A well stocked pantry with food (that very well may overflow into your basement) is often considered the hallmark of a seasoned survivalist. Making sure you've got enough supplies to keep your family safe through a crisis is fundamental to actually surviving, but you don't want these to just be 10 years worth of freeze dried military rations. That would get boring rather quickly. So what's the answer? Start growing your own food. A working garden helps to keep your family healthy, as you can harvest foods that are nutritionally superior to their preserved or tinned counterparts, they can save you money on your weekly shopping, plus you get the satisfaction that comes with food you've grown yourself. Of course, what you are actually able to grow will depend on your climate, the season, as well as the soil in the area you live, so make sure you do a little local research and find the plants best suited to your area to grow. No matter how big (or small) your garden actually is, you can always make room for a plant or two, even if they're just in a row of planter boxes on your balcony. What's best to grow is really a subjective question, because it depends on the foods you enjoy eating. The trick is to ensure you're getting the maximum amount of calories, carbohydrates and nutrients, for the minimum amount of effort in your garden. Here's seven of our favorite plants to grow yourself at home:
Potatoes are a great survival food because their yields are so great, producing many calories yet able to be grown in a very compact space. To start growing your potatoes, take a piece of potato that's roughly the size of an egg, just be sure there are three or four 'eyes' in it, and plant it about 4 inches into the ground. If you experience cool summers plant your potatoes early and they will take anywhere from 65 to 90 days before you can harvest them. Sweet potatoes prefer a warm climate, and you can even eat their green foliage raw in a salad, or cooked. They're a very low maintenance plant, and with average rainfall you will not need to look after them - they even outcompete many types of weeds.
Tomatoes are a great plant for beginners to start a garden, because they just need a little sunshine and some water and they'll start springing up in no time. Tomatoes are full of healthy antioxidants, and a wonderful addition to your cooking that you can take straight from the garden and use in your meals. The results of your labor are usually rewarded with more tomatoes than you will know what to do with, and following a harvest you'll have plenty to use in your salads, for making sauce and salsa, or canning and keeping in your stores for a rainy day.
Calorie for calorie kale is a super food and has more nutrition than almost any other vegetable, packed full of calcium, vitamin K, folic and beta-carotene. What makes kale truly great for your survival garden is that it's a fan of the cold, and hardy enough to grow into the winter, making it a nice addition to your plate when other fresh produce is harder to come by. Plus, your chickens will love it as a change in fodder when your grain stores are getting low.
In the aftermath of a disaster, being able to provide grains for your family is a god-send. Unfortunately, many of the grains we use today are difficult to produce in a hobby-farm type environment, with the exception of grain corn. Depending on your climate there will be a particular type of corn that grows better, just be careful to steer clear of the genetically engineered varieties. Look for a grain corn that uses open-pollinated seeds, as you'll be able to save new seeds from each harvest for a following season. The seeds will last up to 5 to 10 years if you store them correctly. Once you harvest your grain corn, a simple hand miller like the Corona Grain Mill will enable you to start making grits, meal and corn flour.
We really love winter squash at APE Survival, because of its high fiber content, as well as the high levels of vitamin A and C it contains. If you've got a compost heap out behind your shed this can be a perfect growing location, as winter squash plants prefer soil that's packed with nitrogen - just like you get from a big pile of composting manure or even animal carcasses. Once you harvest the squash, you'll be able to store these in your kitchen for up to 6 months, just be sure to check them ever week or so and remove or use any before they start to go bad.
These tender vegetables are a great addition to your garden, as you can eat the entire bean (including the pod) fresh off the plant, or incorporate them into many different recipes. We highly recommend the climbing variety, as you can set these growing next to a trellis or even just a fence, and the beans will rapidly scale the obstacle without taking up too much space in your garden. Plus, the climbing beans usually provide a much better yield than the bush varieties, they just need a little maintenance to ensure they're adequately climbing up the structure you create. Harvest your beans before they get too big and they'll stay nice and tender.
Just because you're in survival mode doesn't mean you have to eliminate taste from your diet, and growing your own supply of garlic will give you an ample supply of flavor to add to any of the hot dishes you enjoy cooking. To start a garlic plant, prepare an area of soil roughly 4 inches deep, breaking the bulb into its individual cloves as you plant each one. You can harvest them when the leaves start to wilt, simply loosen the dirt and pull the entire plant from your garden. After harvesting dry the bulbs in a warm spot with a bit of airflow, protecting them both from rain and direct sunlight. Let the bulbs rest for about a week, brush the any remaining soil off with your hands and clip the roots to about half an inch long. Wait another week before clipping the stems, but leave the bulb together in the papery housing. If stored at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, your garlic bulbs should last 4 to 6 months. Being prepared for a disaster situation isn't always about having the biggest and fanciest toys, and the same logic applies to your garden. Don't tackle a project that's too big on day one, start small and start with a few plants so you can gradually start providing your family with clean and healthy nutrition, right from your own back door.