Survival Gardening: the best survival crops

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.

— Thoreau

5 Responses to Survival Gardening: the best survival crops

  1. I just love these one size fits all articles. First Corn (Maize) is very hard to grow here without extreme measures. Peanuts forget it, pumpkins and sunflowers Ditto, Soybeans tried them once that was enough I don’t eat cattle feed. The only crops mentioned that grow well here are the lettuce, which the author looks down his nose at and potatoes but not sweet potatoes. Preppers live in ALL parts of the country not just the lower 48 states. Oh, yes Alaska is a state.
    What I grow both in my container garden and my ground garden is: potatoes, Red Beets, Cabbage, Cauliflower and most members of this family, lettuce, Onions, Garlic, Turnips, Peas, String Beans and with luck and a warm summer sweet corn (but with a lot of work) it’s more of a novelty than a crop. Waiting for the ground to thaw out the end of April with hopes of planting the garden by the end of May.

  2. No offense but those crops don’t fit my dietary plan at all.
    Regardless of one’s taste a real major factor to consider is how quick does it take to grow a crop of whatever. I am going more and more to macrogreens. It only takes a few days, a week at most, to have a lot of very good nutritious food with little effort, water, or weeding. Almost any garden plant can be eaten as a ‘green’ when about two or three inches tall. Eating at this young stage also eliminates all insect problems. thanks

  3. I’m with you ‘Old Alaskan,’ I live in the warmer part of Alaska (just north of Homer), and if we have a warm summer (some are not) you might get many of these crops to grow, but the likelihood is very poor.

    Potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, radishes, and other root crops do pretty well, but sweet potatoes are out as they require too long of a growing season.

    We can grow broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, lots of lettuce, spinach, and other similar crops as well; some beans if you have a protected area, and in warmer summers, a pittance of a specialty short season corn – which barely resembles corn – in protected areas of course. It’s one of the reasons the USDA program for ‘high tunnel’ structures are so popular in Alaska. It extends the growing season by about two weeks on either end, giving us a total of about three months growing season instead of the usual two.

    I agree with an earlier comment, articles like these are NOT very helpful to all climes and locations.

    Blessings, Son of Liberty

  4. Sprouts should be on the list as well including beetroot shoots.

  5. My personal choices would be beans, tomatoes, raspberries to name a few because they are abundant producers. I would go with potatoes because they are easy to grow, as are cucumbers, and just about any leafy green veggie.

    I would personally not have corn on the list, because it can be difficult to grow, takes up a lot of space, and the home yield is fairly low per square foot of space used.