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What staple crops are you growing?

 
steward
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Curtis Mullin wrote:Joseph! That is how you cook squash!?



Frying is my favorite way of preparing a little bit of squash in a hurry. If I am processing squash for seed, and need to taste a whole bunch of different squash on the same day, I tend to prefer frying, cause I can cut off a slab, and have a half dozen squash samples cooking at once, and cycle through lots of squash in an afternoon.

5 varieties of squash being fried at the same time...


For meals that are planned well in advance, that I want to be low fuss, I typically bake squash: These were for a family party. I was also saving seeds for planting and wanted to taste each fruit.  


 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

Curtis Mullin wrote:Joseph! That is how you cook squash!?



Frying is my favorite way of preparing a little bit of squash in a hurry. If I am processing squash for seed, and need to taste a whole bunch of different squash on the same day, I tend to prefer frying, cause I can cut off a slab, and have a half dozen squash samples cooking at once, and cycle through lots of squash in an afternoon.

5 varieties of squash being fried at the same time...


For meals that are planned well in advance, that I want to be low fuss, I typically bake squash: These were for a family party. I was also saving seeds for planting and wanted to taste each fruit.  




Joseph, those are beautiful. That first picture is worth printing, framing, and hanging over my stove to inspire me! I am so glad I have some of yours growing right now and hope they look half as good if they give me a crop. Wow...
 
pollinator
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Like some others here, I would expand the notion of "crop" to include animal products.  By using animals to utilize land unsuitable for cultivation, we can create a lot of calories.

One, we turn grassland into milk.  We drink a lot of milk.  I drink probably 1/2 gallon per day, easy, as fluid milk, and we eat butter like there's an impending shortage and we want to get our allotment in while we can.

Then there's using cows to turn grass into meat.  Most of this we sell, but a little we eat.

Pigs are perhaps the perfect tool for turning wastes or difficult-to-harvest items into good food.  The fattier the pigs, the better.

Our chickens get a bit of purchased feed, but largely turn bugs and odd bits into eggs.

Good grazing ducks (particularly Muscovies) and geese are like two-webbed-footed pigs in their ability to turn forage and a bit of grain into rich, fatty, satiating meat.

As for plants, we try to grow a lot of potatoes, working up to 1/8 acre worth.  Potatoes and whole milk, if I recall, constitute a complete diet.  Boring, perhaps, but complete.  High humidity, occasionally wet summers, and blight tend to throw a wrench in our potato plans, though.

We grew a small patch of hulless oats this spring/summer, and once threshed will hopefully have enough to expand to 1/8 acre within a year or two.  We grew a larger patch of einkorn wheat, too, but I think the threshing and hulling might prove more work than it's worth.  I originally figured we'd grow out the einkorn to expand it, too, but it's looking more likely that we'll just buy in some winter wheat seed to sow this fall.

We tried sunchokes last year.  They produced well, but the pigs found them and largely cleaned them out.  We're not crazy about the flavor--though they're not bad braised/stewed--and they're finicky things to clean and prep.  Probably we'll replant next year, because we've got a bit of unused headland space on one edge of the "big garden" that we might as well plant to something, and even though we're not crazy about eating them I can't quite resist the draw of a perennial root crop that's so easy to grow.

About 1/4 acre we sow to OP field corn, interplanted with pole beans (Turkey Craw did really well last year) and winter squash.  Seminole pumpkins, a moschata species, are a delicious, long-keeping variety.  We have kept them on the kitchen counter for nearly a year.  This year I seeded one variety of each squash species--we'll see how that goes.

Garlic is a fairly calorie-rich crop, easy to grow and medicinal to boot.  We're trying potato onions (a multiplier onion, similar to shallots, available from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange) this fall, too.

A couple years back we planted some wild hazelnut seedlings along one fence row.  They're still doing well, completely unmanaged, and I'm hoping they'll fill in and form a thicket eventually.  Then we've got plenty of black walnuts, but they're a lot of work to get to.  Usually I just smash them for the hens to pick through--a good protein source in winter.  Plenty of oaks in our woods, and thus plenty of acorns.  The idea of harvesting acorns is interesting to me, but it seems a far sight easier (and more enjoyable) to eat the acorns secondhand, as venison or squirrel.
 
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Being irish im fond of potatos, sliced and pan fried, baked, or cubed in stews...but they are a pain to dig up. That said heres a neat trick, plant them in crates/boxes with a sliding bottom kept just off the grown and in a place you want to add the soil...slip and a pile of loose dirt and potatoes magically appear.. hope that helps potato lovers...tollmann family garden trick.
 
