Browsing Tag:


Gardening/ Preparedness/ Vegetable Garden

Easy to Store Life-Sustaining Crops

Sweet potato slips

My garden grows wonderful, delicious, life-sustaining food for 165 days out of the year.  But what do I do about those other 200 days of the year? How do I provide food for my family during that time? 

This year we set out to grow some easy to store survival crops that will feed our family through the winter– even without needing canning or refrigeration.  

A lot of easy to store survival crops fall into the category of “starchy vegetables”. They contain more starch so they typically contain more calories or energy and less fiber than some of the other vegetables you might be thinking of that grow in the middle of our summer garden like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and okra. 

Starch is a carbohydrate. Our body breaks it down into glucose that we use as energy so this is where we will get the 2000 calories the standard adult diet requires.  We need to get 2,000 calories from somewhere so these starchy vegetables will provide a lot of those calories that we need to have energy for the day.


Potatoes have been the entire mainstay of certain populations over time, so they are a life-sustaining food.  Their vitamin C content prevents scurvy which is a disease that comes from malnutrition.  But potatoes also provide a lot of potassium which is an electrolyte aiding in the workings of our heart and nervous system.

Don’t forget to eat your potato skin though, because the skins provide fiber which is important for your digestive health.

Potatoes are planted from “seed potatoes” that are saved from the previous year’s harvest. They have “eyes” on them that will start to send out roots and grow the plant. If you want to get the largest potatoes possible you cut the potatoes so that there’s only two to three eyes per chunk of potato.

Typically they start to develop underground for a long time before the plant breaks the surface.  They may eventually produce flowers before ultimately dying back.   It is when the above ground plant dies back that you know that the tubers underground are ready to harvest, by digging up with a shovel or garden fork.  

To get potatoes ready to store for the long term you need to cure them first.  This is to take them into a cooler temperature ideally below 60 degrees but with a pretty high humidity, 85 to 90% humidity for about 2 weeks.  So what we did to keep the humidity high is we took ours indoors and then we covered them with a tarp while they were curing.

When they’re curing this is a time when little nicks or cuts can heal over with kind of bit of a scab that helps to keep them protected so that they don’t rot when they’re in storage.  After you cure them, sort through and make sure there’s none that are kind of squishy or smell bad and take those ones out. 

The rest can be stored in a dry container like a cardboard box or a basket.  They need to have some ventilation but you want to keep them in the dark.  The light will cause them to turn green and produce toxins that you’d rather avoid.  Potatoes can be stored all winter in a cool dark place 45 to 50 degrees.

Potatoes are great baked and eaten as a main dish, fried up for a side dish, or added to things like stews.  I’ve never tried it, but Jeremy swears he had a delicious potato pizza one time. 


Corn is one of the most widely consumed cereal grains.  Just like potatoes it’s very high in carbohydrates.  This is this is the energy that we need, but its also high in several vitamins and minerals including manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper. 

What we’re talking about growing for storage is “field corn” also you can also grow popcorn for storage. 

Field corn and popcorn are both allowed to dry before picking.  As long as you’re not having excessively rainy weather it’s fine to just let the corn completely dry on the stocks.  You can take them insideand place the ears on a slatted table or some other place with good air flow to make sure that the ears get evenly dried out.  You know the corn kernels are fully dry when they are brittle and shatter if you try and hammer it as opposed to denting or bending if you try and hammer it.

Then you can remove them from the cob.  They sell a cylindrical tool that you slide the cob through to remove kernels if you don’t want to pry the kernels out by hand.  If you’re going to store the corn on the cob you should at least remove the husk, because that can store moisture and lead to molding.  

Corn is easy to grow from seed.  You just plant it right into the ground about an inch deep, six inches apart.  And I’m always amazed when I see the corn start popping up.  It doesn’t need a ton of watering to germinate, after a good watering in when I plant it.  

Field corn is the type of corn that you typically are going to grind up into cornmeal polenta corn flour and popcorn obviously is used to pop and make popcorn but popcorn is also good to use for grinding into cornmeal as well 

Butternut Squash

Winter Squash is good to grow for good long term storage and survivability. It is lower in Calories than potatoes, but very high in vitamins and minerals. It provides vitamins A, B, B6, C, and E and is also high in magnesium, potassium and manganese which play important roles in bone health.  Orange vegetables and fruits have been shown to be particularly effective at protecting against heart disease. 

We choose to grow butternut squash as they are particularly resistant to squash vine borers, and squash bugs.  We have a lot of trouble with squash pests in our area of the country and the butternut squash hold up a lot better.   

