Top 10 Foods to Grow for Survival

Karen Hendry
By Karen Hendry June 22, 2016 09:44

Top 10 Foods to Grow for Survival

When the collapse happens and you are in survival mode, you need to consider your long-term food needs.  Whatever food you have stored away will eventually run out and then you will have nothing in your pantry.  For this reason, you need to use the time you are eating through your food stores to grow your own food, food that will be ready when your stores are gone.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand when it comes to growing food for survival is that some foods are better than others when it comes to ease of growth, nutritional content, caloric content, and ease of storage.  For this reason, you need to have good knowledge of the best foods to grow for survival, particularly if you have limited space or are trying to decide which types of seeds to stockpile.

How Native Cultures Did It

Native cultures around the world discovered thousands of years ago that farming was an essential part of survival.  Hunting and foraging could only take us so far and being able to plant crops gave us a more stable food source.  In North America, many tribes subsisted much of the year on what they called the three sisters, which were corn, squash, and beans.  South America also relied on corn and beans, as well as potatoes.  For thousands of years in China people have been growing enough food on a couple of acres of land that they can feed their families and still have enough with which to barter for other goods.  These ancient cultures are good examples of how to farm for survival.

The Hardy Foods

First, when it comes to growing your own food, nothing is off limits.  You can grow anything you want to include in your diet and the summer months will allow you to have a great abundance of food.  Things like tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and broccoli are all wonderful foods to grow, rich in vitamins and minerals.  However, these are not the hardy foods that will get you through the winter, particularly when your available methods of preservation are limited.  Ideally, you want foods that, once harvested, can be stored as is or dried and stored for use over the winter months.  For this reason, the following are the recommended staples to plant and grow for year-round sustenance, starting with the three sisters.

Beans

beansBeans are one of the best staples for so many reasons.  First, they are very high in protein, vitamins, and minerals and they are also very high in calories, providing lots of the energy required for survival.  However, beans are also very versatile.  They can be eaten fresh off the plant or dried on the vine, harvested, and stored.  Beans have an incredibly long shelf life when dried.  They can be prepared in a wide variety of ways, such as in soups, cooked and eaten with breads, or just eaten on their own.  Their versatility as a food is nearly endless.  Finally, beans give nitrogen back to the soil, something other crops need.  This makes them a great rotation crop.

Corn

corn-survival foodThe first thing you need to know about growing corn for survival is you won’t be growing the sweet corn you are familiar with.  Instead, Native Americans grew grain corn, which was traditionally grown and dried on the stalk so it could be harvested and stored.  Corn is very easy to grow.  It can be ground and made into a variety or breads and used as a thickener for soup.  Corn can be combined with beans for a complete protein.

Winter Squash

Squashes-survival-foodWinter squash is very hardy and easy to store during the winter months.  There are a lot of varieties, such as acorn, butternut, spaghetti, and Hubbard.  Pumpkins also fall into this category.  Store them for up to 6 months in a cool, dark place and you will be enjoying this nutritious staple along with your corn and beans.

Related:22 Ingenious Hacks to Make Food Last Longer

Potatoes

potatoes-survival foodThe humble potato might be associated with Ireland in the minds of many people (think the Great Irish Famine), but it is actually native to South America and wasn’t known anywhere else in the world until after Columbus sailed.  Potatoes are so easy to grow in a range of climates and soil types and their use has spread all over the world.  They will also sustain you for an extended period of time when you when you have no other food available.

Carrots

Carrots survival foodCarrots are also a very important root vegetable that will store well over the winter months and provide important nutrition and variety in your diet.  As long as you have sandy, well-draining soil, you can grow carrots.  If you aren’t in an area that experiences hard winters, you can cover your carrots with a thick layer of mulch to protect them and just leave them in the ground.  If you do have to harvest them, then you can store them in a refrigerator or root cellar.

Cabbage

cabbage-survival foodCabbage is a staple around the world and for good reason.  It is easy to grow, easy to store, and high in nutrition, even when cooked.  Cook it with other staples, such as potatoes, for delicious meals, make it into soup, or ferment it to make Sauerkraut.  When fermented, cabbage will last even longer and provide a wealth of nutritional benefits for the body and the digestive tract.

