Since the importance of a food bank was discussed recently along with the importance of staple crops, going into staple crops in more detail could prove helpful to individuals and families mulling over selections. As discussed earlier, staple crops are foods that are eaten regularly in quantities large enough to make them a 'staple' in one's diet. They also provide adequate levels of calories and nutrients for survival. Often times, staple crops are inexpensive to buy as well as easy to grow, and they can be stored for long periods of time without worry of rot or decay.
Some important things to consider when choosing staple crops to plant or include in your seed bank is what you have the space to store, what will give you the highest yield, what is rich in food energy and the nutritional needs that will benefit you most, and what pleases your palate to consume. In a lot of cases, we already eat staple crops on a regular basis but may not really connect the dots in our minds as it is easy to forget about the origins of food and what it takes to grow that food when you are buying it from a grocery store rather than growing it yourself. Grocery stores are convenient, but the long term food security will depend largely on your food bank and the staple crops in it.
6 easy to grow staple crop choices are:
1. Potatoes, both the standard and sweet varieties, are a good way to get a lot of calorie-rich food in a little bit of space. Potatoes also grow easily; no seeds are necessary and all it takes it planting a potato that has started to sprout eyes. In two to three months' time your potatoes will be ready to harvest (actual time depends on the type of potato) and they can then be stored in a cool, dark place.
2. Winter squash, which is a broad term encompassing several types of squash, is packed full of fiber and Vitamins A and C. It is also resistant to disease and can reach a yield of 50+ pounds in a planting area the size of about 100 square feet. Squash also stores easily for long periods of time with minimal preservation efforts.
3. Grains are enriching, satisfying foods, the easiest of which to grow is corn. Depending on the area in which you live, there is a type of corn that will thrive in your climate. Corn can also be eaten right off the cob or ground for use in other concoctions such as cornmeal, polenta, bread, or pancakes. An area of corn that is approximately 100 square feet should yield about 300-500 corn cobs based on caloric values (60-100 or so calories per cob) for various types of corn. A note about corn: while it is often argued whether corn is a fruit, grain, or vegetable, it is essentially all three. Corn is a vegetable if harvested early to be eaten fresh. Once dried, corn becomes classified as a grain. However, corn is technically a fruit due to being a caryopsis, which is a dry fruit with a single carpel (the husk) that does not open on its own upon reaching maturity.
4. Dry beans yield 3-5lbs per 100 square feet of planted area and each pound contains about 1,500 calories. Beans, or legumes, are a popular food choice that many of us consume regularly in a multitude of ways; beans can be eaten as a side or incorporated into a plethora of different dishes. Stored seeds can be kept for several years but if beans for cooking is your intent, use them within a year.
5. Wheat can be grown in winter or spring depending on your climate and can also be grown in heirloom varieties that are said to be more tolerable to those affected by celiac disease. For 100 square feet of garden space, 6lbs of wheat can be grown. As you grow, replenish your seeds for the next planting to keep the wheat cycle going.
6. Kale, collard greens, and cabbage are good cold weather growers and produce high quantities. These items also store well in cool, dark places and can be fermented into foods such as sauerkraut. Rather than performing a full harvest of these items, you can cut what you need from the garden and it will continue to grow and replenish. These items are also very nutritionally sound and high in much-needed calcium.
Once you've selected the staple crops that will work best for you and your family, make plans to acquire the needed supplies to get them stored in a seed bank or planted and growing. Planting a garden after the SHTF will be useful, but more so will be a garden that is already producing. If you are new to gardening, start with crops that are known to grow easily and plentifully, then expand your horizons as you learn and develop skills. If you have questions and need guidance, your local coop or extension service can help you. Regardless of what you decide to store or plant in the end, be sure that you have something that will produce what you and your family need to not only survive, but also thrive in the new world with which you will be faced.