Growing survival crops should be at the heart of every prepper’s plans. The following survival plant profiles will give you a good start on your Florida garden. I’ve done the hard work already by testing all of these in our state under a variety of conditions. Stay tuned… I’m always adding more to the list.
The Survival Plant Profile List Thus Far
Jamaican Sorrel AKA Florida Cranberry
This is a great list! I wonder if you've looked into a couple we've found essential….Mexican chaya (chayamansa) and cowpeas (we like purpe hull peas). Our chaya plants are as easy to propagate here in SW Florida as sticking a cutting from a branch into the ground and watering it in a little. Hardy in drought and a great butterfly attractor for the Gulf Fritillary, but the best part is that the leaves when boiled (and they do have to be boiled, not eaten raw or undercooked, are a delicious and HIGHLY nutritious green staple. They maintain a rounded bush shape with unobtrusive white flowers, die back to the ground each year with cold weather and come back from the roots every late spring, reaching their same big size by late in the season.
As for the cowpeas, the young leaves are a traditional green in other parts of the world, with outstanding nutritional content, and the taste is my FAVORITE among nearly all greens, hands down. They of course offer pods that can be opened and the cowpeas cooked fresh per batch by boiling, or can be dried for storage. AND they are natural fertilizers if the plant is tilled back into the soil, or can be used as grazing animal forage, too.
And, though it's not as high in nutritional content, okra is a welcome addition to the survival garden…loving the heat, taking a lot of punishment, providing shade for other plants during the season, and the very young leaves are said to be good soup additions if finely chopped before adding, though I've never tried them that way. Okras we've grown have had no pests and have been really prolific!
Love your site…thought I'd pass along these finds, too…can't wait to try canna blossoms after reading your write up on them 🙂 Thanks!
Thanks, Robbyn. Those three are great suggestions. Southern peas are particularly amazing at surviving – it's not surprising that they're a close relative of the snake bean.
I've actually got a profile on chaya planned. I wanted to test it up here so I could make sure it would do okay across the colder parts of Florida. Before I feature a plant, I like to make sure I've grown it with success multiple times. Along with chaya, I'm growing a plot of southern peas right now – and some okra. 😉
Looks like I need to get cracking on a few more profiles.
What do you have for our Garden of Eden here in Arizona? lol
Good question. Arizona is still a good place for food; you just need to look at local species and figure out what will be able to take the heat, the cold and the aridity. Maybe start here:
and I talk more on arid climates here:
I have 10 “stinking toe”s
If you were to attempt to graft a fruit tree scion on to a red maple (Acer rubrum) what species and / or fruit would be best?
Unfortunately, there is nothing related enough to maple that would take. Grafting usually requires very close relation to take, like peaches onto plums, or pears onto quince. Most grafting is done inside the same species, like apple onto crab apple, or a pear onto another pear. It’s a good idea, but there’s nothing that will work in your case.
Your site is awesome–I'm so glad my friend directed me here. I accidentally learned how easy it is to maintain sweet potatoes/yams while growing my first FL garden. (and now I need to research the dif b/t sweet potatoes and yams b/c I thought they were yams but you are calling them sweet potatoes. lol.
I'll be back for more info! Gardening in this Tampa climate may be hot work, but it's fun. Such a long growing season!
Thanks a bunch. Glad you found me.
Interestingly, both yams and sweet potatoes totally rock here in FL.
You're in a slightly better zone than me… Tampa rocks.
Chaya grows well in Deland if planted in one of your microclimates, although it doesn't seem to like the acidic soil of pine/oak highland forests. The plants are at my mom's house there. They freeze to the ground but come right back.
I prefer Chaya to Cassava, only because the latter is a heavier feeder. The leaves of both are similar, but I feel Chaya leaf has a better nutritive value and can be prepared more quickly as a leaf than Cassava root.
