Best Foods to Grow for Survival

20 Best Foods to Grow for Survival

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

If you’re a prepper, homesteader, or someone who wants to become self-sufficient, you’ll need to create your own source of food. One of the best ways to create your own long-term and stable supply of food is by creating a survival garden. In this article, we’re going to talk about why you should have a survival garden and what are the best foods to grow for survival. Read on below to learn more.

survival crop garden

Why you Should Start a Survival Garden

Whether you want to prepare for natural disasters, economic collapse, or other negative events, one thing’s for sure: a stable supply of food is important when you can’t get a meal from elsewhere. This is where a survival garden comes in.

A survival garden is a vegetable garden that grows enough produce for you to live off of what you grow. If you’re unable to get to the market for any reason, this type of garden will help feed you and your family.

If you want to create your own survival garden, planning is key. And one crucial factor to consider when planning is what nutrients you’ll need to survive. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the best survival plants that’ll give you the best bang for your buck.

Preserving your Harvest

If farmed correctly, you may find yourself with excess survival crops. At this point, it would be a good idea to preserve the crops harvested. This way, you can extend the shelf life and secure your long-term food supply. Below are some ideas for traditional food preservation methods that can be done at home:

  1. Canning
  2. Dehydration or Drying:
  3. Pickling
  4. Root Cellars

Nutrition and Calorie goals

The size of your family should guide how much food is grown in your garden. Although nutrition is an important idea to keep in mind, you should also aim to plant calorie-dense foods like potatoes. Below is a table of calorie goals to help you plan accordingly.

Adult2,200-3,200 Calories1,600-2,400 Calories
Teen1,600-2,200 Calories2,000-2,600 Calories
Child (9-13)1,400-2,200 Calories1,600-2,600 Calories
Child (4-8)1,200-1,800 Calories1,200-2,000 Calories
Child (2-3)1,000-1,400 Calories1,000-1,400 Calories

The more active you are, the more calories you will need to feel energized and maintain weight.

Best Foods to Grow for Survival

Below we listed out a short list of the best crops to grow in your survival garden.


1) Beans

Protein is essential for a survival diet. After an exhausting day, they help with muscle recovery as well as help build muscle and strength. Although meat and nuts give you protein, beans do the same but are easy to grow in your survival garden. Most varieties of bush beans take 50-60 days to grow compared to the 4-5 months for peanuts to grow.

If you are considering long-term food preservation, beans can be dried in the oven to extend their shelf life. When stored properly, dry beans have a shelf life of over 20 years.


2) Berries

Berries are a great source of nutrition. What’s more, they’re great for fulfilling any cravings for dessert. Raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries – any type of berry will do. Simply store your berries by making canned jams, freezing, or dehydrating them.


3) Cabbage

One cup of raw, chopped cabbage gives you around 22 calories. Despite the low-calorie content, cabbage is a fantastic source of calcium, thiamin, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. Aside from providing you with these vital minerals, your one cup of raw cabbage satisfies 10% of your required daily intake of folate, 85% of your vitamin K, and 54% of your vitamin C.

Cabbage may also help prevent cancer due to its cancer-fighting substances. One such substance is indole-3-carbinol, also known as I3C. Research shows that I3C may be effective in preventing breast cancer. This research has excited many people to the point that there has been an increase in sales of I3C supplements. Rather than buying these supplements, you can simply get the substance from cabbages.

4) Cantaloupes

You should consider adding to Cantaloupes for a summertime treat. They usually require 8-10 weeks of hot, humid weather to grow properly. It is a good practice to plant melons during the late spring, so you can enjoy it before the summer is over.

They are high in vitamin C and are proven to help the brain function properly as well as boost your immune system. They are also very refreshing and a fun food to enjoy during the hot summer months.


5) Carrots

The carrot is a root vegetable that many people refer to as the perfect health food. They claim this because carrots are crunchy, tasty, and highly nutritious; they’re a great source of fiber, beta carotene, vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants.

Aside from containing many vitamins and minerals, carrots are a weight-loss-friendly snack and have been linked to improved eye health and lower cholesterol levels.