Wes Hunter
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Ryan Tollmann wrote:Being irish im fond of potatos, sliced and pan fried, baked, or cubed in stews...but they are a pain to dig up. That said heres a neat trick, plant them in crates/boxes with a sliding bottom kept just off the grown and in a place you want to add the soil...slip and a pile of loose dirt and potatoes magically appear.. hope that helps potato lovers...tollmann family garden trick.



Pigs will dig them quite successfully.  Seems they eat the roots but leave the actual tubers alone, so all you have to do is collect them.  There's some collateral damage of bitten potatoes, but it doesn't seem too heavy.  
 
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Pigs will dig them quite successfully.  Seems they eat the roots but leave the actual tubers alone, so all you have to do is collect them.  There's some collateral damage of bitten potatoes, but it doesn't seem too heavy.


A good scenario for "Adult supervision required."  LOL
 
pollinator
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I got squash seeds from Joseph this year, and the squash are enormous!  Can someone tell me if they are ripe yet?  I would expect that they have to be, because the plants are dying, but most of them have little to no orange.  The ones that do just have spots.  I guess I expected them to turn completely orange, although I'm not sure why
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Todd Parr
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The pictures don't show it well, but these squash are huge, 30 or 40 lbs each.  One more pic:
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Follow the stem up from the squash. Is there a little curly tendril right before or right next to the first leaf?  If it's there and it's dried out, I think the squash is matured. I don't know about squash without that tendril.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Todd Parr wrote:I got squash seeds from Joseph this year, and the squash are enormous!  Can someone tell me if they are ripe yet?  I would expect that they have to be, because the plants are dying, but most of them have little to no orange.  The ones that do just have spots.  I guess I expected them to turn completely orange, although I'm not sure why



Todd: Thanks for the grow report. I pick squash when the skin is hard enough that if I tap it with a fingernail that it doesn't leave a mark, or when the plant dies. They look to me like they are at that stage. The squash will retain that gray/pink pattern, and won't turn orange.

The gray banana squash are one of my favorite families. They originated as a cross between Gray Hubbard and Pink Banana. The flavor and texture has been among my favorite for a general purpose maxima squash. I'm laughing about the size... I do not fertilize my gardens, and don't weed much, and irrigate sparingly, so when they get to a garden where they are better cared for, they can really thrive.

For long term storage on squash, I recommend that the stem be cut off as close to the squash as practical. I typically use secateurs. On maxima squash, the corky stem can be susceptible to rotting that then travels into the squash.

My squash mature with colors like this:
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote: I do not fertilize my gardens, and don't weed much, and irrigate sparingly,



I remember once you posted that you water once a week for six hours, which to me seems like a lot of irrigation.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I remember once you posted that you water once a week for six hours, which to me seems like a lot of irrigation.



My irrigation system was designed to supply one inch of water per week for 12 weeks. It is a lot of irrigation! And is the bare minimum required to grow vegetable crops here considering the soil type and arid climate. The crops I grow the other 9 months of the year are grown without supplemental water.

The university conducted an irrigation test on my garden last season. They recommended that I irrigate twice as often, but for shorter times. That creates a whole other set of problems for the farmer.... Such as keeping the foliage on crops damper, leading to more disease. Interfering with pollination. Making scheduling harder. etc...




 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks for the clarification, Joseph!  
 
Todd Parr
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote: I'm laughing about the size... I do not fertilize my gardens, and don't weed much, and irrigate sparingly, so when they get to a garden where they are better cared for, they can really thrive.



Thanks everyone for the info.

Joseph, we had an almost perfect summer with regards to rain, but I put these squash in pretty late for the year, planted the seeds directly in the ground, and I don't fertilize or use any other chemicals at all.  I also don't weed.  They took care of that themselves by shading out everything in a huge area.  These squash just went crazy.  I only planted three seeds to produce them.  The vines are more than 40ft long and I have a dozen or more of these giant squash.  The largest has to be over 40lbs.  One of the plants grew up and over a 12ft white pine and is growing squash on the ground on the opposite side of the tree.  I'm absolutely delighted with them.  I have another squash that looks like a small pumpkin and a few buttercup squash, all from your seeds.  I'll be planting lots more from the seeds I save this year.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Todd Parr wrote:I put these squash in pretty late for the year, planted the seeds directly in the ground.



