Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
When you begin to garden there is so much to know. But once you have been at it awhile, and feel that you have a handle on garden planning, making compost, starting seeds, and maybe even saving seeds, you are ready for the next step—although you aren’t quite sure what that next step is. What you are looking for is to really feed yourself from your garden, rather than just having occasional homegrown side dishes and condiments grace your table. You are ready to get serious about growing staple crops.
You will find my article Best Staple Crops for Building Food Self-Sufficiency in the June/July 2013 issue of Mother Earth News where I talk about potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, wheat, peanuts, winter squash, dry beans, cabbage, collards, and kale. Although nothing beats having a print copy in your hand to read, you can also read that article online. A companion to that is the article I wrote that appeared in the October/November 2012 issue. If you don’t have a copy in your resources, you can read A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency online, also.
Writing these articles encourages me to take a new look at the information that is out there for today’s readers. It is easy for us to learn something and keep on doing it the same way forever. We need to step back occasionally to think things through, learn of others’ ideas and expand on what we already know. While doing research for the 2012 article I discovered the National Center for Home Preservation. When I began gardening and preserving in the 1970’s, home computers and the internet were not a part of my life, or anyone else’s for that matter. The Kerr and Ball canning books that I followed as I was learning had no salsa recipes. Today’s So Easy to Preserve has eight vegetable salsa recipes and three fruit salsas. Things do have a way of changing. One change is how I think of preserving food. I do as little canning as possible now, but we eat more out of the garden than ever before. I have to admit, though, that I should take a closer look at those salsa recipes, since my husband likes to put salsa on the homegrown cowpeas that I serve.
You can read the article to get the lowdown on the staple crops. Besides filling you up and providing important nutrients, they can be stored or preserved (sauerkraut) without fossil fuel. The collards and kale are eaten fresh from the garden all winter, with proper protection. Doing research for the 2013 article uncovered an important fact that should encourage everyone to start a garden and grow greens. I looked at a variety of sources for nutrition information and discovered that the calcium content of collards and kale varied drastically from what was reported in The New Laurel’s Kitchen (1986) and the USDA’s 2012 Standard Reference Release 25. The earlier reported calcium values are 1.3 times the 2012 value for collards and 2.2 times the 2012 calcium value for kale. The calcium amounts shown in the article are from Release 25. The greens you grow at home, in soil rich in organic matter, nutrients and life, will have much more calcium and other nutrients than what is reported in Release 25. Grow your own to supply nutrient-dense food for your family.
Find more thoughts on growing staple crops at Homeplace Earth. Having a garden is an adventure that never gets dull. Expand on what you are doing and never stop learning.
Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she’s up to at www.HomeplaceEarth.wordpress.com.