Carol posts a few thoughts on one of my survival gardening videos:
“First, thank you, well done. Also, I’ve never heard anyone really address the issue of nutrient dense foods. Only calories. Frankly, the vast majority of people would do far better if they are less calories. A LOT less calories. Three meals a day is a marketing campaign, not healthy advice. Second, animals produce the fat soluble vitamins we need, so some sort of animal should be in your plan (even if you simply maintain a good ecosystem on your property so that pigeons, squirrels, etc. are available if needed.) I have larger animals, but I also maintain a small herd of guinea pigs. They’re basically self sustaining, and have enough fat to nourish people and pets both (look up “rabbit starvation”.) Even folks in an apartment could keep something like quail. Eggs are a perfect food. Plus, don’t forget to take a second look at those “weeds” you pull each year to make way for non- native fruits and veggies. Some of the weeds are far more nutritious than they plants you’re replacing them with! And they are almost guaranteed to thrive in your garden! Plantain, mallow, lamb’s quarters, amaranth, purslane, lady’s thumb, burdock root, bull thistle, chicory, dandelion, wild violets, and poke weed are all edible on my small property.”
She makes some good suggestions, and there are a few points I believe are worth making as well.
The nutrient density of food is quite important. It’s one of the reasons we grow our own, as we can harvest directly from the garden, knowing what we fed to the soil, and get maximum goodness by having food so fresh it sometimes only takes minutes to go from the garden to the kitchen to the table.
Steve Solomon and I have discussed the importance of nutrient density as well, and he helped me create a nutrient mix to boost mineral content in our gardens.
However, calories are key in a survival situation. It doesn’t matter if you have the most nutrient-dense kale in the world, it won’t fill you up in an emergency.
The video Carol is commenting on was focused primarily on survival, and I always urge people to grow calories first to stay full, followed by a lesser amount of nutrient-dense vegetables. As for people eating too much and three meals a day being unnecessary – sure. That’s true. But it’s not what we’re worried about in a societal collapse. People will get thin and hungry fast. Also, calories are not just calories. I’ve eaten a large amount of calories on a carnivore diet and it made me lean and fit. I’ve also eaten a large amount of calories that were pasta and chips and cheese dip and got too fat.
The content of the calories really matters. Pasta ≠ Steak
On the survival front, Carol’s recommendation to add animal foods is very true. We’ve not raised guinea pigs for food, but we have raised goats, pigs, sheep, dairy cows, rabbits, chickens, ducks and guinea fowl with varying levels of success. If you can grow enough vegetable food to feed your animals and let them concentrate it into fat and protein, you’ll be in great shape. But the main focus in the video was on survival gardening, not a complete homesteading regime. Carol is right, however: you really can raise some good food in a small space. I just find guinea pigs rather cute and might find them hard to butcher. I couldn’t care less about chickens, though. We butchered five roosters just this last week. You do need that good fat, too, and we get it from cooking with home-rendered lard and tallow.
Eggs are indeed a perfect food. Definitely raise some breed of fowl for eggs if you can.
As for the weeds, this brings up another good point, and that is:
You may not even need to grow your own greens for nutrition
If you don’t have animal food, greens (and other foraged foods) will help you get the micronutrients you might be missing in a diet of staple grains and roots. Many of them are free for the picking.
We eat wild onions, dandelion, Bidens alba, blueberries, sparkleberries, blackberries, wild amaranth, chickweed, henbit, cleavers, wild violets, purslane, wild grape leaves and grapes, smilax shoots, chanterelle mushrooms and whatever else we can forage.
Why bother to grow lettuce when we can pick much more nutritionally dense “weeds” around the front lawn?
However, I must make one point on the “non-native” angle in Carol’s comment: many of the non-native foods we grow are incredibly important for keeping people fed. In our gardens, we would lack cassava, potatoes, sweet potatoes and true yams, all of which produce abundantly for us.
As with everything, there is a certain balance. We need that nutrient-dense food, and a diet of empty calories won’t make us healthy long term. Yet on the other hand, I would be really happy for a bowl of mashed cassava on an empty stomach instead of a bowl of dandelion greens.
Let’s meet in the middle and eat both.