Preventing starvation: what to grow, what to eat
February 15, 2010
We live in a time of plenty. Foods are brought to our local stores from far and wide. When times get tough, what foods will we NEED to eat? Now we often look to our garden or a produce department to provide vitamin rich fresh foods. Colorful salads look great, but we need foods which provide the energy to keep us going. Our bodies need protein to maintain them. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies won't matter much if we have already STARVED to death!
Grains, starchy vegetables and fruit all provide calories. Corn grown as a grain is my first choice. Not only is it very high in carbohydrates, it yields better than the small grains like wheat. Corn can also be grown and harvested with simple hand tools. Starchy vegetables include root crops such as beets and winter squash and pumpkins. Fruit tastes sweet because of the sugar, but is not as high in carbohydrates as it seems. Small fruits like berries and grapes can be established in a few years, but trees will take much longer. If you have a place to plant them, do it THIS year
There are three general categories of food nutrition. Vitamins, Protein and Carbohydrates. While the grocery store shelves are full, that is the order we are usually looking for. When foods are scarce, the order is reversed. Getting enough calories becomes the most important goal.
Now many people are having trouble finding enough time to exercise. Without our seemingly endless supply of energy and labor saving appliances, this will radically change. How many people have regularly dried all there laundry on a clothes line? Washing all your clothes by hand is far more work. Now think of carrying the water in a bucket, and heating water over a fire you gathered the fuel for too. Our needs for energy providing foods will dramatically increase.
In my collection of Cooking Books are 1930's directions for making a sandwich. Start with two thick slices of home made bread. Butter each very well. Then stack cold sliced meat an inch thick. A school boy should have two of those, but for a man working outdoors, pack four sandwiches with frosted cake for dessert and a bottle of cold coffee or tea. The Great Depression was raging in the 1930's. Few could afford to eat that well, but big meals are NEEDED by anyone doing heavy physical work.
There are many different threats to our modern easy life style. Economic and political, as well as natural disasters and just plain bad weather. The onset of difficult times may be sudden or gradual. Change may be temporary or a permanent. No matter what happens, we all need to eat. Growing our own food and storing it will save us money. If we don't have a place to grow food now, we still should have the tools, seeds and knowledge. A well stocked pantry should include not only food, but the means to produce and preserve it as well.
Sweet peas and immature beans can also provide some sugar and starch carbohydrates. They are a welcome harvest fresh from the garden. If you freeze or can them, they could be a treat months later, but they are not that high in calories and protein hasn't formed in them yet.
I recommend everyone buys and stores whole grains to eat, such as rice, wheat and oats. Even if you won't be growing all these grains in the future, they can save you a lot of money buying them in quantity and eating them now. Stored grains can feed you while you get your garden up to the size you will need. The money you save will allow you to buy other things to prepare. Grains keep best and contain the most nutrition whole. Rice is an exception, removing the hull on brown rice extends storage life. You will need a grain mill to make flour, and to learn how to cook foods you like from the grains you choose. You can and should grow some of your own grains at home too.
The next category is the protein foods. Fresh meat fish and eggs are widely available now, but would be very scarce and expensive without refrigeration. Freshly caught or butchered foods may become an occasional luxury at best. Beans will eventually become our major source for protein. They are not hard to grow or store in the fully mature dry stage. It is true that grains contain some protein, but we need to combine beans and grains in order for our bodies to assemble complete proteins from foods without milk eggs or meat. Commercially prepared dry milk has a long shelf life, while dried eggs do not. Both can be added to our baking and casseroles. Meat and fish may be pressure canned at home or purchased. These foods are readily available to store now, and could ease a transition to much harder times. We can save money by buying in quantity, no matter what the future brings.
Freshly ground or cooked whole grains, starchy garden vegetables and fruits all provide far more vitamins and minerals than processed foods. Beans are very rich in the B vitamins. Some salad vegetables harvested wild and from our garden can help fill in the gaps. Fresh or stored Cabbage can be prepared in many ways to taste differently.
The last general category of foods we need are fats and oils. Meat, fish and dairy can be excellent sources, but are perishable. Wild game usually has very little fat. Vegetable oils are widely used now, but very difficult to extract at home. By using whole grains, small amounts of oil are still present. There are a few crops naturally rich in oil which can be grown at home, such as Flax seed. If you are far enough south, peanuts can be raised. Sunflower seeds can be grown here in New England, but when the Fall rains arrive, the seeds get moldy before they are fully mature. Farther inland, sunflower varieties grown for oil are widely adapted.
Your home pantry should be well stocked with canned meats, fish and milk which contain fat. Check your bottles of vegetable oils for expiration dates, and buy in smaller containers you can use up before they spoil. A small canned ham will flavor a big pot of home grown beans, and add fat to the diet in a large family meal. Tuna canned in vegetable oil can be added to summer salads or casseroles. Salmon has its own very healthy oils. If you don't like the cheaper pink salmon, try the red. With a pressure canner, and following the instructions carefully, meat fish and milk may all be canned at home, now while cooking fuel is readily available.