by AZ Rookie Prepper
I thought I would offer some suggestions for those who enjoy and use gardening as part of their preps. I don’t have a huge garden; as a matter of fact, it is fairly small in terms of square feet.
I did produce a tremendous amount of food out of that space last year as I concentrated on growing plants that produced a lot of food for the space involved. Here are my thoughts on plants that give best production for the space.
Roma Tomatoes – I chose Roma’s due to their versatility and taste and lack of waste. Roma’s have a lot of flesh per tomato, much less open space inside the tomato fruit. I eat them raw, with a good amount of taste per bite. I cook with them, making a great dish called Pasta Capri (ask me for the recipe).
They can be canned, with so much flesh they don’t need as many to fill a canning jar. They are excellent as canned salsa or spaghetti sauce. The plants don’t get too big here in Arizona, but do produce quite a bit of fruit, thus saving me water.
I produced about 20 pints and 8 quarts of canned tomatoes, salsa and spaghetti sauce last year from just three Roma plants, not to mention eating some for dinner right off the vine.
Cherry Tomatoes – I planted two sweet cherry tomato plants last year and was very pleased with my production. Most mornings when I would do my watering, I picked a handful of cherry tomatoes to take with me for lunch. This lasted for several weeks (at least 5-6 weeks, don’t remember exactly). I grew these two plants in containers on my patio.
Asian Long Beans (Asparagus Beans) – These are not common in the U.S., but I feel should be in every garden of every prepper. This is a climbing type bean that produces a huge quantity of bean pods per plant. The bean pods are thinner than your standard green bean, but get about 12-14 inches long (rumor has it that they get bitter and nasty tasting if you let them get much longer than that).
When you pick them at about pencil size diameter, they have a slight nutty flavor mixed with a mild green bean. I had four plants and canned over 20 pints of beans, in addition to eating them fresh and giving a lot away. Seeds can be ordered from Kitazawa Seed company.
Jalapeno Peppers – I found a variety that isn’t too spicy, but does have a tang to it. These plants are a must if you want to make salsa from your tomatoes and add a bit of zip to anything else you chose to add them to.
Here in the southwest, peppers are easy to grow and love the sunshine and heat. I was giving these away as I just could not keep up with the production from just four plants. I used them in my salsa and also pickled/canned four pints.
Bell Peppers – Can’t live without these great plants. Unfortunately, for some reason my bell peppers did not produce so well last year. I did have some good meals using my fresh picked ones that did grow, but my four plants only produced about 10 or so peppers.
Perilla – Also called the beefsteak plant, it is another plant from Asia, a member of the mint family. This one self seeds and apparently is considered a pest in some areas. Has a strong flavor and is used throughout Asia in a variety of dishes. I pickle the leaves with sesame oil and lots of pepper powder for a side dish (salad). Grows easily but needs lots of water. Caution !!! Do not let cows or horses eat this as it has some level of toxicity to them.
Russian Mammoth Sunflowers – Last year, I grew three of these, and the giant flower heads each produced enough seeds to fill a small peanut butter jar. After the flowers die out, cut off the heads, let them dry for a couple of days, peel out the seeds and soak them in saltwater overnight, then dry the seeds in an oven set on 200 degrees for 2-3 hours. Who doesn’t like sunflower seeds?
Prickly Pear Cactus – Easy to grow, just cut off one of the pads, let the cut area dry for a couple of days, then bury the pad slightly more than halfway with the cut at the bottom. These will grow, sometimes quite large “bushes” that can be a defensive barrier against unwanted intruders.
Additionally, the pear (or tuna as its sometimes called) is eaten like a fruit and the pads (nopal in Spanish) can be diced and used like bell pepper, battered and fried or mixed into salsa or chili. The obvious holds very true, be very careful when handling both the fruit and the pads, both have spines and glochids (little hairy spines that hurt like the dickens).
When cleaning either the pads or fruit, wear thick gloves and very carefully scrape away the spines and glochids. The pads in particular are kind of slimy,like okra, so if you don’t like boiled okra….you probably wont like prickly pear nopals.
Jujube trees – These fruit producing trees grow quickly, and produce a ton of fruit within a couple of years of planting. I live in a very dry region and I NEVER have to water these trees, yet each one (roughly 15 feet tall) produce 6-7 gallon containers worth of fruit.
They will tolerate heat and cold, only blossoming after the last frost here (late April) and the birds and bugs don’t seem to bother them much. The fruit is about the size of a fresh date, eaten fresh they have the texture of a crisp apple with a slight nutty and sweet flavor.
I made pickled preserves from them, but it’s a lot of work due to the fairly small size of the fruit. The fruit can also be dried and used to make a tea that is high in vitamin C or reconstituted in Asian soups, they really accent the flavor of chicken.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas to augment your gardening preps, I would be interested to hear what other unusual or different plants the readers of M.D.’s great survival blog grow for high volume production.
If you have other ideas, please share with us in the comments below…