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What staple crops are you growing?

 
Posts: 38
Location: Missoula, MT
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Nicole, have you tried Hardy Yams?  http://www.pfaf.org/user/cmspage.aspx?pageid=60

I have one plant of Hardy Yam but it isn't doing much because it doesn't get sufficient water.

Regarding deer; I wouldn't be able to grow anything without fences.  





I did not know there were hardy yams! WOW! One of the things I have missed about the South has been the long growing seasons and the sweet potatoes. It seems like these might be an acceptable substitute. NICE!!
 
Posts: 10
Location: Tucson, AZ
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We’ve been in our present home in Tucson for around a year now.  The modest lot is covered in several inches of small rock, and the “soil” underneath is rock-hard.  I’ve been willing to chip my way thru the “soil” to put in trees, but not yet at least dig to put in a garden.  Trees include six moringa.  I begun looking for perennial plants, with a deep taproot, so digging a hole for them is worth the effort.

Suggestions?

Our “staples” are primarily sweet potatoes in self-watering containers, similar to the commercial “Earthbox” product.  We have six different varieties growing, to see which does the best at our location.  Sweet potatoes have the advantage over potatoes, in that sweet potato leaves and young vines are edible.  Those for a potato are not.  

Are there any permaculture groups in Tucson that actually meet to exchange ideas?
 
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tomatoes are the only thing id consider a staple, although it doesn't make a huge caloric source, i eat them a lot when they are fresh, and turn them into sauce and salsa for storage. ill make fried green tomatoes and freeze them as well. so good for a quick winter dinner, or sanwhich for lunch.

dont have much space, so focusing mostly on expensive veggies, and then with the money saved, buy higher caloric staples like potatoes, squashes, corn, grains and processed foods. I would like to grow more sunflowers, dry beans, onions, garlic and carrots though, consider these staples.

in one sense id also like to abolish the role of "staples" in my life by diversifying the garden to the point there is just always something abundant and ripe, and binge on that until something else is available. i guess then anything that lasts the winter would be considered a staple, but with season extension even that becomes irrelevent.
 
pollinator
Posts: 627
Location: Denmark 57N
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It's very interesting reading this thread, unfortunately for us 90% of what you guys call staple crops won't grow here.  Potatos are the staple, potatos and grains. We don't grow grains as they are too much work with hand equipment and take too much land, potatos however we do grow, Traditionaly they only grow what I would call earlies here waxy boilers, but some of the new blight resistant bakers (caroulus) have done well for me the last couple of years, despite blight hitting in august as per normal. Maize doesn't mature here our summers are not warm enough, same goes for tomatos peppers etc etc they are all greenhouse crops. Wallnuts do produce a crop, but chestnuts do not, issue with wallnuts is the 10 years before you get anything, Hazelnuts are also here I'm not sure on the land requirements for a decent amount though, I imagine it would be pretty huge.
The staples we grow personally are Potatos, carrots, parsnips and dried beans, the dried beans are very limited I grow runner beans which do well and about 50% of them reach maturity before the frost comes, and broad beans (fava?)  those we prefer fresh dried I find them very gloopy, though they do make an acceptable humus. I think the biggest issue people (like me!) have in a truly oceanic climate is damp and cool, it never gets truly cold here, we don't freeze solid over winter but not even kale will reliably survive outside over winter, constant damp and freeze thaw soon turns it into slimy rotten mush. Equally while I'm technically in 7b I cannot grow anything that likes warmth, summers hit 20C with the average being around 16 nights can drop under 10C at any time except perhaps July and August.
 
steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Skandi Rogers wrote:We don't grow grains as they are too much work with hand equipment and take too much land,



At my place, a 50 foot row of wheat produces 5 pounds of grain, and takes about an hour to harvest, thresh, and clean using only simple tools like secateurs, a tarp, a stick, and some buckets. That's enough wheat from an hour's labor to make 5 loaves of bread, and essentially feed me for a week. I personally don't eat wheat, cause I think it's not suitable for human consumption, and specifically I'm allergic to it,  but in my climate and with my attitude, it's a very easy to grow, high calorie crop.
 
