Yesterday I received this comment from a reader seeking survival foods for Tennessee that he can plant and forget in his woods:
It’s somewhat unfortunate that the land is timberland, since Tennessee is home to a wide range of wild survival foods such as hickory nuts, acorns, roots, shoots, berries and greens. The woods of Tennessee are generally rich with foraging opportunity. I’ve found many black walnuts, persimmons, blackberries and other great snacks while hiking. There are also native pawpaws, allegedly, but I’ve never been lucky enough to find any.
My friend Dr. Mom has an excellent blog on foraging in Tennessee that everyone in that climate should be reading. I met her a couple of years ago and she’s the real deal. Knows her stuff, plus she’s funny.
But back to the question: what survival foods can be grown on timberland in Tennessee without care? Here are my thoughts.
Wild Survival Foods For Tennessee
My tip-top suggestion for a survival crop you can plant and forget: Jerusalem artichokes. A sunny spot with some decent soil is all you need. I write quite a bit about their usefulness as an emergency survival food in my new book Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening.
They need to be planted now until any time before it warms up in March and the tubers start deteriorating. I took NO care of my Jerusalem artichokes in Tennessee and they flourished, producing buckets of tubers in my backyard outside the main cultivated garden areas.
After Jerusalem artichokes, I would plant chestnuts everywhere. Though blight-free varieties are expensive, you can sometimes have them shipped bare-root for planting. Check out Chestnut Hill Tree Farm and their Dunstan chestnut. Chestnut trees will often start setting nuts in as little as three years and yields continue to increase for a long time. They’re an excellent and healthy source of survival calories.
Other tree nuts to consider are black walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans and improved hickory varieties.
Furthermore, I’d start adding edible fruiting species such as persimmons and pawpaws if I could get my hands on them at a good price. Persimmons can often be acquired for next-to-nothing from forestry departments.
Another fruit tree I’d put everywhere: the mulberry. White, red, black – just plant ’em all over. Great fruit and highly productive.
As for potatoes and peanuts: my bet is that you won’t get a lot of yield on either but it’s worth trying anyhow. You never know. Potatoes are really susceptible to getting diseases when they remain in the same location, plus they’re likely to be overwhelmed by weeds. I’ve had peanuts come back from seed multiple times in a row but never harvested them to eat because I was too busy with high-yielding crops like Seminole pumpkins and sweet potatoes.
But what about the wild hogs?
I would keep those hogs fed. They might end up being your top survival food. Adding in tree crops will give them forage and you might also through around some wildlife seed mixes just for the heck of it.
There’s a risk that they’ll eat all of your Jerusalem artichokes, but hopefully not. If they do, you can trade those roots for bacon.
The tree crops should be fine, though they take a little longer to get going.
If anyone else has some suggestions for wild survival foods Steve can plant in his climate, please let him know in the comments section!