DIY Survival or Preparedness Seed Pack

I was contemplating seeds, this being near the start of planting season. Along the way, I ran into a particular variety of squash that would be nearly ideal for a “survival” seed archive, or a “preparedness pack” as I like to call them. That got me wondering just what might be in the ‘typical’ seed packages sold to folks as “survival preparedness”. I was not very happy with what I found.

This article is the result. It tells you how you can make a very small “survival seeds” package, and have it safely stored for a decade (or maybe more) for not very much money at all.

Some Sidebars

Since I’m certain the question will come up: What squash?

Well, one of the least appreciated aspects of a disaster garden is that it must do two things that are orthogonaly opposed. It must deliver food very fast, and it must deliver food that will last for nearly a year to get you through the coming winter. Modern gardens are usually only about the first of those. We want some sweet corn for the BBQ and don’t want to wait past July 4th to get it. December be damned.

Old gardens were about each side of that point. My Dad passed on to me some of the considerations of the Amish style garden that his parents grew. His Dad was an American Mix of Irish and German and French (near as we can tell). His Mom was Amish. We grew a more traditional style garden when I was a kid. Not a lot of lettuce, plenty of corn, beans, and squash. My earliest gardening memory is from about 4 years old when I grew a Pink Banana Squash that was about as big as I was at the time ;-)

So what was interesting that I’d not seen in all these years? The Seminole Squash.
Why? Well, how about a squash that keeps for a year, yet can be eaten as a ‘summer squash’ when young, has a shell that is nearly impervious to critters (it is helpful to have an ax to open it), yet cooks nicely and has both edible flesh and seeds? Oh, and it will climb trees, so you can plant it under an otherwise not so garden friendly tree and let it climb up, making squash that hang like Christmas ornaments away from ‘critters’ on the ground.

Seminole Pumpkin 3 g
Retail Price: $2.75

Heirloom Southern Organic (C. moschata) 95 days.

[Cultivated in Florida by the Native Americans in the 1500s.] Keeps up to 1 year at room temperature! Small fruits are sweeter than Butternut and have firm, deep-orange flesh. Large vines bear bell-shaped buff-colored fruits averaging 6 in. in diameter. Resistant to vine borers. Excellent downy mildew resistance; a good choice for hot, humid, disease-prone areas. Give it ample water and room to roam. Also good as a summer squash when picked young. Pkt.
Catalog #: 53604

Vines can be 20 to 30 feet long (you need that to climb a tree…) so you could even grow this up onto your roof for added garden space.

Here’s the view of a Southern seed source, so take their “any season” in the context of any Florida season ;-)

Are you having trouble growing vegetables in our hot Florida summers? The Seminole Pumpkin is an answer to the gardener’s woes. This could be the easiest vegetable you’ll ever grow.

The Seminole Pumpkin is a native plant of south Florida. It was cultivated by Florida Indians and early European settlers. Almost lost in modern time, the Seminole Pumpkin is making a great comeback as an easy summer season vegetable.

The fruit resembles a winter/acorn squash, but much larger. The shape of the fruit varies, mostly oval or oblong. The color ranges from variegated greens, yellow to a dull orange. This thick skinned fruit can be stored at room temperature for months. The pumpkins are generally 6 – 10 inches in diameter and weigh as much as 8 – 12 pounds.

The Seminole Pumpkin is a dream come true for the organic gardener. Can you believe a plant with no insect problems. References say gummy stem blight, a disease, can occur, but it hasn’t been experienced by this grower. Plant your seeds in a large area so the vines can run on the ground or climb on a fence or trellises.
Seminole Pumpkins can be planted almost any time of year except the dead of winter. Spring or summer is the best time to plant. The harvest is ready in about 95 days, but the vines will produce until the first frost.

The fruit is sweeter than other cucurbits, yellow or orange in color and not stringy. It can be baked, steamed, boiled, fried or sun-dried as the Florida Indian did. Our native pumpkin makes great pies and bread.

The Seminole Pumpkin is a hardy plant that can take both drought and wet conditions. Plant some seeds soon and enjoy this wonderful vegetable.

Unlike other squash, it doesn’t rot if stacked up for storage. One reference said to just stack it up at room temperature and that they had been eating them over a year after harvest.

That is the kind of thing you are looking for in “survival garden” food. Lots of starch, proteins from the seeds, few pests, no need for heavy fertilizers (the deleted part mentions low fertilizer use), grows easily and large with lots of production and not a lot of ground prep, and makes a product that you can store for a year. Far different from lettuce and cucumbers…

A Typical Seed Package

Here’s a couple of links to the typical kind of seed package sold to “preppers”. IMHO most all of them “have issues”. Largely around varieties chosen (usually ‘typical summer gardens for things from the grocery store’ instead of ‘get me through the winter from hell, THEN feed me something fresh, pronto’. Also realize that each part of the world, or the USA, needs a different variety of each kind of plant. Beans that do well in a Florida Swamp are not going to love the Arizona Desert (and certainly not without ‘city water’ and infrastructure) while New England Peas do well in a Boston spring, but not so well in a Southern California setting (where you CAN grow bananas!). Local seed suppliers often select for varieties to put on their seed racks that are known to do well in your area. You just can’t get that in a “One Size Fits All” package sold nation wide.