I have selected for many generations for squash that grow well when planted directly into the ground. I think that squash that do well as transplants might need a different set of DNA.

I also had two squash plants reach a tree, and climb up it to about 20 feet. They produced 4 fruits in the tree, (that I've noticed so far). Three of them came down immature and broke to pieces in a strong wind storm. The last stayed until I picked it as a mature fruit.
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Squash in tree
 
Deb Rebel
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Congratulations Joseph. Competition pumpkin growers, at least one person a year ends up with one going up a tree and producing a 'treekin'. You have joined the ranks with a 'treesquash'.

My hill I put in is back in ignored land and took over in there, and I need to check it (wade the leaves) and see what it's doing.  Your stuff, it it hits the dirt, GROWS. I love it. Thank you for all your dedication to your landrace strains!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Deb: I already have grand plans for what variety gets to grow up the tree next year: Those lagenaria snake squash.





 
Deb Rebel
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Deb: I already have grand plans for what variety gets to grow up the tree next year: Those lagenaria snake squash.



I grow long gourds, aka 'snake gourds', the hand pollenated pedigreed that can easily go over 8' tall on a trellis/pergola on south side of my house (it is 10' tall) that does 'shade house during hot season', 'gives nice place to sit under' (side closest to house is open so it's a green sanctuary once the vines grow up) and the fruits hang down so they can get long. (never have had to dig a hole in ground yet to let them hang free). It can be creepy and cool to have several gourds over 6' long hanging down... sliced green and use like zucchini...

Prevaling wind here for April-October is SSW so the vines and trellis structure shelter the gourds from the worst of the weather and they don't swing too much.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I harvested a lot of squash on Wednesday:
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Squash. Some for seed. Some for eating.
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I love the Lagenaria Snake Squash.
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Mixta/Moschata Interspecies Hybrids and back-crosses.
 
Todd Parr
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Those are beautiful pictures.  Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love the cooler weather and the colors.  Those piles of squash make me happy
 
Deb Rebel
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Envy all your good eating piled there, Joseph. My own poor last year's survivor/self seeding watermelon has produced a fruit, so I am going to be saving that one for next year.... and I haven't gone to wade the squash yet to see what I got. Some beans have finished yet and some are still producing, I am getting into near the end of my open season and will have hoop/coldframe starting in a few weeks. I want to push for 9 months this year... and try some experiments in over winter as well.

Your seeds are phenominal and I have some left for next year. A little more love though from me will make for a  better season next year, but they are generally thrive despite neglect, totally astounding stuff.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I have been harvesting the dry beans the past few weeks. I sent about 20 pounds to the cannery the other day. Some of them are coming back to me as canned beans, and as chili.



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Landrace dry beans
 
Todd Parr
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Part of this year's haul.

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I'm happy to see that this thread is still active... am reading through it at my leisure and getting a lot of great ideas.

I'm in Kenya, so the weather is a lot different, and our staples are a bit different.  Our staples... bananas - the starchy variety, similar to plantains.  Plus some of the sweet eating variety. I have NO idea what breed of banana we were growing, as we are just cultivating whatever was left on the property by my husband's grand parents.  We haven't got enough planted to really consider it a staple... but are putting in more as the suckers become available.  Cassavas... my cassava crop was unfortunately ravished by the neighbor's cow.  (I really need a fence.)  Sweet potatoes (ravished by my mother-in-laws frequently escaping pigs... yes, need a fence.).  (I haven't tried irish potatoes yet.  I'm scared, because all my tomato attempts have ended disastrously.) OP Corn... an unknown locally adapted variety with lots of colors.  Delicious and sweet, both for fresh eating and for making interestingly colored flour.  We eat it most of it fresh, love corn on the cob.  Squash... although we like eating the greens so much that we don't get as many fruits as we might otherwise.  Taro root - we are blessed to have about a 1/8 acre of wetlands where the taros grow.  The amaranth variety which is available here is puny and grown only for greens, it does not make a seed head worth harvesting... I am thinking of importing one of the "giant" varieties for seed.  New this year - I put in pigeon peas, which have been likened to perennial "bean trees."  I had to buy a bag from the supermarket to get seeds.  When I asked locals for the seeds, I got a lot of upturned noses and people told me funny things like, "That was our grandmother's food, nobody eats or grows that any more."  (Funny coming from people who are regularly faced with starvation.) They are growing well... can't say yet how they will do as food, or if we will like them enough to eat them.  We also grow peanuts... but I question weather the caloric input out weighs the caloric output.  They are a lot of work.  We also have two mature avocados which provide all the avocado we can stand to eat when they are in season.  The animals love to eat the windfalls.  They have a lot of calories and healthy vegetable fats. (And contrary to popular internet opinion... it does NOT seem that avocados are poisonous to poultry.)

