If you’re already growing a survival garden, good for you! You are miles ahead when it comes to long-term survival. When the rest of us are just getting seeds into the ground, you’ll already have a luscious garden full of nutrient dense and high calorie food ready for harvest.
While having a survival garden is great, you need to take time to think about what you are planting in the garden. Besides food you like, you should also focus on planting calorie crops.
What Exactly are Calorie Crops?
Calorie crops are plants that have a high number of calories per serving. When you are in a survival situation, your body is under stress and you may not be getting the same nutrients and number of calories as before the crisis. In this case, having calorie crops growing is a great way to make sure that you are getting the energy you need to survive.
Survival isn’t just about the number of calories needed to exist, but also to thrive. When you’re in an emergency, you might need to spend energy hiking for miles, building shelter, hunting and fishing. You’ll likely be spending much more time on menial tasks than before SHTF.
By prepping calorie crops, you’ll position yourself to have enough food to energize you to complete the other tasks needed to survive.
How to Choose the Best Calorie Crops for You
Of course the best calorie crops have the most calories, but there is more to choosing the ideal survival crop than just that. You may have heard that not all calories are created equal, and that’s true. But why?
A calorie is a measurement of energy. When we eat something, the calories represent how much energy our body gets from that particular food.
When you consume more calories than you burn, you gain weight. But when you burn more calories than you eat, your body begins to burn extra fat and you lose weight.
This seems simple enough, but there is actually more to a calorie than just energy.
Macronutrients and the breakdown of a calorie
Each calorie is made up of macronutrients and micronutrients. Our bodies take these nutrients and turn them into energy and fuel to support healthy functioning.
The three macronutrients are fats, proteins and carbohydrates, while micronutrients include numerous vitamins and minerals.
It is important that the calories you consume are balanced and has the correct breakdown of macronutrients. By balancing macronutrients, you will feel full for longer, more energy and get the most bang for your buck, or calorie, so to speak.
You Need Carbs to Survive
Carbohydrates are often branded as the enemy. In reality, carbs are necessary for survival, specifically for creating immediate energy. Our bodies turn carbs, like sugar and bread, into energy that helps us to move and digest other foods.
Without carbs, our body is forced to turn fat or protein into energy, which is a lot more work. As a result, you’ll actually burn more calories. This might be great if you are trying to lose weight on a low-carb diet, but it’s terrible news for a survivalist trying to keep on pounds.
You Also Need Fat to Survive
Fat has also gotten a bad rap, but it is incredibly important for survival.
Fat can give us energy, but it takes longer to convert than energy from carbs. Fat is mostly important to insulate our bodies from irregular and extreme temperatures. When you’re exposed to the elements in a survival situation, particularly in winter, having more fat will make you more resilient.
While we have all heard about saturated fats that come from meat and dairy, unsaturated fats can actually come naturally from plants, like avocados and peanuts.
Don’t Forget about Protein
Of course, we all know about protein. Protein is an incredible macronutrient and it serves an important role in our diet. Protein is made up of amino acids, that help our bodies breathe, pump blood, and repair our bodies. When you are constantly breaking down your body during a survival situation, it is important that you have enough protein to build it back up again.
Protein also helps us to feel more full. This is a blessing and a curse. It can be great in a crisis, so that you don’t focus on hunger in the bottom of your stomach, but it can also trick you into thinking you’ve gotten enough to eat, when really you haven’t. You need to pair protein with fiber for the best effects.
This is why it is important to think about planting calorie crops that have balanced macronutrients, and to pair them together to get a complete and balanced meal.
Think about what grows in your region
Aside from the breakdown of each calorie, you must think about your growing region when deciding the best calorie crops for you.
You can research the ideal grains, legumes and vegetables until your face turns blue, but if you can’t grow it in your area then it’s a waste of time.
Thankfully, the USDA has created a plant hardiness zone map that you can find here. https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov. You can also purchase a laminated map for reference here:
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Use this map to learn your hardiness zone and what grows best in your area. Most survival seeds list the hardiness zones on the individual packets, and also planting instructions. Referencing these during the planning phase will help you avoid unexpected surprises and plan a high calorie survival garden, that actually works.
Take time to plan companion planting
There’s more to survival gardening than simply choosing the best calorie crops. You’ll also set yourself up for success if you choose plants that grow well together.
Companion planting is a great way to get a higher yield in your garden by harnessing the power of a friendly plant. Some companion plants draw in pollinators, repel pests and predators, and bring up nutrients that are stored deep in the soil. This helps the surrounding plants and makes for a more productive garden.
