I am not a prepper. I just want to be clear that I do have some hope and faith in a All-Encompassing force that drives everything and will help us, especially in times of catastrophe. However, I have always felt that we each have to do our part, our effort, when we see obvious signs that preparation is necessary in case of various scenarios that can and do occur. An obvious example comes to mind. We recently had a "hurricane-like" storm with winds in excess to 80 mph clobber our neighborhood (and a good chunk of the U.S.) leaving countless people without power, air conditioning, and fresh food. For days, many had to deal with the sweltering 100 degree heat, the smell of rotting food, no lights, no fresh food, save whatever restaurants or friends/family gave them, who still had power. We were lucky, as many were that the grid didn't go down completely. We were all caught off-guard. I don't think anyone saw this coming.
I remember sitting and chatting with a friend at 11pm the night of the storm, hearing the wind, I peered outside to see the trees whipping around at a quite unnatural frenzy. It was then that I decided to carry my sleeping children into the basement. I've been through a level 5 hurricane in Florida so I know that trees fall through houses and tropical storms can have tornadoes in them. It would be safer with another layer of wood between us and the storm. I would've turned on the news but it was my holy day and doing so would have been improper. Still I was tempted to find out what this storm was turning out to be. A large and healthy pine tree fall into a house nearby, and a massive 60 year old walnut tree completely uprooted fell into the street. The howling winds was accompanied by the constant booms of thunder preceded by large strikes of lightning. I won't lie, it was scary.
Since then, I ask people what they've learned. I'm always disappointed when I hear their reply. It's as if they came out of this experience with no outlook on life and how fast things can go from "everything is dandy to WTF". But I did learn a thing or two. I decided that I was going to prepare for life's mini-emergencies, not an apocalypse or Armageddon, because those situations would probably be too devastating to live through anyway, but it isn't inconceivable that life may suck for a few days, weeks or even months. Hurricane Andrew removed us from normal civilization for two weeks when I lived in Florida. Martial Law as in effect. Water was selling at outrageous prices.
Since I have water-based bioponic systems, I thought I should take advantage of this system and grow water-based plants. I found out that there is a "famine-plant" called water spinach that grows wild in Asia, right next to the rice paddies, called water spinach. It goes by many other names as well such as water convolvulus, swamp cabbage, and chinese spinach to name a few. In tropical or sub-tropical places, it can be an invasive noxious weed, due to its rapid growth, choking waterways. I happen to live in zone 7b so this invasiveness wouldn't pose a problem, plus, based on all the sites I've researched, it is very nutritious and grows very well in a water-based growing system. So I bought some seeds and sure enough, it grows very fast with very little effort. I also saw water cress in a food market so I did some research into it and not only is it very healthy and chock full of nutrients, it is delicious in salads and who doesn't like cress and potato soup? I saw that it loves to grow in water and is a perennial...lucky me! So I grabbed a bunch and stuck it in my system and several weeks later, it is growing like there is no tomorrow.
Now, a few people might be wondering how I would be growing these things if things got really bad, if I had no power, or if looters and animals are roaming the streets looking for any sign of edible plants. I agree. My greenhouse would surely be the target of hungry looters and I would be lucky to have anything left. So I also grow in soil as well, because my systems only work well when there is power driving the pumps. I could go solar, but that isn't the best solution.
That is why I made it my mission to find nutritious plants that have some (or all) of the following requirements. Perennial – I can't be spending too much time replanting every year. Not-Obvious-to-people– Daylilies are common flowers but not many know about how edible the plant and roots are. Hidden – Root/Tuber vegetables keep their goodies stored in the earth where most people don't venture to look. Nutritious – Let's face it, we can't live on potato chips.
So based on this, I found, bought, and now grow plants that would allow us to survive and eat almost any time of the year and even in the winter. Here is my ever-growing list of foods that any wanna-be-prepper should think about including in his/her garden. I broke them down based on type (tuber, herb, tree, or greens)
Tubers: Sunchoke. Chinese Artichoke (crosne). Yacon. Oca. Chufa (tiger nut). Groundnut. Salsify (black and white). Daylily (hemerocallis fulva). Walking/Tree Onion. Horseradish.
Greens: Comfrey. Sorrel. Lovage. Water Cress. Water Spinach. Stinging Nettle. Asparagus. Purselane. Amaranth.
Herbs: Thyme. Oregano. Mints. Lemon Balm. Chives.
Trees: Aronia (chokeberry). Autumn Olive. Gooseberry. Juneberry. Goumi. Mayhaw. Elderberry.
Now I do realize some people will find flaws with this list, either because it is incomplete or incompatible with their growing zones or growing philosophy. But it is definitely a good start to grow in case of emergencies and if you have half of this list growing in your backyard, you are doing pretty good. I left off the obvious plants that anyone can identify, are annuals or simply aren't hardy. Remember, these things have to grow by themselves, water may be too precious to give to your plants.
The most important things I grow are the tubers, since they can be eaten raw or cooked, are calorie-dense, nutritious, have some protein, spread quickly and can store underground (or in a root cellar) for a very long time. They are the least likely to be stolen and will be a staple for diet. I highly encourage researching each of these tubers to find out how they grow, store, spread, taste, and their nutritional content.
The trees I chose due to their hardiness, high vitamin content, ability to jam, dry, or preserve the fruits, and for how hard it is for the average-Joe-looter to identify the fruits due to their rarity (in supermarkets).
The herbs take care of themselves, are edible, medicinal, and spice-up bland foods, (after all, how many types of ways can you eat sunchokes without going crazy) and even if identified by others, it's hard for a thief to justify to his family why he stole large amounts of thyme or oregano.
The greens can be cooked or eaten raw, are nutritious, rare, and are perennial. Comfrey, aside from being used for a host of ailments, is an excellent fertilizer, and spreads on it's own.
Think permaculture, 'cuz spending hours each day in your garden just won't cut it. Besides, without a hose, most gardeners have no clue what to do in their garden.
I think it is obvious that if you want to survive two or three months of no electricity, you will need to learn some basic things, such as how to live without meat, dairy or fish unless you are lucky enough to live on a farm or near a river. I'm pretty sure the millions of registered gun owners in this country will eat every living thing out of existence if food shortages occurred. So being a vegan would probably be the norm for most. Learning how to extract water from anything is also important. Sure it's great if it rains all the time but how many barrels and tubs can you fill? What if it doesn't rain? It's important to learn how to dig pits, fill them with leaves and even urine, cover with plastic, and using sun-based distillation to distill the water from the contents of the pit. Buy a (wilderness) survival book (or three), not on your kindle, a real paperback one, that was written by someone who actually did it, not someone who read up on it.
And lastly, learn to identify at least 50 wild weeds, fruits, leaves, berries, and plants that are edible. This has to be done by going out to your local forests, woods and even neighborhoods. You'll find with a little bit of effort, you can see obvious identification markers for each edible “weed” that may preserve your health while a less informative person might starve right next to a cache of wild edibles.
That's what I learned from the event that no one saw coming and may happen again.