Survival Gardening: advantages of root crops

Suppose that you are growing food in a large backyard garden, with prepping and survival purposes in mind. You might want to use the garden as a supplemental source of the three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. An alternative approach is to store sufficient foods high in all three macronutrients, and then use the garden to provide foods rich in vitamins, mineral, antioxidants, fiber and some additional protein, fat, and carbs. You would need a very large garden, almost a small farm, to provide all of your macronutrients. You only need a large backyard garden to supplement stored foods. My suggestion is to store the basics and grow all kinds of flavorful and nutritious fruits and vegetables. However, it also makes sense to grow some protein, fat, and carbs. You can only store so much food.

This prepping and survival blog post examines the best root crops for providing macronutrients. Why root crops, you ask? Aren’t grains a better option? I suggest growing both grains and roots/tubers. The main staple foods of the world are grains and roots/tubers. We know that these foods work for survival purposes, since humanity has depended on them since the dawn of agriculture. But root crops offer certain advantages over grains.

A grain crop produces zero food, until it starts to produce the ear of the grain. Until then, all you are growing is inedible: the roots and leaves of grain crops are (typically) not food. But a root crop produces roots right away, and those roots continue to grow as the plant matures. You can pull it up at any time and obtain at least some food. So if bad weather wreaks havoc with a root crop, you can still harvest it. Not so with grain crops. If your wheat or corn crops fails, before the grain is produced, you have nothing.

By the way, the difference between roots and tubers is simple. For root crops, you are actually eating the root (e.g. carrots). For tubers, you are eating a part of the plant used to store carbs (or even fat) that grows off of the roots. Tuber crops do not produce the tuber immediately after sprouting. But they typically do being producing tubers early on. So an emergency early harvest, due to crop failure or running out of food, is possible with both roots and tubers, but not with grains.

Another advantage of root and tuber crops is that they store well in the ground for a late harvest. You can generally leave these crops in the ground, even after the plant dies off due to frosts and winter cold. You can then harvest the roots as needed (as long as the ground is not frozen solid) in late fall or early spring. With grain crops, you must harvest the whole crop once it is ripe, or the grains will fall to the ground and provide no food.

Roots and tubers tend to be high in carbs, low in protein and very low in fat. Grains tend to have only moderate carb content. So roots/tubers complement the macronutrient content of grains. If you grow both, you will only need some stored vegetable oil to round out your supply of macronutrients. Tubers are also very filling in meals, so when food is in short supply, you feel full after eating lots of hearty potatoes, or sweet potatoes, or rutabaga, etc.

Roots/tubers are relatively easy to grow. You need loose soil, so that the root or tuber can expand underground. Otherwise, the growing conditions are flexible enough that this type of crop can be grown in almost any climate. Every survival garden should feature several root crops. Which ones are best? See my next post for my opinion.

– Thoreau

2 Responses to Survival Gardening: advantages of root crops

  1. Potatoes are one of those home garden staples that everyone should have. Potatoes are extremely easy to grow and there are so many to choose from. Carrots are easy as well, but to a lesser extent. They need some space and loose soil, otherwise you will end up with a lot of “mini” carrots.

  2. Awesome post. Everyone should have a good scheme setup for gardening and knowing what to do once things start to get hairy. I have a feeling it won’t be too long before all of us that know how to garden on their own are going to see the benefits of it.