fred greek
Posts: 10
Location: Tucson, AZ
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We are in Tucson, AZ.  Our primary calorie crops are several varieties of sweet potato.  With them, the leaves and young stems are edible.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 1249
Location: Green County, Kentucky
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I may go back and finish reading what has become a very long thread, but wanted to post first:  my daughter and I both have serious auto-immune diseases, and can't eat any plants from the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant, along with a few less common plants), nor can we eat anything with gluten.  In my experience, any seed-derived food causes problems even if it isn't technically a grain.  So those are all out for our main calorie crops.  What I've settled on is sweet potatoes; winter squash; carrots; beets; turnips and rutabagas; parsnips; and berries and fruits for our plant calories.  But we also have (or soon will have again) chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and dairy/meat goats, and I am considering raising a few of the small-breed pigs such as Guinea hogs.  With milk, eggs, and meat in our diet, plus the vegetable garden and berry patch and some fruit trees, we will be able to grow nearly all of our food.  Oh, and our new place has a small pond on it.  It needs to be cleaned out, but then we can stock some fish in it, so we'll have fish, too.  

Unless you are vegan, and live in a city apartment, you should be able to add some kind of animal products to your diet.  Even one egg a day will add a lot of nutritional value to what you can grow in your garden.

Kathleen
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Nicole, have you tried Hardy Yams?  http://www.pfaf.org/user/cmspage.aspx?pageid=60

I have one plant of Hardy Yam but it isn't doing much because it doesn't get sufficient water.

Regarding deer; I wouldn't be able to grow anything without fences.  



Never heard of those! Ug, I hope they aren't  as aggressive as kudzu.
 
fred greek
Posts: 10
Location: Tucson, AZ
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kathleen, obviously do your own due deligence, check with your doc, etc., but I read that sweet potatoes are not a member of the nightshade family, rather they are in the convolvulaceae family.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
pollinator
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Location: Green County, Kentucky
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fred greek wrote:kathleen, obviously do your own due deligence, check with your doc, etc., but I read that sweet potatoes are not a member of the nightshade family, rather they are in the convolvulaceae family.



Yes, you are correct.  We cannot eat 'Irish' potatoes, which are in the nightshade family.  We can eat sweet potatoes, which are not nightshades.

Kathleen
 
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Taro, Colocasia esculenta, is a favorite staple, as it is a do-nothing crop once established in the right spot. By do-nothing I mean, I have to thin out and eat the big ones.

I was asked by a local tribe to cultivate the Red Taro as they'd forgotten how. Ten years of reading and failing later the Taro showed me how.

Plant on the edge of a natural bowl where water collects in heavy weather. Plant as an understory beneath bananas. Plant slightly down slope of bananas. Compost under the bananas let the Taro get the overflow. Use the Taro to protect emerging coffee.

Share excess plants and knowledge with others.
 
Posts: 104
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I liked this person's video on year one of working on a wheat landrace for his location.  He does things like calculate how many grains he gets back for each one planted, and what his yield per square meter was.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Posts: 4787
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I don't feel the need to do the math any more... If a plant excels, then it is going to produce more seeds, and it's progeny will thus occupy a higher proportion of the population. If a plant is a piker, then it will produce little seed, and will tend to be minimized in the population. In other words, if I just collect bulk seed, and replant it, the most productive plants will tend to become more common, and the less productive plants will tend to become less common.

 
pollinator
Posts: 1647
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Re: taro. Most Americans have never heard of it, or if they have, they think "poi". Of the Americans who have tried poi, it probably was at a tourist luau in Hawaii , and in my opinion, that poi is terrible. I wouldn't eat it unless I was starving. But I enjoy fresh homemade poi made from the right taro varieties.

Taro has lots of varieties, some grown for the leaves, others for the stems, yet others for the corm. Some varieties produce corms that are best for poi, others for making chips, and others for steaming or boiling. There's lots of ways to use taro, including soups, stir fries, fried chips, in desserts, in baking....and as poi.

Taro can easily be a staple food in the right environment.
 
pollinator
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Genevieve Higgs wrote:I liked this person's video on year one of working on a wheat landrace for his location.  He does things like calculate how many grains he gets back for each one planted, and what his yield per square meter was. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkO3EhG7v3c


As illustrated Growing wheat to make bread is labor intensive but raising it for chicken feed is easy. I found that the chickens always planted some as I moved the chicken tractor along. It dose most of it's growing in the winter feeding the soil organisms and storing up soar energy that would otherwise be wasted. It does not have to be possessed for chicken feed just throw the bundle in and let them pick the grain out of the head.  It also works for millet and sunflowers so I planted bird seed mix for my summer cover crop.  I am working the blackberry roots out of my pear orchard so I am going to plant a bag of wheat in the bare soil this winter and next summer I wont have to buy feed.
 
