Growing a garden is a personal thing and as such, you need to select crops that suit your personal tastes.
For instance, I mention Beets below. Some people love Beets, even whole nations consume Beets in large quantities.
I, on the other hand, detest beets, regardless of the way you cook or spice them up, and you will not find me planting these in my garden.
Anyway, the foods listed below are highly recommended as crops for the Retro-Survivalist. They are typically very hearty plants that provide valuable nutrients when consumed.
There are so many great foods that you can plant in your garden but these are recommended as the best options for garden planting by a number of gardening experts who specialize in providing information for growing healthy foods.
BEETSBeets, as with Turnips are a gardeners essential. The roots can be stored for later use during the winter and the greens are not only nutritious but also very tasty when cooked properly.
BROCCOLIBroccoli is actually a member of the cabbage family and is a highly nutritious food that is relatively easy to grow. It likes sandy soil and lots of sunshine but prefers cool climates so it is typically grown as a Spring or Fall crop.
Although we usually discard them, one ounce of broccoli leaves can provide 90% of the daily requirement for Vitamin A where the popular floret will provide only 3%. Cook the leaves as you would Spinach or eat them raw in a salad.
COLLARDSCollards are also a member of the cabbage family and the leaves provide nutrient rich greens throughout the Summer. They are easy to grow and have always been the most popular in the southern parts of the US.
CORNField Corn is a plant that you should have in your garden. Some varieties and even hybrids will have a sweet flavor and are great for immediate consumption.
Regular field corn though, is not as sweet tasting as some other varieties, but it is best for drying and then grinding into cornmeal.
When compared with wheat, corn is a more productive crop for the same size piece of land.
GARLIC, ONIONS and LEEKSThe Garlic and Onion, and even the Leek are fantastic plants that are easy to plant and care for. They are not only nutritious and loaded with their own unique flavor, but they also have important medicinal applications.
Although they do take a while to grow, you can start them inside and then re-plant the seedlings after the final spring frost is over if you want your crop to mature earlier.
GREEN BEANSGreen Beans are so nutritious and flavorful that almost everyone with a garden wants to grow them. The Pole-Bean variants will give you the most production than others, so stick to these varieties.
And there are varieties that are great for drying for later use, called dry-soup beans.
Green Beans are often consumed fresh, but some people will freeze them or even can some of their crop for later use. They are not only easy to grow, but they are hardy plants requiring very little care.
HAZEL NUTS (Filberts)The Hazel Nut, or Filbert, is a hearty nut whose kernel provides essential nutrients and grows on a small tree. A newly planted tree will bear fruit in 3-4 years. Although the nuts are small, they are easy to remove from the shell and store well.
KALEKale is not as popular as Collard for fresh and tasty greens and the plant is not quite as productive, but the nutritional value is just as good and the flavor is preferred by many people, particularly that of the Russian Red Kale. White Kale is heartier and can thrive in hotter temperatures.
OKRAOkra is a vegetable that is grown and eaten primarily in the southern parts of the US, but the plant itself is hearty and easy to grow. An Okra plant is highly productive and it can be frozen, generally without blanching, for later use.
Okra is popular when breaded and fried and in Gumbos and other Cajun dishes.
PARSLEYParsley is a hearty plant that does not take up a lot of garden space and can even be grown indoors in pots for year-round use. Parsley provides high levels of Vitamin-C and A as well as containing a high mineral content.
PARSNIPSBefore potatoes were introduced into Europe the parsnip was the main starchy root vegetable grown.
The parsnip is easy to grow and cultivate and they can be left in the ground and pulled as needed throughout the winter (if the ground isn’t frozen).
It is as nutritious root that provides high levels of calories and carbohydrates.
PEANUTSThe peanut plant is prolific in that one plant will produce surprising large quantities of peanuts in the right soil.
The peanut is a high protein food that although being high in fat is relatively low in Carbohydrates.
PEPPERS, HOTThere are hundreds of Hot Peppers available for you to grow, and once you do grow a couple of varieties for yourself, you will always have some in your garden. Hot Peppers store well whether they are just bagged and frozen, or if they are strung and hung in a dry area of your home.
Take care when actually coking with Hot Peppers because peppers from the same plant can give a wide variety in their “hotness”.