I would like to add two plants to your list – Katuk, which has similar climate/soil requirements as Chaya and Waterleaf (Talinum triangulare). Katuk is equal in nutrition to Chaya but may be eaten fresh (Chaya, as you doubtless know, must be cooked or boiled first [*never* being allowed to contact Aluminum!] to drive off the organic Hydrocyanic Acid). Waterleaf may be eaten fresh (especially good in salads) and two kilos of fresh leaves may be placed in a heated, dry pot to wilt and provide water for cooking. Waterleaf loves hot, sunny, fertile soil but survives 8 hours of 24 degrees without perishing. A word of caution: Waterleaf must be controlled by weeding; it is very invasive. Also, because it forms an inedible carrot-like taproot, it must not be allowed to grow near other food plants – it is such an intensively heavy feeder that it is the only plant I have ever seen that will out-compete Moringa and Chaya for available nutrients and cause their death. If those two conditions can be met, Waterleaf is a great addition to the Florida garden.
My brother is working with depleted alfesol land in Africa – equal in vitality to depleted rain forest soil. We would love to visit your operation to find suitable plants to grow for the local villages. Is visiting permitted? (We're Pinellas County folks…)
Chaya is excellent. I'm working on a plant profile for that, too.
Katuk is another one I'm experimenting with. The big problem here are the freezes.
Yes – e-mail me about a visit. I'd love to meet up.
Katuk will die during a freeze and come back when it warms up. However, you may need to cut it back to encourage new growth. Chaya grows well year round, but will need to be covered during a freeze, again cut it back if your afraid of losing it and it will come back. Both plants are great survival plants as well as every day plants to have in your garden. Oh, remember to cook the chaya before eating it as it does contain cyanide that needs to be cooked off. I cook mine for about 20 minutes but you can get for less time but no less than 5 minutes, and be careful not to inhale the steam. Liquid is usable after you cook the chaya, but you cannot cook it in aluminum or cast iron pots.
Where does katuk come back after a freeze? I've heard reports from Gainesville that it dies to the ground, never to return.
Hey Dave I’ve read almost all your books and absolutely have found your knowledge to be superb so thank you!! Katuk survived for me in North Florida I thought it was finished after the freeze being in this raised worm bed I have but it came back after a complete die off. I know have several shoots arising from the crown of the plant.
That is excellent. It died and didn’t return for the Edible Plant Project. You may have a more cold-hardy type! That would be great.
Thanks so much for all the info on your site. Only have a billion questions I'd like to ask you but I'm sure your a busy man. I'm just starting my journey towards survival and sustainable living and want to produce my own Eden of sorts. Keep up the great work!
Thank you, Derek. You can ask away… just send me an e-mail via the "Contact David" link on the sidebar and I'll make a future post where I answer your questions.
Thank you for the Chaya and the cassava cuttings you send me last time. I started Chaya in the pot indoors and I've just planted it out as the weather is warming up, but all my cassava cutting didn't survive the cold even if i buried them as you suggested , may be it was better to buy them this month of Feb as its warming up here in Cali.
I ll send money for more cuttings and plant them right away again thank you for service
Great site! I just discovered it and I'm loving what I see. I do have a question though, is there a particular reason regular potatoes are not on your list? We moved to the Tampa Bay area recently and I'm trying potatoes in grow bags and they seem to be thriving but I don't want to waste my time if it isn't going to be a good viable option.
i was just given some cattail seeds… you don't have that one yet?
I have some in a pond. Will you just scatter yours in a wet area and see what happens?
You forgot to add Zuccini to the list…..That stuff grows everywhere!
There's a reason: if I had to eat zucchini to live, I'd probably kill myself.
OMG that was funny. I’m posting a link to your blog on my site and I hope to enjoy some of your vids too!
[This is huge, because I just moved to a completely shaded location in Minnesota… so we can’t even use the greenhouse. I don’t know why I am reading your blog other than to torture myself. But I admit, a laugh like that one is always appreciated!]
I’m glad you’re hanging around. Shade gardening in Minnesota would be a great blog.
In a desperate state of hoping to garden when we moved here, I experimented with all the supposed ‘will do ok in partial shade’ veggies I could lay my hands on… all cool season crops… but not one of them got over 6″ high after an entire summer. Just too much shade.
I didn’t want to grow hostas… which are popular here and do ok in shade.
Will be renting a plot in the community garden across the street next time! I’m still enjoying your site (for laughs if nothing else) but I will undoubtedly learn something valuable too- because I’m pretty sure gardening is not ALL about climate.