Posts: 27
Location: UK
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Currently i’d consider my staples to be potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, eggs, assorted beans (fava and gigante), assorted roots (carrot, beetroot, swede, celeriac) and winter squash. Over the years though i’ve tried:

Sweet potato - just too cold here to grow a large crop
Yacon - very easy to grow I just don’t like it
Oca - too wet here - they rot before I can get them all out of the ground
Hazelnuts - I get a modest crop but just don’t have the space to grow enough to consider them a staple
Quinoa - too much effort to get the grain but still good to grow for animal food or to use the leaves in salads
Sunflower seeds - I gave up trying to beat the birds to it but a very productive crop
Amaranth - same as quinoa but still grow it for leaves and give the seed heads to the animals


 
pollinator
Posts: 444
Location: Montana
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John Jeavons has an interesting and very short list of high calorie root crops which includes some crops I grow already and some I do not.

Grow already:

Potatoes
Jerusalem Artichoke
Garlic (if it's still surviving)
Parsnips

Haven't tried yet:

Sweet Potatoes
Leeks
Salsify

Of these the one's I plan to try are leeks and salsify.

Salsify is particularly interesting to me because it sounds like something with good potential to grow here, that a person could eat a lot of.

Sweet potatoes are very interesting but not adapted to my climate - yet- there are folks here like Joseph Lofthouse working on that.

What makes Jeavons high calorie root crops list so interesting is that his grow biointensive system is designed to provide a complete vegan diet with a lot of long term study and this list is a critical component and so short. Not that I personally am adverse to meat, eggs, and milk but don't currently have the ability to easily care for animals. It seems to me that if trying to grow some of ones own food these 7 crops are important from a caloric standpoint especially in a small space which is what the biointensive method is designed for.

Currently reading Carol Deppe's book on resilient gardening her crops are corn, squash, beans, potatoes, and eggs. I grow these as well, or have in the past. She adds a few crops like tomatoes that are near staples in her Tao of Gardening book which I just finished.

I think currently the staple crops that make the most sense for me with livestock limits, pleny of space, but sometimes time limits are squash, parsnips, Jerusalem artichoke, and maybe salsify.

Parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes practically grow themselves. Salsify may as well. My squash patch takes a lot of space but only limited work.

I am pretty focused on tomatoes right now as a breeding project so if I have to spend time on something it's them.

Potatoes are inexpensive so it may make the most sense to  freeze some TPS and not worry about it right now.

Alliums are nice well cooked and in small quantities so a small patch of onions, leeks, and garlic should be plenty. Raw they disagree with both me and my wife.
 
Posts: 66
Location: Western Kentucky - Zone 7
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If grown right I've had figs produce from Late June/Early July until frost in November, and that was just the 2nd crop! We do get a lot of rain in the Spring so the breba crop is meh. We also get a big crop of blueberries and blackberries that we can freeze for later. We also get a massive yield of black walnuts from wild trees on the farm I have contemplated having them processed at a local facility for winter use. As far as most vegetables they stay pretty seasonal for myself, and I would like to work in more perennial vegetables to offset this. Especially sunchokes for winter harvests, but they are pretty expensive to buy where I have seen them.
 
master pollinator
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My experimental calorie crops are doing pretty well.  Chinese Hardy Yam is doing the least well, getting off to an extremely slow start.

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That's exciting Tyler! You try so hard in a seemingly tough area for gardening. I hope these work out really well for you.
 
Posts: 47
Location: 8B ("cheats" to 9A), Western WA
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I need to take my time and read through this thread with a fine-toothed comb. Skimming already has my mind racing. You friendly folks already reminded me to put in Jerusalem artichokes into my perennial garden, and give sweet potatoes another chance.

