid.
• Golden Yukon Potatoes – Potatoes are a good source of calories, vitamin C, B-6 and magnesium. A single potato contains about 4 grams of protein. Potatoes can be baked, mashed, boiled, fried and enjoyed in a thousand different recipes. Stored in a root cellar, potatoes can easily last over the long winter. Clod stores his potatoes between layers of sawdust in a plastic bin in the garage. (Photo is a similar method using straw instead of sawdust)
• Orange Carrots – Carrots are an easy crop to grow. They store remarkably well in the ground throughout the cold winter. Cover carrots with a good foot or so of leaves or grass in the fall and harvest throughout the winter. Carrots also store well in a root cellar. Shelf life can be increased by dehydrating or bottling. Carrots are especially high in vitamin A.
• Tomatoes – Sweet 100 and Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes for fresh eating and canning tomatoes for bottling. They contain important nutrients such as antioxidants, lycopene, vitamin A, C, B-6, magnesium and a little bit of iron and calcium. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Smith)
• Detroit Red Beets – Beets can be stored similar to carrots. They are high in folate and manganese, but are a good source of potassium, copper, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, iron, and vitamin B6. A nice bonus to beets is that both the greens and the root are delicious.
• Swiss Chard – One 4’x 4’ patch of Swiss chard will keep your entire family in greens throughout the growing season. It is one of the most nutritious vegetables. Swiss chard can be harvested a few leaves at a time and will produce abundantly when kept picked.
• Blue Curled Kale and Red Winter Organic Kale – Kale is a hearty producer, simple to grow, and adds vital nutrients to a survival diet. It is a good source of vitamin A, C, B-6, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and even protein. It dries easily and can be stored for use during the long winter months. Kale chips are a favorite snack.
• Spinach – This leafy green is also one of the most nutritious vegetables. If left alone in its own little patch it will re-seed itself, providing fresh greens in early spring and again in the fall.
• Bush Beans – Funny thing about beans, the more you pick the more you get. Great for building the soil as well as providing nutrition.
• Sugar Snap Peas – These are a wonderful source of vitamin A, C, K, iron and folic acid. They also fix nitrogen into the soil improving the overall yield of the garden.
• Yellow Crook Neck and Zucchini – Summer squash is a prolific producer. A few plants will provide more squash than you will ever want to eat.
• Onions – This popular vegetable adds flavor to otherwise tasteless foods as well as nutrition. Onions contain polyphenol, an important phytonutrient. The flavonoids and sulfur-containing properties give a healthy boost to the diet. Onions can store for a few months fresh or be dehydrated and used for many years.
• Garlic – Garlic is a wonderful seasoning that has both nutritional and medicinal properties. It can easily be stored for 6 months fresh and for several years once dehydrated.
In addition to these annual vegetables, Clod’s family has a few fruit trees, grapes, goji berries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Culinary and medicinal herbs grow interspersed in the landscape.
Clod’s great concern is that disaster strikes he will not have time to grow a wide variety of vegetables. These few basic vegetables cover the dietary requirements, involve little work to produce and are proven winners in their garden. Seeds can easily be saved to propagate future gardens. These simple vegetables are intended to supplement a longer term storage program that is full of grains and beans. Longer term storage items tend to be lacking in vitamin A and C. This survival garden is designed to be especially rich in the nutrients basic longer term storage might be lacking.
So what is your plan? You don’t have to be a master gardener to produce food that will sustain your loved ones through a crisis. There is no better time to start than today.