I am just starting to prepare a survival garden in central FL Orlando area. Where do you get seeds to start growing the various plants. Thank you for all the great info!
Start with Grower Jim: http://growerjim.blogspot.com/
From there, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for rarer heirloomns, and Johnny’s Selected Seeds for the more common stuff.
You should add honey mesquite to the list. The pods are high in protein, produce very heavily in drought years and fixes nitrogen. If that wasn’t enough the pods of good quality trees actually taste like cinnamon honey crackers. Beans that are still green can be used like green beans as well.
I’ve tasted the pods before – they are delicious. If I could grow and test them, it would help. They’re unfortunately not good for my climate.
@Walter…. in orlando – central florida, crispy farms in apopka sells locally harvested seeds. Check out her website crispyfarms.com
Hoover’s market in Apopka sometimes carries her seeds and you can also find them in Longwood at “Wild Hare Kitchen”.
Wild Hare also has seeds from another local farm located in east seminole county ( I forget the name).
Hope this helps,
Great site and super information… I love the camel!
But I live in North Georgia and am a complete newbie to gardening and food production. Any suggestions or “David the Good” clones up here?
Thank you. My recommended book list is a good start: http://www.thesurvivalgardener.com/florida-gardene/ Start with “Gaia’s Garden” for a new way of thinking.
I’m not sure about other garden gurus in that area, though this fellow has a great site: http://tcpermaculture.com/site/
The basics of soil preparation, composting and planting and caring for trees will carry over across the board; the main differences are going to be what species you can grow there compared to what I can grow here. Good luck and I’m glad you stopped by – hope you stick around.
I have never heard of chaya or katuck. I will give cowpeas and okra a try. My thinking is changing now because I am looking to feed my extended family of animals.(chickens, turkeys, sheep) also. We also grow guanduly bush beans. Good tasting and the animals love them. The bush grows about 7 ft and lives for a couple of years. We also grow turmeric and ginger in the perennial garden. Both very valuable for health. I don’t know how any of these things handle a freeze since I live in the tropics.
The wing bean vine is also great. Young leaves for salad, beans, pods and roots are edible. They have been researching themselves in my personal garden for years. Good for people and animals.
Do you have any recommendations of survival foods for Tennessee to plant and “forget”. I’ve got 300 acres of timberland and I would like to set out potatoes, peanuts, or whatever can grow in the wild. It could also be a food plot for deer, turkey, …etc. The timber is about 20 years old with a few open spots. Also, we have wild hogs, which might root up potatoes, roots,….etc.
I’ll post on it soon. Tough, but I have some ideas.
My fave has got to be the canna! I will now look at mine in a new light and give more respect. Thanks for a great list.
I’d love to have some of those purple yams, and I don’t live too far from you. Any chance I could buy a few off the great and powerful food forest?
No, unfortunately. See if you can find them on ebay – my property has been sold.
Hey David,I live in Milton, FL. and run a tug boat from New Orleans to Texas.During a trip I had a deckhand from LA. that had brought some Purslane on board to use in his gumbo.I had no idea what the stuff was until I looked it up.I think it is one of the best survival plants around,and it tastes great,it is very good for you also.Might want to add it to your list.Captn. Jack
That’s a great story. I agree – purslane is wonderful. We grow a relative of common purslane called Surinam purslane (Talinum fruticosum). Good idea – I’ll see if I can add purslane when I get a chance. Got to take some good photos.
I second the purslane recommendation. I found some growing in a box of dirt a couple years ago, didn’t know what it was but come to find out it was a gift from God. It’s still growing like a weed out of that box and I forage on it constantly, cook with it, put it in potato salads and other cold salads. And my little dog loves to eat it, it’s a huge treat for him. I’ve caught him snatching it from the box if it grows over the edge! Very, very nutritious for us all.
Have you considered dandelions? While not the most awesome food, they are indeed edible and they pretty much grow themselves anywhere.
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I’m not sure if you have grown pigeon peas? They grow nicely in southern Florida (probably ok up north also?) and last a few years. They fix nitrogen and grow in sandy soils. Although they do better in rich organic soil. They don’t transplant very well, have to be careful with the root system or they go into shock and die. They are very easy to grow, prolific and produce a lot of edible seeds. I believe the amino acid profile is pretty good. This plant is a good addition to the survival plant list.