In order to get the squash to store the longest you’re going to need to let the vines die back.  At the least the stem where the squash meets up to the plant should be dried and brown.  When you’re harvesting squash for storage it’s a good idea to leave an inch or two of the stem attached.  When you pull the stem entirely off the plant you often open up a place for mold or other pathogens to get into the fruit itself.  You can lay out the fruit and cure it in the field for five to seven days or cure indoors at around 80 to 85 degrees in an area with good air ventilation.

Ultimately you’ll store the cured squash at about 50 degrees in the dark.


Pumpkins are actually higher in calories than butternut squash and higher in fat which is a necessary macronutrient that we need to have in our survival diet.   It also has a lot of the vitamin A precursors beta-carotene and alpha carotene, which is what your body turns into Vitamin A after you consume the plant.   

Winter squash seeds are planted straight in the ground in the spring.  They need a very long growing season–usually over 100 days to maturity.   We love to keep pumpkins around for the fall holiday season as decor and then turn them into delicious food.  You want to make sure and harvest after the plants kind of die back in the fall but before you get any frost.  Once these go through a frost they will get soft and squishy and will spoil really easy.  If you’re using them for decor on your porch, bring them in at night when it looks like it might frost, and put it back out again in the morning when it’s warmer.

Try and leave the stem on if you can to prevent breaking the protective skin and store these on cardboard or on straw in a cold area.  

Squash and pumpkin are good in all the traditional baked goods.  They can be used in pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread.  But squash is really good also with pasta or even pureed and blended into a pasta sauce.  Also don’t forget about the classic pumpkin soup.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are actually not a potato, but a different type of tuber. They are high in beta carotene, an antioxidant.  They are high in fiber and very filling.   

Sweet potatoes can be eaten in a lot of ways: baked steamed, and fried, so they’re very useful the growing form of sweet potatoes is very unique.  

You plant sweet potatoes from “slips” which are a little plant that grows off of the tuber from the previous year.  You can mail order these slips and they arrive somewhat wilty.  You just rehydrate them in water for about 48 hours and then they get all perky and ready to plant.  Dig a nice hole for the roots, and pack the bottom inch of the slip into the soil. 

The potatoes take off and they spread all over the place and cover your whole garden.  In the fall you wait for the vines to start to yellow a little bit and then you can harvest them.  Alternately you can actually check on the sze and harvest them earlier if you want a more manageable size tuber.  We want to get the most food possible from our plants so we let them get nice and big.  

They need to be cured at a pretty high temperature and pretty high humidity.  We will go ahead and put them in our greenhouse because it needs to be about 85 degrees.  Cover them with a tarp just like the potatoes too keep the humidity up.  Leave them about 2 weeks.  After that they need to store at a cooler temperature in the 50 to 60 range but they need to continue to have that high humidity so move them with the tarp to a cooler location.

It takes about six weeks to fully finish curing, and this actually helps develop the flavor.  So they will be the most flavorful after that complete curing time.  After that just keep them stored away in a dark cool place.  Just like the potatoes, if they start sprouting by spring you will just be ready for next year’s planting.

We love sweet potatoes in pancakes or or a sweet potato pie.  Also, I have a couple great pasta recipes with sweet potato in them and I have really great recipe for sweet potato and black bean chili.

Dry Beans

Dry beans have been eaten around the world for thousands of years and are still an important food source worldwide.  They are unique among the plant world in providing such a high protein content, so dry beans are really important in our survival garden. Dy beans are really high in fiber which is important–particularly when you’re eating a lot of starchy food like some of the other vegetables in our survival crop list.

Pinto beans are one of the most nutrient dense foods at 245 calories per cup of beans.

Beans grow from seed.  Their growing season is short enough that you can tuck beans in bare spots throughout your garden as some of your other earlier crops come out.  This can help you increase your yield of dry beans.  Another benefit to dry beans in the garden is they actually improve the fertility of your soil for the rest of the crops by fixing nitrogen in the soil.  

Beans can be left on the plant until the pods get dry and brittle.  If you shake them you can sometimes hear the beans rattling in the pod.  Crack open the pods to remove the beans.  Once your beans are completely dried out you can store them in mason jar or you can reuse other food safe plastic containers like a juice jug.   For best storage and quality you can throw in an oxygen absorber. 

Beans can be added to all sorts of dishes they help make vegetable dishes more filling.  My hambone beans recipe makes a delicious pot of beans from something many people throw away.