I awoke with a start, imagining for a moment what it would be like if we went to the grocery store for something as simple as bread only to discover the shelves emptied of all supplies and food. Suddenly our small acreage feels that much smaller and though deer do roam downtown, the unlucky four would become overnight a highly prized source of protein.
Our varied seed choices are great, but honestly, we have the luxury of experimenting, of failure, or starting over. What if we depended on every square inch of our garden as those just a few generations back did?
The crop I love to hate, Jerusalem artichoke, so easy to grow, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of, and a great source of iron and carbohydrates. It’s also very appealing, and may be harvested from the ground until the ground freezes.
Jerusalem artichoke is neither from Jerusalem, nor is it an artichoke. It’s in the sunflower family and stores sugars in large, edible tubers that taste like potatoes, and are prepared very much the same way.
What about protein? I’ve never killed an animal and prepared it for food, and many haven’t – it’s a skill also abandoned in favor of the convenience offered by grocery chains. Most grains require acreage and those without will benefit from amaranth, an herb that is entirely edible (the leaves may be prepared as you would prepare spinach), with seeds that make an excellent substitute for protein-rich quinoa or rice.
There are a few varieties of amaranth. Giant amaranth may supply a family with up to 10 pounds of seed off of as many plants. The grains are high in calcium, iron, potassium, zinc and vitamins B and D and may be eaten, popped or ground into flour for bread.
Alongside Jerusalem artichoke, it’s a very attractive plant, so your neighbors, prior to any apocalypse, will still like you, despite having traded your lawn for food.
Other great storage crops should also be considered including potatoes, onions, peas and beans, squash, pumpkins, etc. along with berries and fruit crops will help sustain the hungry family in times of need.