An ideal way to get the most calories from your homestead garden is to plant high-calorie plants. The best plants for homesteading are staple crops that form the bulk of the human diet. And these crops should return good yields, be calorie-dense, easy to grow, harvest, and store.
A calorie-dense crop is one that can provide the necessary amount of food energy from carbohydrates that you require every day. Carol Deppe, in the ‘The Resilient Gardener,’ writes on the five essential crops you need for your family to survive and thrive. The list includes corn, potatoes, beans, carrots, and squash.
Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes
Potatoes are undoubtedly an excellent source of both proteins and carbohydrates. They produce more carbohydrates per square foot, and their carbohydrates yield is way higher than any commonly grown vegetable in the world. More, these crops are also rich in calcium; minerals and vitamin C. Owing to their high beta-carotene content, sweet potatoes are perhaps the healthiest foods anybody can consume.
According to food experts, you get around 17.8 million of calories per acre of potatoes.
Apart from their high-calorie yield, potatoes are attractive to homesteaders thanks to the fact that they are easy to grow and adapt to different soil conditions. They are hardy and immune to frosty conditions. In many places, potatoes can be grown without needing irrigation. Further, potatoes can be stored for many months without requiring electricity or any special processing.
You can harvest around 30,000 calories from 100 square feet of homestead corn. And, as you think about it, the grain corn you grow and process yourself is more nutritious than the one you buy from retail centers.
The Floriani Red Flint grain corn, especially, is known for its high-calorie yield. The grain was originally grown in North America, was transferred to Italy where it flourished for some period and is now back in the United States.
Research on the grain has revealed that it has very high nutrient values- that include twice the amount of protein and thrice the phosphorous and magnesium compared to the de-germed yellow cornmeal folks buy in retail centers.
Whole grain corn and ground meal can provide tasty, starch-based side dishes such as polenta or cornbread to eat with fresh meat during the winter.
Beans are also reputed for their high-calorie yield. Beans, as well as other legumes such as lentils, cowpeas, and peas, are easy to grow, and they can be stored over the winter without the need of any special processing or electricity.
A 100 square feet garden can produce between 3 to 5 pounds of beans, and since beans contain over 1,500 calories per pound, you can expect to be greatly enriched from a full food store of beans.
Squash is an excellent source of carotenoids, vitamins A and C, and carbohydrates. They grow bountifully in most gardens. Summer squash can come in handy during summer and dried for storage over winter. Winter squash can stay fresh through the long cold months.
According to research, a pound of hard squash is equal to about 120 calories. Therefore, if you happen to harvest around 450 pounds of squash, then you’ll have an additional 54,000 calories to your diet.
Carrots produce about 186 calories per pound, and they are an excellent addition to soups. More, they add a tang to cakes and bread and are great to snack on.
There are other calorie-rich foods, but few are as easy to grow, tend, and store as the listed crops. And, the listed crops can produce hundreds of thousands of calories per year in an optimum environment.