Let’s say you have a backyard garden, and you want to maximize its effectiveness for prepping and survival. What should you grow? You need crops that provide the three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. You also want these crops to have a high yield and high nutritional density. For example, if you grow lettuce, you could obtain a high yield — in lbs of lettuce per square foot — but lettuce has low nutrition per lb. A modest-sized garden needs crops that produce a lot of nutrition in a small amount of space. So here are my top picks for survival crops.
1. Hulless Pumpkin — the seeds are high in protein and fat; dry the seeds and they will store well. Hulless varieties are easiest to harvest. The pumpkin flesh provides carbs and is high in beta-carotene. Pumpkin is generally high-yielding, with some varieties providing 100 to 200 lbs of pumpkin flesh and 4 to 5 lbs of dried seeds per 100 square foot of garden space. A summer-fall crop.
2. Soybeans — the beans dry and store well. They can be roasted with oil and salt as a snack food, or the fresh beans can be boiled and added to rice, pasta, or salads. Soybeans are a complete protein, and they contain both essential fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6, along with some carbs. A three-season crop — spring, summer, fall — providing 6 to 7 lbs of soybeans per 100 sq ft of garden space.
3. Peanuts — yes, you can grow your own peanuts, by planting store-bought (raw, in the shell) peanuts. Dry the crop well, then roast, salt, and store. You can even make your own peanut butter. Peanuts are high in fat and are a good source of protein, with all essential amino acids. A summer crop that prefers relatively dry weather. A good yield is 5 to 6 lbs of peanuts (not counting the weight of the shells) per 100 sq ft of garden space.
4. Quinoa and Amaranth — similar nutritional profiles and yields; both are easy to grow and harvest, with no hulling needed. Wash the quinoa thoroughly before cooking. Each is a complete protein, higher in protein than wheat with a better essential amino acid profile. Amaranth likes hot dry weather. Quinoa tolerates a cooler and wetter climate. Good yield is 4 to 5 lbs per 100 sq ft of garden space.
5. Potato and Sweet Potato — these root crops are low in protein but high in carbs; they produce a large amount of carbs in a small amount of space. You can also save some of the smaller potatoes from one harvest to plant for the next crop. A good yield is 40 to 50 lbs of potato per 100 sq ft of garden space, providing around 15,000 calories of total food energy.
6. Corn (maize) — flour-types of corn (dent corn, flint corn) produce a high amount of carbs and some protein. The dried ground kernels (cornmeal) store well and are easy to use in cooking. Corn was a major survival crop for native Americans for many generations. Unlike wheat and rice, corn does not need to be hulled. Flint types of corn can withstand occasional frosts. A good yield is 8 to 9 lbs of kernels 100 sq ft of garden space.
7. Sunflower Seeds — the main downside to this crop is that you have to hull the seeds. Otherwise, the crop provides a good quality protein and dietary fat. A hot-weather crop; beware of birds feasting on the seeds. A good yield is 4 lbs of seeds (2 lbs of hulled seed kernels) per 100 sq ft of garden space.