Aside from that our chickens and ducks provide a lot of calories in the forms of eggs, and occasionally meat.  I keep meat goats, but I can't bring myself to slaughter them, so we just raise them and sell them.  I have kept pigs off and on, don't have them at the moment.  And we are trying to see if keeping indigenous zebu cattle can work on our small farm.  I am not confident that we have enough grass, and I don't keep any animals which require commercial feeds.  We also sometimes keep rabbits... although at the moment we have only one fat, lonely male.  Oh, and sometimes we do some primitive style fish-farming.

I'm still looking for ways to get more calorie rich food stuffs.  I don't like beans and have a problem digesting them. I still grow them for the husband and kids, but not enough to really say they are a staple.  I saw lentils suggested on this thread.. but lentils are so tiny.  How much would you have to plant to get enough to feed the family?  Bambura groundnuts grow well here, but like peanuts, I question if the labor required is worth the calories.  And I don't know what to do with peanut-flavored beany-like things.  We generally just mix them with maize and make something like succotash which we call "githeri" here in Kenya.  Hard on my tummy, but the husband and kids love it.  Growing rice seems like too much work, so we still buy it from the supermarket.  Although vining plants like squash and watermelon grow happily in our tropical weather, they are often attacked by fruit-flies, which lay their eggs in the immature fruits, so they end up rotten and full of maggots.  Anyone have any other ideas that will work in the tropics?

I should mention I do ALL the farm work myself, occationally with some help from my kids... I am a woman and somewhat disabled so I need stuff that is NOT highly labor intensive... or stuff like the bananas, that is a lot of work at first, then it grows itself.  We also have no mechanization here... we are way out in rural Africa, there isn't even a tractor in the village.  We either plow by hand, or we hire people to come with cows to plow.  Not oxen, just the local zebu cattle that have been yoked and sort of trained to plow.  

Maureen Asali
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When I lived on the islands my staples that I grew were banana, passion fruit, huge avocados, coconut and sugarcane. I hitch hicked a lot and so even though I was also eating loads of calories by the end I was really skinny and desperately craving milk.

Now though I am helping my friend with plants for silvopasture with dairy small stock + an orchard.

Ultimately I enjoy and feel best with large quantities of dairy so its a fit.

Mostly very sour plain Kefir, soft cheeses like chevre, cream/plain milk when cooking and halloumi aka dairy tofu when cooking.Temperate fruits are unappealing except pomegranate that when boiled down into molasses is very calorically rich and cooked into savory applications same with dates when cooked down into molasses.

I cook mostly small cream and milk based very spiced curries and wots, eaten with large bowls of kefirs and small serving of injera or couscous. Looking for a low input winter ephemeral like a cool but not cold hardy fonio or teff that'll grow like "wild" oats through the winter with surface scratching or fire followed by free sowing.
 
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I cook mostly small cream and milk based very spiced curries and wots, eaten with large bowls of kefirs and small serving of injera or couscous. Looking for a low input winter ephemeral like a cool but not cold hardy fonio or teff that'll grow like "wild" oats through the winter with surface scratching or fire followed by free sowing.


In my experiment this year with small grains millet did the best. I am going to try planting my pumpkin patch now and see if it will grow through the winter and harvest with the summer dry season. It is the easiest to thresh.
Golden flax was the second best but tended to fall over so I am going to try planting some with the millet to see if that gives it some support.  
 
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Tyler.
 Do you have a lot of rocks on your land?  You could build rock piles to do some of the irrigation work for you. I lived in Helena, MT during my grade school and high school years, and the land we owned was all from past stream beds so tons of various sized rocks. In order to even begin a garden we had to yank out masses of various sized cobbles.  We stacked them in piles to get them out of the way to build our garden beds.  Then noticed there were soon green things growing madly near them.  The Helena valley is one inch of rain a year from being a desert in the best of years. So as we built our garden plots we created some small rock walls around the beds. We still had to irrigate but it did cut down on how often we needed to. This might help you get some added drought resistance for your staple crops of choice. It worked in Helena with pretty low average humidity so it might help buffer you in Texas a bit.  My Aunt lives in Arizona and does something similar in her gardens.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks for that tip, Lynn.  I plan to try rock mulch around some of my plantings, if I can get up the gumption to tote more rocks.  I have moved tons (probably literally) of rocks by bucket and wheelbarrow here.

