It’s all about the calories …

One of my readers reminded me that I haven’t posted in a while, and I think now is a good time because of the issues of food security that are coming to the fore.

The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic brought something Americans have not seen for decades: shortages of basic necessities. Early on, it was toilet paper and paper towels, but I remember walking into supermarkets to find the meat aisle rather scant, frozen foods sold out, and even canned spinach missing.

Although many of these shortages seem to have been ameliorated, the combination of various economic and world events has resulted in shortages of fertilizer and grain, while food prices for most items have either openly skyrocketed or been sneakily hidden through “shrinkflation.”

Though it is unlikely that the United States will see outright absence of food, the large number of fires at food processing facilities will definitely put a further squeeze on supplies, while causing many people to worry about costs, availability, or both.

As I have written in my books, the best time to start a garden is before things get bad, because it can take several months to harvest a substantial amount of food. Obviously, the second best time is “right now.”

Throughout most of the US, including here in the Northeast, right now would seem to be rather late to start growing. But just because things are usually done a certain way doesn’t mean you can’t do things a bit differently and still realize a harvest. For example, you could start broccoli and cabbage seedlings indoors now, plant them out in mid-July, and harvest a Fall crop. Although it is best to plant potatoes early, you would still get a decent harvest if you planted them now. You could plant beans now, and still have time to harvest before frost. So don’t look at the calendar and think it is too late. It’s almost never too late if you get creative!

That said, the thing I want to emphasize at the moment is calories. If you are concerned about food shortages, calories are key.

Most of the vegetables we think of growing in a garden such as spinach, tomatoes, peppers and so forth provide important vitamins and minerals in our diet. These are irreplaceable. However, they do not provide enough calories to keep body and soul together. There is a reason why many diet plans allow unlimited salad, and it’s because even though these vegetables provide lots of nutrients, they possibly use more calories in their digestion than they provide.

Thus, if potential starvation is the fear, the emphasis needs to be on growing crops that are calorically dense. Examples would be potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes, dried beans, corn, winter squash and turnips. These crops would be the backbone of a survival diet, with other crops serving to provide vitamins.

Even if supplies remain steady and we are only dealing with price increases, everything you grow yourself will have high nutrition, lower pesticides, and save you money.