Here are a few of my favorite varieties:
Banana PeppersBanana Peppers are great fresh or if they are canned. They have a slightly spicy flavor as compared with others and are great on sandwiches and in salads. They can be caned or pickled easily with the addition of a few spices.
Cayenne PeppersA couple of Cayenne Pepper plants can provide the average gardener with an adequate quantity of these hot treats for the whole year. Pick them as they ripen and turn red and start using them in your favorite spicy dishes.
Jalapeno PeppersThese are a favorite pepper for many people in many nations. They provide a nice kick to any dish, especially if you use the seeds and interior ribs for cooking, as they are usually the hottest parts of the pepper itself.
POTATOESIf you have a variety of potato plant that is acclimated to your local environment, and weather conditions and if you grow them in good soil then the plants will provide you with large crops.
Potatoes are nutritious and are high in Calories, Proteins and Minerals. They can be stored for months in a cool, dark and dry place.
SOYBEANSSoybean plants are a protein-rich crop that produces abundant amounts of the vegetable. They are a versatile food because they are used to make Tofu, Soy Milk and Tempeh among others and are great consumed as baked nuts, and sprouts.
They are very nutritious and easy to grow.
SUMMER SQUASHThere are literally hundreds of varieties of Squash available to the gardener, but the most popular are Zucchini Squash and Yellow Squash.
Zucchini Squash grows on a vine and can grow to large sizes up to 2-feet long. It is better to harvest the smaller ones as they will be much more tender than the larger ones and they will also have lass seeds in them.
Yellow Squash is also a popular plant of the gourd family that grows to a nice size but it is best if it is harvested when smaller. Its bright color and mild flavor make it a favorite in cooked dishes as well as in fresh salads.
Both types of Squash are easily grown, harvest and cook well, and there are thousands of recipes available for using them to make breads, entrees, salads, casseroles, etc. They can even be frozen, canned or pickle.
SUNFLOWER SEEDSThe Sunflower plant is a hardy one that you can grow on the periphery of your garden or along a fence line.
They will produce seeds that can either be dried for later use or the plants themselves can be planted until they sprout. Once they sprout, pull them from the ground, remove the shell and eat the young sprouts.
The seeds themselves can be dried and stored for later consumption.
SWEET POTATOESSweet Potatoes can be a productive crop if planted and tended properly. They are high in Carotene, Iron and Vitamin-B, and they can be stored for an extended time into the winter.
Even the leaves are high in these same nutrients and can be added to fresh salad greens for a nice change in flavor.
TOMATOESTomatoes are one vegetable that nearly everyone agrees should be planted in your garden. If planted and tended properly these hearty fruits of the tomato plant can be canned, dried and frozen with ease.
There are literally hundreds of varieties of tomato plants for you to choose from and most people migrate towards the Heirloom varieties or at least the more hearty, productive and disease resistant varieties to plant.
If you decide that you want to save seeds for future cultivation, be sure to use open-pollenated tomato varieties to assure that you get good hearty plants and healthy fruits next year from the seeds.
TURNIPSTurnips are known to have been grown for food as far back as 2000 BC. They are highly nutritious and you can eat every part of the plant.
The Roots can be stored for the winter and the stalks, also known as Raab, are a favorite dish for many people in the Fall season.
The Greens are the part of the plant that is the highest in nutritional value, and they taste delicious when cooked properly.
WHEATEven though it is generally considered a food that is grown in massive quantities, many experts recommend that even the small gardener can grow a useable amount of Wheat if they plan their garden properly.
Wheat can be grown to the sprout level and then the sprouts can be ground into dough for baking or it can be grown to the grass stage of development and “juiced” to gather the rich nutrients it contains.
And the seeds of the mature plant can, of course be ground into wheat flour for use in making bread dough.
OK, OK, OK! There are a lot of other common vegetables that you can grow in your garden. This is especially true as you travel to different regions with widely different temperatures, altitudes, soils, and access to water.
But, start with these popular options and customize your selections over time to suit your location, growing skills and personal tastes. And, if you want to get your crop to mature as soon as possible, you need to know when to plant each vegetable, and you can check out table B1-1 Planting Times for Foods for a good reference.