Letter Re: Potatoes as a Survival Garden Crop

It’s important to maintain a variety of root and grain crops for use as survival crops. Potatoes are easy to grow, easy to store and are nutritious enough to keep you healthy as a sole food (if you eat 2/3 of them raw). It is true potatoes have to be grown every year and that they are vulnerable to soil pathogens, but they can be grown under relatively low light, cool conditions, so why not take a small part of the harvest and raise them in a greenhouse through the winter with supplemental light. A half 55-gal. drum filled with leaves would permit new potatoes to be harvested occasionally without killing the plant. This is a way to always have some actively growing and experiment with low light conditions. If volcanoes start going off we could have several years of deep gloom. Corn and wheat need lots of light, but potatoes need much less. A traditional storage of potatoes is in buckets buried on their sides. This avoids consuming basement space and also comprises a hidden food supply. You can dig up one bucket at a time to bring into the basement.

In any case, we don’t want to trust just one crop. Grains have the advantage of storing longer, especially wheat. Old varieties of corn, wheat, etc. are good, but I worry about GMO contamination. How about some unusual crops: quinoa, amaranth, wild rice, millet, and so forth? Some other root crops: sweet potatoes (see: Sand Hill Preservation Center) and Jerusalem Artichokes (see: Ronninger Potato Farm). Does anyone know of a blog devoted to growing, storing, processing a wide variety of crops from a self-sufficiency standpoint? This can be fun, but there is much to learn. Trading ideas and stock would be helpful. – MSB

JWR Replies: I strongly agree that there is inherent safety in planting a wide variety of crops. In addition to the sources that you mentioned, Seed for Security provides heirloom variety (open pollinated/non-hybrid) gardening seeds for beans, corn, pumpkins, and squash.