Another benefit of companion planting is balancing light and watering needs. If you are in a survival situation, you probably don’t have all of the agricultural tools to make gardening easy. Plus, you’ll need to spend time doing other valuable chores.
Perhaps you simply need to plant the seeds where you can, or in close proximity to one another. If you choose calorie crops that are similar in their light and watering needs, then it will be easier to care for them.
The flip side is that some plants do not grow well next to one another. If you research suitable companions for your proposed calorie crops, then you’ll avoid any biological competition for resources or light that might happen in your garden.
The Ultimate Calorie Crops to Grow in Your Survival Garden
So let’s talk about the best calorie crops to grow in your survival garden. Of course this is with the caveat that these particular plants grow in your hardiness zone. But for the most part, these tend to grow easily and in many places.
Potatoes are delicious and easily grown in many climates. You can grow potatoes in the ground or above ground easily in a bucket. Check out this tutorial!
One cup of potatoes has over 200 calories and can be used in a variety of dishes. Potatoes are an excellent calorie crop because they are versatile for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are also an awesome source of vitamins and minerals which is important when you’re completely reliant on your own food supplies.
Corn has over 350 calories per cup and is very versatile. This starch can dried and stored or used as a grain substitute for tortillas and in chowder. It is a great source of vitamin C and magnesium, and keeps you feeling full.
Corn also grows tall and can create a natural barrier in the garden. This is helpful if you don’t have access to conventional fencing.
Soy has about 375 calories per cup and is a great source of protein. You can grow soy and eat the beans straight off of the plant (do not eat the pods). Alternatively, you can use the soybeans to make tofu and tempeh, which are great sources of protein in a survival scenario.
If you live in a region where you can grow an avocado tree, I highly recommend doing so. Avocados are an incredible source of healthy fats and a superior calorie crop. A single avocado has between 200-300 calories and can be used to vary your diet.
Avocado can be mashed and used to make creamy sauces and dressing. It can be stuffed, made savory and made sweet. If my survival plan allowed for avocados as a calorie crop, I would definitely include them.
In my opinion, you absolutely must grow pinto beans as a calorie crop. One cup of pinto beans has 670 calories. The beans can be dried and added to a deep pantry or as reserves during a crisis.
Beans can be mashed and added to chilis, soups, sauces and even had with breakfast! Growing pinto beans with avocado and corn (as I mentioned above) is a great start to some delicious survival food.
Taro root might seem a bit out of place. Compared to some other plants on this list, taro root isn’t as common or known for being tasty. However, taro root has over 180 calories per cup and can be used as a starch, just like a turnip or carrot but higher calorie.
You can consume the top green part of the taro root as well, but make sure to cook it, or else it is poisonous!
Chickpeas are high in protein and in iron. Chickpeas help you feel full and are commonly used in vegetarian diets. Chickpeas absorb the flavor that surrounds it making it versatile for survival food. The chickpeas are a great calorie crop because they can be dried and stored for use when food supplies are low.
While peanuts have gotten a bad rap in recent years due to allergies, they actually make one of the best calorie crops. Peanuts are high in fat, protein and high in many vitamins and minerals including magnesium, thiamine and copper.
Peanuts can be used to make peanut oil, peanut butter and as a high calorie snack. A single cup of peanuts has over 800 calories and can add valuable nutrients back into the soil of your survival garden.
Okay so hear me out on this one, cabbage only has 17 calories per cup. Despite that, it’s still a great calorie crop and here’s why.
Cabbage is full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It can be stored for months in a cold root cellar and used in many dishes. It is helpful to ass some green (or purple) to your survival garden. Cabbage can also be easily fermented to make kimchi or slaws used throughout the year.
Cabbage is fairly easy to grow and worth having as a calorie crop in your garden because each of the calories is filled with important nutrients needed for survival.
Don’t Box Yourself in, Grow What You Like to Eat!
When thinking about calorie crops, it is best to think about what you like to eat. When growing plants it is important to think about the harvest season and to make sure you have food that you like. If you have a bunch of taro root and never eat it (or suffer through it) then it’s a waste.
Familiarize yourself with cooking unfamiliar ingredients like soybeans or taro root, for example. That way when it comes time to survive, you already know how to prepare the food and make tofu, tempeh and other recipes. It helps if you know how to dry and store ingredients to cut down on waste and maximize efficiency.
In an emergency, we all like to be prepared, but you need to think about what calorie crops work the best for you. None of us know what it will be like if we ever need to survive, so the best thing you can do is reflect on your needs and be honest with yourself.