R. Ann Parris on Calorie-Deficient Veggies


Survival Via Veggies by R. Ann Parris

First off, I want to say that I am a huge proponent of growing food. Whatever we can manage, any scale, as low or as high tech as we like, from food forests and deeply networked permaculture plots big or small, to tin cans in a windowsill and aeroponics under grow lights, I believe in being a producer. I specifically believe in getting our hands into living soil out under the sky, for the whole range of benefits dirt and sunshine provide.

I mention this, because I’m about to come off as Debbie Downer and Grandma Grumbles. See, the thing is … Our veggie seeds are not going to save us from starvation.

When we see articles and videos about growing, it’s most usually annual veggies and some perennial fruits. Most survival/prepper kits and the seeds we source for our gardens are veggies of one kind or another, with the odd fruits thrown in.

The same applies largely to the foraging articles and videos, and the wild-foods “weed” cultivation some of us promote as alternatives to garden production.

The problem is, veggies are low-cal diet food.

That’s why we cut carbs and fats and increase veggies when we want to lose weight.

Even if we have well-established garden beds and plots, a lifetime of experience, a perfect year adjusted for whatever curveballs Mother Nature throws, and are largely producing with low-labor mech methods, veggie gardens aren’t going to feed us.

We will almost always burn more calories producing, harvesting and preserving them than they contain.

If we’re aiming for forkable foods, fiber, and nutrients to balance out our beans-and-rice or MRE storage, that’s fine. If we’re looking for belly fillers to balance calorie-dense foods, again, good fit.

If we’re staving off starvation, though, not so much.

For preppers interested in long-term sustainability in survival food production, we have to have something besides fruits and vegetables. Whether that’s habitat for wildlife or any of the many ways to cultivate fish or birds or dairy animals — and thus the foods they need — or whether we head another direction entirely and work on cultivating calorie, fat, and protein staples like the cereals, legumes, and oil crops, we have to have something besides vegetables.

For those with little hunting or livestock capability and smaller growing spaces, we have to store those fats, proteins, and carbs. If we’re working on limited storage space, too, that means calculating purchases even more carefully and avoiding the low-cal and air-filled space sucks.

Happily, it’s not that hard to do.

The calorie-dense carb crops are some of the cheapest, easiest foods we can stock with naturally long shelf lives. Oils and proteins are tougher, but not impossible and we can go longer without them.

We can also produce those oils and proteins as easily or more easily than the carb grains that typically represent calorie staples, both for us and for any animals we choose.

When it comes to animals, we can make use of cereals that would require prohibitive workloads for human consumption, and choose livestock with greater conversion rates of vegetables and pasture grasses or fodder trees/shrubs to the fat- and calorie-dense foods we’ll harvest.

There are lots of workarounds to calorie-deficient veggie gardens. There are also plenty of reasons to grow veggies, both now and in a crisis. It’s just that an awful lot of people seem to think a veggie garden will stave off starvation. Even in the best of years, that’s just not the case.