 
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Nuts. Plant nut trees.
 
Casie Becker
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Lynn Garcia wrote:Tyler.
 Do you have a lot of rocks on your land?  You could build rock piles to do some of the irrigation work for you. I lived in Helena, MT during my grade school and high school years, and the land we owned was all from past stream beds so tons of various sized rocks. In order to even begin a garden we had to yank out masses of various sized cobbles.  We stacked them in piles to get them out of the way to build our garden beds.  Then noticed there were soon green things growing madly near them.  The Helena valley is one inch of rain a year from being a desert in the best of years. So as we built our garden plots we created some small rock walls around the beds. We still had to irrigate but it did cut down on how often we needed to. This might help you get some added drought resistance for your staple crops of choice. It worked in Helena with pretty low average humidity so it might help buffer you in Texas a bit.  My Aunt lives in Arizona and does something similar in her gardens.



I missed this the last time I read the thread. How big do these rock piles need to be to show benefit? I line almost all my beds with rocks, but it's just a single layer.
 
Lynn Garcia
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Casie Becker wrote:
I missed this the last time I read the thread. How big do these rock piles need to be to show benefit? I line almost all my beds with rocks, but it's just a single layer.



We had TONS of rocks we pulled out of the garden. The pile was at least five feet high. What we did was pile about three or four (size dependent) rocks on the bottom layer around the outside of each bed. Then piled a couple more up above and just one on the last layer.  It wasn't really high around the beds, maybe one foot or two at most but we had enough to surround all the beds we prepped.

In the winter the rock piles would create drifts of snow that we would stamp down to encourage more to build up. This usually got us into the dry summer without much watering.
 
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Mick Fisch wrote:I'm stuck on the oil/fat production question.  Carbs I can get, but historically the most prized item and the hardest thing to get a lot of was fat (ok, I can hear you guys already gearing up about olive oil in the mediteranean, pork fat in northern europe, coconut in polynesia).  Every culture has come up with some solution, but we need fat.

I have been thinking about that one as well... I was a fruitarian for some time, and then it is recommended to eat very little fat, actually much less then we would dream of. Imagine, if eating avocados, being recommended to eat only one third, otherwise your you'd have exeded your fat ration (and fruitarians eat no oils, and normally no nuts). It is actually possible to live with less fat, especially in warmer climates. This is my experience, the colder it gets, the more we crave fatty foods.
I really don't believe in seed oils. Bacon, nut oil are some options for colder countries. One way of getting live animal fat (but not in that big quantities) is to raise waxies, that is, waxworms, they are living in beehives and live off the honey, and are very fatty and tasty... yeah, I know, most people are not ready for this, but somehow, grubs will become more common in the future, also for proteins and zinc, etc... (most vegans/vegetarians have a copper overload, and not enough zinc, found mostly in meat and grubs)

I still believe that we eat too much fats. I realise how easy it is to overdo the fats, but also that it really is possible to live on less fats. Better to go for high quality stuff.

 
Keira Oakley
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As for carbs I'd go for chestnuts, pumpkin, dried fruits, honey.
The more fibery the food, the less calories you get out from you effort. I have eaten a lot of veggies, herbs, leaves etc in my past, as a longterm vegan, but now I go for what is around, local, seasonal and adapted to the place... I love bananas for instance. But nowadays, if I get a craving (which happens, as a former fruitarian), I go only for dried ones. Somehow, "fresh" bananas, even super "ripe", do not satisfy me the way they do when in the tropics... And also knowing that they have been shipped half way round the world, where these banana cargos are considered "bad luck" among sailors because of all the spiders and rats that escape from the bananas and really bother the sailors and workers on the ships....
Sure, I love my exotic spices, once in a while coconut cream etc, when staying in the north, but stuff that is more or less local somehow tastes better.
 
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You guys are growing some awesome squash.

I count them as a top staple crop. Living in the tropics, though, we're limited on varieties. C. moschata is the main one - the C. maximas usually have a hard time here.

I am a sucker for squash. However, my top staple crop here in the tropics are true yams - D. alata, in particular.



After that, plantains and green bananas, then sweet potatoes. Breadfruit is a good staple but too seasonal. Cassava is fun to grow but not as healthy for you as yams.
 
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