Kale

kale_titleKale is part of the same plant family as cabbage, and while it isn’t normally thought of as a survival staple, it is a great crop to grow.  Kale is so packed full of nutrition, it will help keep your family from nutritional deficiencies that can weaken them and make them more prone to illness.  It can be grown easily and it is cold-hardy, which means that you can grow it well into late fall or early winter.  If you have a cold frame, you can grow it through the winter.  Kale can be added to any foods you are cooking, including soups and stews and potato dishes.  It can also be dried into kale chips, something that has become a popular health food, but will store well and keep you eating healthy greens throughout the year.

Sweet Potatoes

sweet-potato-nutritional-fact-versus-regular-potatoSweet potatoes are a fabulous addition to your staple foods.  They are similar to potatoes, but healthier because they contain more nutrients and their greens are edible.  One plant can give you both tubers and greens.  Sweet potatoes are also easy to grow.  Even though they are a tropical and subtropical plant, they can be grown in the north.  They are a vine than have runner roots that swell into the delicious tubers.

Sweet potatoes can be stored at room temperature for a long period of time.  They will keep a month or two at the least, but if they are cured, they will keep for many months.  Curing them means simply keeping them at between 85 and 90 degrees for the first five days after harvest, during which time they will essentially grow a second skin.

Related: 7 Primitive Cooking Methods You Still Need to Know Today

Garlic

Garlic-survival foodGarlic is a fabulous addition to any survival garden.  It is delicious and will add flavor to anything you cook, but it is so much more than that.  Aside from being a highly nutritious food, it can be used as a medicinal plant.  Garlic is a powerful antibiotic and antiviral.  It also helps boost the immune system, is a powerful antioxidant, and reduces high blood pressure and cholesterol.  Garlic is easy to grow, and when harvested, it can be stored and used over the winter months while you wait for a new crop to grow.

Herbs

herbs-survival foodHerbs are incredibly versatile and very easy to store.  Anything you can think of, such as rosemary, thyme, basil, bay leaves, parsley, and oregano, can be grown during the summer months, harvested, and dried for use over the winter months.  Simply cut the plants, wash them, hang them upside down until they dry, and then store them in glass jars in a cool, dry place.  Plus, many of the herbs you use every day are perennials, which means that once you plant them, they will come back every year, giving you an ongoing annual supply of herbs.  Herbs will also give you the nutrition you need from greens and will provide your food with added flavor, something that will save you from the blandness of a survival diet.

Start Now

The list above includes the best survival foods to grow, but you shouldn’t wait until the collapse to get started.  The key is to practice now, before growing this food is a matter of survival.  Make mistakes now (while you can still go to the grocery store and buy food).

Even if you choose to begin with only one or two of the foods listed above, get started and learn how to grow food that will keep you and your family alive and healthy no matter how tough times get…

…because tough times never last, but tough people do! 

Prof. Nate Storey (picture bellow) will show you why you need your own food source and how you can use high density “vertical aquaponics” or “survival aquaponics” to grow large quantities on a small piece of land.

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Karen Hendry
By Karen Hendry June 22, 2016 09:44
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10 Comments

  1. Shamaryah June 22, 19:09

    Great wright up. Everyone should make copy of same and then build up their survival storage food with these foods. they cover all of the main meals you will need to stay healthy. Most are easy to grow, but carrots will take the longest time to grow if you want them long.

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  2. Cummins45306 June 23, 13:59

    I agree these are great food to be growing, BUT growing them isn’t the only part needed to know. Collecting seed is ever bit as important as knowing how to plant, harvest, store, and eat. Carrots and cabbage, most people aren’t familiar at all in how to allow them to produce seed. And corn needs to be an open pollinated variety. While listing what we need is a great help, there is more to being prepared

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  3. Ginny June 24, 14:16

    Amen to all of the above! God be with you all!