Hi James – thanks for stopping by.
I tried growing pigeon peas multiple years in a row up in North Florida. The frost always took my harvests.
I now live in Central America and get abundant harvests from the pigeon peas I planted here. A survival plant profile is coming soon – I just wanted to grow them successfully before writing on them. They would be very good in South Florida, I’m sure.
I have a few names that you can say yes/no to… (also because I need to know if they can grow in food forests in South Florida)
3. Sea Oats
8. Jerusalem Artichoke
Yes – I will do a post on this Monday. Thanks.
I would like to write you an email but it won’t let me.
I saw this site as a reference for determining what gingers are edible but can’t find anything on this list concerning gingers. I was told they all are edible but some taste bad is all. I LOVE ginger and have tried growing some from grocery store hands. So far I have several growing up but they don’t seem to be happy. I have them in an earth bag so I can move them if needed. I do have tons of a ginger that I can’t kill. It has a beautiful red bloom that we can squeeze and my Mom used to claim it was like hand creme. I don’t know enough but want to learn more. Can you refer some information sources for growing and preserving ginger?
Thanks for stopping by. That’s shampoo ginger you have. It’s wonderful for shampoo and hand lotion, but doesn’t taste good. Your mom had wisdom!
I wrote an article for Heirloom Gardener on growing and preserving ginger – you’ll find it here: https://www.heirloomgardener.com/plant-profiles/edible/growing-ginger-and-turmeric-zm0z17szfis
Hi David. Love your books YouTube and blog. However this link doesn’t work. I grow a variety of edible and showy gingers as well as several turmerics (not the showy ones). Any way you can get that link back? Thanks!
How about adding a Survival Plant Profile for avocados?
Hi! I was wondering if you have tried to grow lowland Pitpit (Saccharum edule)? It seems like an interesting perennial for tropical environments…I am in central Fl and would love to give it a try but it seems to be extremely hard to access and I am not even sure if it would do well here. Any thoughts? Thanks!
I have not tried it.
Apios americana is a great survival food plant. The tubers are higher in protein than potatoes and they can be left in the ground for years. They can get fairly invasive for a native plant. The plants make underground stolons.
I’m growing varieties developed at LSU, by Bill Blackmon and his team, a massive breeding project that spanned many years. The tuber sizes on these improved varieties is massive, compared to wild types. There are tricks to cooking and enjoying Apios: don’t expect potato flavor; it tastes more like Black-eye Peas. The plant is a legume, bean/pea family. Peel tubers and rinse the sticky sap off tubers, utensils with cold water before the sap hardens. I’m working on a bunch of recipes which utilize this obscure food plant. Peeled, dried Apios tuber slices dry white and store for many years. Shredded Apios patties do not need flour or egg to stick together and fry up into a crispy griddle cake. Works great in stews and soups, bisques. Makes delicious chips.
Dr. Bill Blackmon is a great guy, but age is forcing him to greatly reduce his Apios research, breeding, which he has continued doing at his farm, long after retiring. Breeding for flavor and reduced stolon length (tubers closer together) are still needed. The Blackmon/LSU varieties should do well in FL and all the southern states. No problem getting good yields in Virginia.
I just moved to my first 5 acres in OH, primarily so we can house our horses on our own property. The horses won’t be here till Feb, but I do have 6 chickens for the first time, and am learning how to care for them.
But I really want to try gardening too. And the more I read, the more I am trying to understand how to do as much of the complete food-animal-poop-food cycle as I can figure out how to manage. I came across and read your “Compost Everything” book and loved it, and am in my second time through, trying to actually DO what you suggest. But I get lost in the details and stall.
Since we moved so recently, I have been able to save a huge pile of cardboard to try the lasagna composting you mention, but am not sure I have good stuff to layer it with.
There is an old garden (2000 sq ft!!!) thick with weeds 5+ feet tall that my husband cut down. Some were burned. Some are still piled out there. I know the roots will die if I use them to make compost tea, but what do I do to eliminate the seeds?
There are 2 large manure piles from previous owners, one cow and one horse, and a 3rd super-sized cow manure pile. I’d love to use it but remember the chapter where the whole garden died because of Graz-on.
