Although any proper survival garden should have a wide variety of plants in order to completely satisfy your nutritional needs, there is one vegetable that is practically designed with the prepper in mind. It survives the strongest storms and winds, produces many nutritious fruits, it’s “fruits” are easy to pick and store, and provide valuable protein and starches for muscle development and energy. Furthermore, this vegetable is one that even many picky eaters will willingly bite into given half the chance!
Yes, the humble potato is one of the best survival vegetables that you can have in your garden. Who would have thought that the same vegetable that provides us with french fries, hash browns, and other delicious side dishes would turn out to be valuable in an emergency as well? Let’s take a look at why this prolific plant deserves a prime place in your garden.
Resistance to pests and the weather
Although the wind may roar above, your potatoes will be safe underground.
One problem I have encountered with many vegetables is their fragility when storms arrive. I have had trellises and supporting structures outright destroyed by gale-force winds, and sadly lost a few harvests with them. The potato, though not completely immune when the leaves and stem are still needed to provide the delectable tubers underneath with nutrients is still much more resistant to storms than your average tomato plant. Furthermore, many common larger pests such as rabbits and deer typically leave the potato alone as those lovely green leaves are actually quite poisonous. There are some pests (such as the Colorado Potato Beetle) that can ruin a crop, but at least you can leave off putting rabbit-proof fencing around the potatoes!
Easily picked and stored
Despite being buried underground most of the time, potatoes are still remarkably easy to pick since you usually harvest after the upper plant is dead and gone. Unlike tomatoes or pepper plants where you must be careful not to harm the stem, with potatoes the key is to not accidentally cut into a tuber with your spade or potato fork! Once they’ve been harvested, potatoes can easily stay in a cold, dark basement or root cellar and remain edible for months at a time without needing extra care or refrigeration.
Tasty and nutritious
I’ve not met many people who won’t eat some kind of potato dish, which is in itself a major benefit. Potatoes can add their additional nutrients (including that valuable protein) to almost any meal and they’re quite filling. I can tell you now that there is little that can fill your stomach like a big bowl of mashed potatoes! On the nutritional side, the high Vitamin C content is particularly valuable in areas where other fruits might not be available to stave off scurvy.
Seed Saving can be incredibly simple
Each sprout on that potato is an “eye”, which can be buried and become its own potato plant.
Depending on the variety you use, your potatoes may actually give off potato seeds that look like the ones from any other plants, but most people will probably just use seed potatoes in an emergency. All you need to do is wait for a potato to begin “sprouting”, cut off the sprouts (also called eyes) with a goodly chunk of potato to go with it for nutrition, and plant it. Compared to most plants that require a fairly painstaking seed removal process, just cutting up another potato is remarkably easy.
A few warnings when planting and eating potatoes
If you decide to go with the potato in your garden, remember that the stem, leaves, fruits, and basically any part of the potato aside from the tubers are poisonous so never, ever eat them. Furthermore, all sprouts and green areas on potato tubers are likewise poisonous, so remove them before eating.
When planting, always keep potatoes away from tomato plants as they are closely related and share the same predators. Place some wood ashes around the base of each plant once the potato stem starts to sprout to keep away grubs and worms that will attempt to attack it. Finally, if you have sticky, clay soils that will be hard for the potato plant to form tubers in you will want to spend extra time breaking up the soil and adding soil amendments to loosen it up. Failure to do so may reduce the size of potato tubers or reduce the number of tubers produced per plant, neither of which is good in an emergency.
And that is the potato, a humble but valuable survival vegetable. I recommend adding it…if only so you can boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew!