Unless your backyard garden is the size of a small farm, you can’t survive solely from food from the garden. I expect that in many survival situations, people will still buy some of their food from the supermarket. Then if you are a smart prepper, you will have stored quite a bit of food also. So your survival garden supplements food you store and whatever food you continue to buy.
Carbs are relatively easy to store. White rice and white pasta will store almost indefinitely, if kept cool, dry, and well-sealed. Vegetable oil is inexpensive and stores relatively well (1 to 2 years shelf life). Protein is probably the more difficult macronutrient to store. Grains contain some protein. Dried legumes (peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas) all keep well. But honestly, they are not very tasty. You can get tired of eating dried beans and rice pretty quickly. So a large backyard garden would be a very useful resource.
Which backyard crops are best for protein? I’ll suggest my top ten picks.
1. Soybeans — unlike some legumes, soybeans are a complete protein; they offer all essential amino acids in ideal proportions. Soybeans also contain both essential fatty acids: omega-6 and omega-3. They are as easy to grow as beans and peas, and varieties exist for almost any climate.
2. Other legumes — peas, snap beans, chickpeas, lentils are all much more palatable in fresh form than when reconstituted from dry legumes in storage.
3. Hulless pumpkin seeds — There are several varieties of pumpkin with hulless seeds. I would rank them, in order of suitability for edible seed production, as follows:
1. Kakai – large thick seeds; green papery covering, with ivory interior bursting out.
2. Styrian – medium-large seeds; dark green covering, firmly attached.
3. Prostate Squash – medium-large seeds; light green covering.
4. Naked Seeded Squash – medium seeds; light to darker green covering; light rim.
5. Lady Godiva – medium-small seeds; medium green.
6. Little Greenseed – small seeds; medium to dark green.
7. Triple Treat – small seeds; not entirely hulless; pronounced rim.
8. Snack Jack – small seeds; not entirely hulless (worse than Triple Treat); pronounced rim.
Pumpkin seeds are high in protein and high in healthy omega-6 dietary fat. This crop therefore offers a high nutritional density.
4. Peanuts — Yes, you can grow your own peanuts. You need relatively dry hot weather, so in most locals it would be a summer crop. Where can you find peanuts to plant? At your local supermarket. See this previous post: Grocery Store Sources of Gardening Seeds
Peanuts need to be dried thoroughly after harvest, to prevent fungus from growing in the crop, especially when storing long term. Peanuts are an excellent source of protein and dietary fat. They also are the best vegetarian source of vitamin B7 (biotin).
5. Quinoa — a pseudo-cereal used like a grain, quinoa offers a complete protein. It is higher in protein than wheat and has almost twice the protein of white rice. Unlike most grains, quinoa does not need to be hulled after harvest. However, the bitter saponin coating must be removed by washing before cooking. Tips on growing and preparing quinoa here.
6. Amaranth — just like quinoa, but without the bitter saponin coating. Amaranth is easy to harvest. You get several ounces, up to as much as one pound, of grains on one stalk. There are no hulls to remove. The grain cooks up like a porridge, and can be ground into a flour (non-rising). Amaranth is high in protein and is a complete protein.
7. Buckwheat — not a type of wheat at all, buckwheat seeds are achenes (like quinoa and amaranth). Buckwheat “groats” as they are called are a complete protein. Again, there are no hulls to be removed, so harvesting is easier than for wheat or rice. The groats can be boiled like rice, or ground into a flour.
8. Maize (corn) — flour-type corn is not a complete protein; you need to pair this food with a high lysine food like soybeans or other legumes. However, corn is a good supplemental source of protein because it is easy to grow. Varieties exist for nearly every climate. Yellow corn is a good source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Flour type corn (flint or dent) can be dried and ground into cornmeal, which keeps well in storage.