We, as a family, eat a lot of rice, so I've been trying to rack my brain on whether or not I really did see a dry land rice variety seed for sale a few years ago somewhere (Baker Creek??), or if I dreamed it and need to start terracing my hillside for dedicated rice paddies. In the meantime, we keep dabbling with corn, and have a test patch of Emmer wheat and multiple kinds of sunflowers going this year. I have had great success with winter squashes, and was eating squashes to my heart's content until mid-January, so I increased my garden space dedicated to storage squashes and planted 9 varieties this year, if I count right. Not discouraged by a previous bout of potato blight, I planted 5 varieties in a newly established garden patch. They're up to my waist and in full bloom, so I'm hopeful that this year, my cellar will be better stocked on spuds. I'm growing peas as a field crop (because nothing soothes the soul like a pot of peas and a ham hock on a cold winter day), and have penciled chickpeas into my test patch next season, because although I don't love hummus, I like chickpeas in curry types of applications, and with some vegan friends, I can always get rid of my extras.

I consider eggs to be a staple crop, as my chickens provide a substantial amount of calories to my kitchen, and selling the extras frees up some funds to buy in feed and other resources, and old or injured layer hens and mean roosters end up in the stock pot, and the mature birds usually have a lot of rich yellow chicken fat on them that I render for cooking other stuff. I'm planning on adding pigs so I don't have to buy them annually for the freezer, and establishing a small sheep herd for milk, meat, and wool, because both my son and I have trouble digesting cow's and goat's milk, and he can't have soy. If my experiments in legumes, grains, and seeds don't go quite to plan, I can always feed them to my chickens as treats, so I don't see any of my effort going to "waste".

Edited for side note: Our homestead was otherwise rather barren after previous owners mowed and herbicided a lot of it to clean it up for sale, but some judicious pruning and side dressing with manure brought back the 100 year old apple trees, so I have too many apples to use them all up most years. The first variety that ripens is good for fresh eating, the next is amazing in sauce and cider, and the last one is a tart storage type apple. I preserve a lot of them as applesauce and apple cider vinegar. I've added berry patches and peaches, grapes, and pears, so I get many, many, many gallons of "sugar" wrapped in fruit off our property in addition to the blackberries and I'm really tired today, because I completely forgot that the highest calorie "crop" per labor input I think I have, is honey! A lot of the fruit ends up canned, or juiced, but I try to freeze some for use throughout the winter, too. All my new plantings follow the example of whomever planted the apple trees, all varieties ripen at a different time of the season, so pear season starts in July, and goes all the way through October/November.

(P.S. Although I'd like to say I could live off of coffee, it will never count as a true "staple", even if I might be able to figure out the black magic to grow a few beans. Oh bother. :P)
 
Posts: 124
Location: Southeast Arizona, Latitude 31, Zone 8A, Cold Semi-Arid, USGS Ecoregion 79a
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Hi everyone! I haven't read through this whole thread yet, but liking it so far. We grow mostly staple crops in our gardens, ranked here by quantity, most to least:

1: Tepary bean landrace
2: Squash landrace
3: Cowpea/black-eyed pea landrace
4: Mechudo beans (common bean cross between black and pinto)
5: Nopales and tunas (prickly pear)

When they produce well, pods from the mesquite trees all around us are another staple. Last year was a good year; this year not. Also, we grow so much arugula and mustard greens that they're practically staples, and I intend to start grinding some of the seeds into homemade cultured mustard.

Here are things we're starting to add in, or try again, now that I have an area devoted to roots and tubers:

* Sweet potatoes
* Sunchokes
* Potatoes
* Carrots
* Beets
* Turnips
* Oca

I'll have to read through the thread for other ideas to try here in the high-ish desert! Thank you, all!

P.S. Check out the beautiful Tohono O'odham cowpea variety we added into our landrace mix this year. It's the first dry bean I've harvested this year, and -- as with the Mechudo beans when we first grew them last year -- this variety surprised us by being a pole type rather than bush type like the other varieties in the mix, so they're swarming up the yucca stalk teepees and all over our chickenwire fences. Looks just like orca/yin yang/calypso common beans, right?
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2019's 1st Tohono O'odham Cowpeas
 
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Poles pears grapes! Avocados! Berries! Potatoes! Sweet potatoes! Snap peas! Carrots! Tomatoes! Onions! Garlic! Loads of herbs! Medicinal flowers! Hemp!  Oops I meant apples I can’t backspace my text!
 
Tyler Ludens
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By staples, is meant, calorie crops, so - Avocados, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Onions, Garlic!
 
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