6) Corn

Corn is a yard staple; however, if you’re confined to an apartment, you’re going to have a bit more trouble growing corn.

For survival, after harvesting your corn, you can choose to dry it, and grind it into corn flour. If you keep the corn flour dry, you can store it for long periods in an airtight container.

Aside from nutritional benefits, corn also has practical benefits for your survival garden. It can act as a living trellis for your beans. Simply plant your corn first, and – once you have a couple of inches of cornstalk growing – plant your beans around the corn. Your pole beans will climb up your corn stalks as they grow.


7) Cucumbers

Many gardening enthusiasts consider cucumbers to give a huge amount of fruit for little effort. As cucumbers are a survival garden staple, you can prepare them in many ways. If you like, you can also eat them fresh.


8) Garlic

Garlic gives you many therapeutic benefits thanks to its bioactive compounds like saponins, organic sulfides, phenolic compounds, and polysaccharides.

Along with its therapeutic benefits, garlic can also help you achieve a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight. Due to its strong flavor, a small amount of garlic can add a significant savory flavor to your food without adding any fat or significant amounts of calories. One easy way to implement garlic as a weight-loss tool is by using it as a replacement for salt. This way, you can cut back on sodium while still giving your food extra flavor.

Garlic may also help reduce inflammation. Studies have shown that garlic can produce significant anti-inflammatory effects by decreasing the biomarkers of inflammation. One such study found a significant reduction of inflammatory cytokines after participants took garlic extract a couple of times a day for two months.

Green Beans

9) Green Beans

Green beans are another vegetable you should grow in your survival garden. They are high in vitamin K and calcium, which are essential nutrients for building strong, healthy bones and preventing fractures.

In an SHTF scenario, it’s important to have strong, healthy bones, so you can continue to be productive and support the people around you.

Herbs and Spices

10) Herbs

A great survival garden would include herbs. Herbs and spices add flavor to your crops, making the food more enjoyable for everyone. This is why you should consider growing herbs like sage, thyme, cilantro, oregano, and basil. Also, fresh and organic herbs are filled with vitamins and minerals, as well as potent in flavor, making them great for cooking.

Also, herbs can be grown and used for medicinal purposes. In a survival situation where a doctor may not be easily accessible, having knowledge of medicinal herbs will allow you to make home remedies to alleviate pain and sicknesses.

Lastly, to extend the shelf life of herbs, you should consider drying them and grounding them. This way, they can last for years in a mason jar or airtight container.

11) Kale

One thing that makes kale a top choice for your survival garden is the fact that you can grow it year-round. Kale can withstand cold seasons well and even tastes sweeter once touched by frost. Conversely, kale may taste more bitter during summer months; however, consistent watering can help reduce the bitter taste.

One popular type of kale is lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale. You can easily work it into stews and soups, and it makes a fantastic side dish for other meals. But other varieties of kale work well, too.


12) Lentils

Lentils are sorely underrated; they shouldn’t be since they’re full of protein and vitamins. In fact, one serving of lentils holds nearly 18 grams of protein. This makes lentils one of the world’s healthiest food sources and definitely one of the best legumes.

Known as one of the oldest crops in cultivation, lentils are a staple for soups and stews. If you aren’t a fan of soup, you can work them into curries or add cooked lentils to your salads. Lentils are great at absorbing other flavors and blend well with nearly any meal you’d want to add them to.

13) Lettuce

Since there are lots of types of lettuce, the health benefits of lettuce may vary across the different kinds. Generally, people consider iceberg lettuce to be the type of lettuce with the lowest amounts of nutrients – avoid it. Other types of lettuce are great, though.

Here are just a few benefits of eating lettuce:

  • Bone Strength. Lettuce is a source of vitamin K, a vitamin that strengthens bones. Consuming a sufficient amount of vitamin K can help reduce your risk of bone fracture.
  • Hydration. Raw lettuce is made of over 95% water; thus, eating raw lettuce helps you stay hydrated. Although drinking water is still necessary, the water in lettuce can play a big part in helping you stay hydrated.
  • Improved Vision. Lettuce is a source of a vitamin that plays a role in eye health: vitamin A. This vitamin can reduce your risk of cataracts. What’s more, lettuce helps prevent macular degeneration.
  • Improved Sleep. Studies show that extracts of various kinds of lettuce help promote sleep.