The fences were 30 years old and grown through with honeysuckle, which I have read is allelopathic. We replaced the fence and now have mounds of honeysuckle ash and and approx 2000 square feet of ground/shredded honeysuckle lying along the new fence line.
Along with planting the garden, I would like to plant more appropriate trees and shrubs to replace some of the honeysuckle that was taken out. But I am afraid of the honeysuckle “allelopathy” in the soil. Can that be overcome by composting? And what if one of the compost ingredients is honeysuckle? (Thought I would try tea, since it’s such a large area, maybe 5000 sq ft total, which I would try to work on in small chunks.)
All of this seems like a composter’s paradise (sort of). But I can’t bring it all together in my head and figure out a plan, or figure out if the plan would be safe (what with allelopathy, weed seeds, and possible herbicide contamination).
I am hoping you really answer questions and have some ideas, because I really need them!!!
Thanks for listening!
Hi Dave – just saw your youtube video on Terra Preta. Just wanted to give you a head’s up to where you may find some of the answers on how the Amazonians did what they did in building up and developing their soil over time. Monty Don – a well-known English gardener – has a series called Around the World in 80 Gardens. On his trip to the Amazon, he went into the jungle where a native tribe showed him how they build good soil for their food gardening today. The woman mixed charred pot ash and regular ground soil as well as other things to make her food garden soil. She also used the charred pot ash as a root accelerator. If you are able to access the BBC, the series is on there at the moment. Although short, the relevant excerpt of the video is well worth a watch. Good luck, and hope this helps.
You should add beets, easy to grow and super good for you
They are tasty, but very high in oxalic acid.
I didn’t read all the comments, so, hope this isn’t redundant. I love Amaranth for super fast growth and vigor, plus abundant self reseeding, actually have a bunch in my garden that has “weed” status, right plant, wrong location. I advise folks to plant it in a place they don’t mind this habit, like the purple sweet potatoes, can never find all of those hardy little devils. Love your Youtube channel, a big part my new late-night viewing. I am still growing and sharing yams from a tour of your NCF food forest. Thanks for all you do.
I purchased longevity spinach online a couple years ago advise from your book. It is wonderful and grows like crazy. Unfortunately my spinach recently became covered with black spots. What do you recommend? I pulled it out of that garden spot as I have other places that have not been affected as much.
I am glad that you have dedicated your time to helping the soon to be starving people. Are able to offer seed varieties this season? Thank you and keep looking up!!
My daughter has some in her Etsy store here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/GoodGardens
May the Lord protect us from what is coming!
Wow, that is fantastic that you are making a list! Being from the midwest, I think our list looks more like potatoes, green beans, tomatoes and corn. The two things that grow the best for me are kale and chinese noodle beans. I dont even have to try at those things. But I havent gotten kale to go to seed yet so as far as survival gardening I dont know if kale qualifies as a survival food since I dont know how to get it to go to seed. I did keep a kale plant alive for two years by covering it up with a clear rubbermaid tote with a brick on top- like its own personal mini greenhouse. Then early this past November I came down with the C-sickness and didnt get it covered up so it died. Im experimenting with growing things like longevity spinach in a greenstalk on wheels that I can roll into the house when it gets cold this fall. Hopefully I wont be rolling bugs and rodents into the house along with the veggies… Also I am working on planting perinneal plants like rhubarb and asparagus that hopefully will just keep coming back year after year. It would be so great if someone came up with a survival garden list of plants for Missouri already! We have such extreme unpredictable weather and the seasons are short. Gardening in Missouri is like Forest Gump and a box of Chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.
Anyone have a list for zone 6?
Potatoes, grain corn, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips, rutabaga, winter squash/pumpkins and sunflowers would be my survival crops of choice, with carrots, garlic, kale and dry bean varieties for extra nutrition and sotrable calories, climate permitting.
Zone 3b north dakota list?
Starting a farm here in Brownsville S Texas. 3 Acres, water front. Wanting collaborators it has 3 bedroom 2 bath. Zone 10
What kind of collaborators?
I am in zone 5b looking for some new plants to grow in a food forest that seem tropical I have access to a unheated greenhouse.
This made me think of you David!
It’s a giant compost heap!