    Ginny

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  4. Richo July 11, 17:21

    This article is a good start, but there are more additions I would make. I have gardened in Montana for over 60 years and am a big fan of food storage.
    Carrots: They are a good start but I would also add other root crops, they are the heart of long term garden food storage. I grow beets, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, and edible rooted parsley, all storable for a long time in a refrigerator. Beets keep the best. I have purchased a second used refrigerator, removed all the shelves, and fill it with buckets and garbage bags of produce. If you have a heated garage you can set the thermostat low and have it function as a giant walk-in refrigerator.
    Along with the garlic I would highly recommend growing lots of onions. I raise 3-400 pounds a year. If properly cured they last longer than garlic, I consume mine year around. The key is to never cut the tops or roots off, let the stems dry up naturally, then stuff them into open mesh bags and hang up. Do not plant the onion “sets” you see in stores, they do not keep. What you want are onion transplants that come in rubber banded bunches of about 50 and look like miniature green onions. Start them early and top dress occasionally, they are heavy feeders, and like extra sulfur.
    Along with cabbage I like brussels sprouts. When winter approaches I dig them up after breaking the outer leaves off, and transplant them into 2 gallon pots. They can be kept in a place that does not freeze hard and will keep on the stalk most of the winter.
    Along with the dry beans try dried peas and chickpeas as staples.
    In general I never plant in rows, but always in beds that one can reach into from both sides. A path down every row wastes way too much space. The key to growing good root crops is in the thinning. Each plant should have its own spacing both ways in the bed, carrots 2 inches, beets 4, and so on.

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  5. Goldmerry July 23, 21:23

    Richo – I would like for you to write a how-to book. Your info was great, but as a novice in the planning stages, I don’t always understand exactly what you mean. And when you write it, take pictures. It would be a good article for this site or other prepper or homesteading site.

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  6. CSB October 26, 22:04

    All are excellent suggestions, but what about onions?

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  7. lucy October 27, 02:36

    Great comment, Richo! I would also add that tomatoes and peppers can be dried, and wake up soups and stews.

    One year I grew 26 kinds of tomatoes, to finally know which ones grew best, and were most flavorful. The one we found just “okay” was Valencia, an orange tomato. BUT — When I picked all the good-sized green tomatoes off the vine to bring inside to ripen before the first frost, the Valencias lasted forever! We ate the last FIVE fresh at EASTER!!! Why they lasted so long is a mystery. They may not have been the best in the summer, but they were really tasty throughout the winter, way better than anything from the store!

    Note: Corn is easy to grow, but you had better have a tall fence with a chicken wire “lid” to keep the raccoons from taking one bite out of each ear before they are ready.

    Also, acorn squash are not nearly as good keepers as butternuts, spaghetti squash, even Delicatas. Don’t keep winter squash cooler than 55 – 60 degrees, and wash them off in a 10 to 1 water to bleach solution. I store mine on the cellar stairs. There is one butternut left from last year’s harvest. The one we just ate was perfect! I don’t know if it made any difference, why they stored so well, but they were all organic.

    One more thing: In zone 5, at least, you can keep root crops in the ground, with a bale of straw on top to keep the ground from freezing too hard — BUT — I now plant them inside at least a buried foot of fine mesh hardware cloth to keep the mice and voles (and who knows what all) from eating my tender carrots, beets, parsnips, etc. The tops looked really good, though, in spite of the fact that the beasties had eaten all but the top inch or two of my veggies.

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  8. Farmer Phyl July 30, 03:35

    Good article. We are so used to eating veggies for weight loss or weight control. In times of hardship or crisis we may need the opposite…to grow as many calories as possible! Leeks and parsnips have 3 times more calories than onions and carrots. Kale is one of the very few high calorie leafy green veggies. Garlic has almost as many calories per pound as many cuts of meat. When slow roasted garlic is a very mild, high calorie vegetable (not just a seasoning)…check online for a recipe for 40 cloves and a chicken. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash are all high calories, at least for veggies. Oregon Sweet Meats Squash is a variety that will store over a year but there are others too. Zucchini is usually very over abundant but low in calories. Dry it and use it as a pasta replacement, Costata Romanesca is very good even at 6-7 pounds and particularly good when dried! All dried food is much higher in calories. You need large amounts of land to grow enough dried beans or dried corn for flour or meal so that it isn’t an option for most backyard gardeners. Those are staples better off purchasing at Costco or Sams Club. Lastly, saving seed is a skill that takes 3-5 years for most gardeners to become good at.

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