14) Onions

Onions can add flavor to virtually anything. What’s more, they’re able to do this while providing some added nutrition. They include B vitamins, vitamin C, and potassium.

After being harvested, onions can be stored for 2-3 months when kept in a cool, dark place. They can potentially be kept longer using long-term preservation methods.


15) Peppers

You can use pepper as a strong spice or as a gardening staple for stuffing and seasoning blends. One way to add some spice to your dishes is by using peppers to make dried chili powder. Alternatively, you may opt to freeze bell peppers to add to soups or stews.


16) Potatoes

Every survival garden should include potatoes. They are starchy, high in calories, and versatile. And people have used potatoes to avoid famines and hunger for centuries.

Growing potatoes requires very little water, just 1-2 inches of water per week. And it takes between 12-20 weeks for them to be fully grown.

In addition to being high in carbohydrates, they contain antioxidants and potassium, which help the function of your heart and muscles.

17) Spinach

Spinach is an essential plant for survival gardens, thanks to its incredible nutritional density. Similar to kale, these leafy greens are filled with all sorts of vitamins and minerals.

You may store spinach for the long term by freezing or dehydrating it, then crushing it into a powder.

18) Squash

Both summer and winter squash are great additions to your survival garden. Ideally, you’d grow both. Summer squash grows quickly and can provide food right away; conversely, winter squash takes longer to develop, but you can store them for much longer if you keep them whole and undamaged.

When planting squash, you’re going to want to start your seeds for the summer and winter at the same time. If that’s not possible, opt for the winter varieties first since they take longer to grow.

If you’d like to, you can grow your squash beside your corn and beans since squash acts as a natural sprawling ground cover.

sweet potatoes

19) Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are another root crop that is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They are also filling, versatile, and high in calories. Sweet potatoes can be baked, fried, steamed, and boiled for all different types of dishes. By growing sweet potatoes in your garden, you can change your routine by experimenting with new dishes. Having a versatile crop that you can make a new dish with may help boost morale and the group’s spirit in a survival situation.

Also, sweet potatoes are easy to store as they have a shelf life of 5 weeks in the pantry, 3 months in the fridge, and much longer in the freezer.


20) Turnips

Like other cruciferous vegetables, turnips have a top-tier nutritional profile; they’re low in calories but are full of essential vitamins and minerals.

Fresh turnips will last about 2-3 weeks in the fridge but can last up to 10 months when stored in the freezer.

When to Plant Survival Crops

Most plants cannot tolerate below-freezing temperatures. So for midseason crops (crops that are ready to harvest by midsummer), you should aim to plant your crops about 2-4 weeks before the last frost of the season, usually by mid-Spring. For Autumn crops, you should aim to plant them in early summer. The earlier you begin planting, the better, as it gives the crops more time to mature.

natural survival garden produce

When to Harvest Survival Crops

It depends on your region, but in the northern hemisphere, most crops are harvested from early September to mid-November. However, this is not the case for all crops. Once the crops have reached their full maturity, we recommend waiting an additional 5-10 days before you start harvesting. By allowing your crops to ripen on the plant, you allow it to improve its quality, becoming crisper, juicier, and sweeter. Also, when you harvest the crops, it’s best to harvest crops in the morning, as plants regain their moisture overnight.

homestead survival garden

Wrapping Up

Survival gardening is an essential skill for any prepper or homesteader looking to become self-sufficient. By securing your food supply, you are not only sourcing the highest quality food for your family, but you are also ensuring you are not affected by external disruptions to the food supply chain. By including the best crops for survival in your garden, you are ensuring you can get the essential nutrients and minerals for survival. Plus, your food flavors will be potent and delicious since its garden table is fresh.

In a survival situation, we must take care of our shelter, food, and water sources before anything else. By having a survival garden at home, you will take care of your food need.

As you start your survival garden, you may also want to provide your crops with quality water. Learn why and how you should filter your rainwater before watering your plants.

If you are considering becoming self-sufficient, consider learning more about the pros and cons of living off-grid.

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