So in these packages you see things like lettuce and cucumbers. No, I have nothing against either. But they are not going to get you through the winter nor are you going to eat them quick in the spring. (Radishes come up first in spring, and overwintered turnips. While overwintered beets can provide rapid greens, and winter kale is your cold weather friend).

This one has such things as cucumbers and lettuce in it. Going to make a side salad for your non-dinner? Low calories and not able to store much. (If you are thinking pickles, where’s your vinegar?…) Then there is a heading cabbage. LOTS of dirt needed for cabbages, and they take a long time to make a head. Similar comments on the cauliflower, which is also harder to get to maturity with a decent head on it. The near obligatory bulb onion (more on that below) and a nice sweet corn, but where is the corn for winter tortillas or cornbread? Finally, there’s a tasty almost all water cantaloupe and watermelon. When you may well be living on limited water supplies, you will be dumping huge amounts on melons? For nearly no nutrient gain?

On the plus side, there’s a mix of winter and summer squash, both green and dry beans,

Included Patriot Seeds
Blue Lake Bush Bean – over 150 heirloom seeds
California Wonder Bell Pepper – over 70 heirloom seeds
Marketmore Cucumber – over 150 heirloom seeds
Scarlet Nantes Carrot – over 800 heirloom seeds
Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce – over 900 seeds
Golden Acre Cabbage – over 530 heirloom seeds
Detroit Dark Red Beet – over 260 heirloom seeds
Lincoln Shell Sweet Pea – over 100 heirloom seeds
Black Turtle Bean – over 70 heirloom seeds
Beefsteak Tomato – over 180 heirloom seeds
Champion Radish – over 320 heirloom seeds
Green Sprouting Broccoli – over 500 heirloom seeds
Waltham Butternut Winter Squash – over 100 seeds
Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach – over 260 seeds
Yellow Sweet Spanish Onion – over 145 heirloom seeds
Golden Bantam Sweet Corn – over 250 heirloom seeds
Hales Best Cantaloupe – over 70 heirloom seeds
Snowball Cauliflower – over 285 heirloom seeds
Black Beauty Zucchini – over 50 heirloom seeds
Crimson Sweet Watermelon – over 60 heirloom seeds

Somewhat better. Uses open pollinated heirloom seeds. It does have a fair number of dry beans in it, along with a ‘dent’ or flour type corn. But is light on squash types, and has some tasty but not exactly essential foods like eggplant and hot peppers. Sorry, but if I’m trying to make enough calories on limited dirt, by hand, to feed a half dozen people, I’m not going to put much dirt toward low calorie / low nutrient foods like eggplant. It makes a great “summer garden”, but not so good on the “max calories from min work in a disaster” aspect.

1) October Bean

2) Black Valentine Bean

3) Bountiful Bean

4) Detroit Dark Red Beet

5) Copenhagen Market Cabbage

6) Stowell’s Evergreen Corn

7) Reid’s Yellow Dent Corn

8) Bushy Cucumber

9) Yellow Of Parma Onion

10) Bloomsdale Spinach

11) Scarlet Nantez Carrot

12) Red Salad Bowl Lettuce

13) Oakleaf Lettuce

14) Hale’s Best Melon

15) Green Arrow Pea

16) Fordhook Giant Chard

17) Brandywine Tomato

18) California Wonder Pepper

19) Early Jalapeno Pepper

20) French Breakfast Radish

21) Waltham Butternut Squash

22) Rossa Bianca Eggplant

Now don’t get me wrong, I love onions, think a lettuce salad pleasant, and think eggplant parmigiana is very nice, but in a real survival situation I’m more worried about making hoe cakes and oatmeal gruel than eggplant parmigiana or a nice dinner salad…

And the choice of a bulbing onion is particularly distressing. There is a long slow process to grow onions from seed to bulb. For most folks, a fast green onion would be a far better choice. Furthermore, Onion Seeds are typically only viable for one year unless frozen or refrigerated. So in this list we have an onion where your first year will be spent growing “sets”, that then you can place out the second year to make bulbs, but the seeds will not be viable 2 years after you place your order. Also note that there is zero mention of the “day length” dependence of onions. Onions make a bulb when the days get “short”, where “short” varies by variety. You must buy onions that match your latitude, roughly, or no bulbs for you. This is just setting folks up for failure.

The “Wonder Pepper” I can almost see as they have a lot of Vit-C that can be scarce on a ‘beans and grains’ diet, but Jalapenos? Really? You are on the edge of starvation, so instead of more beans, grains, and squash you want a few very hot peppers? It would be far better to put a small spice bottle of ground chili pepper in your kitchen cabinet (it keeps for years) and skip the home made hot sauce during The Apocalypse…

There is exactly one squash, and that one isn’t even a particularly flexible one. See the above about the Seminole squash. Personally, I’m trialing the Lakota Squash this year. You want a durable and flexible squash and one that provides a lot of edible seeds too. Those seeds are what get you through the winter long after the roast squash is gone.

Squash Winter Lakota Organic HEIRLOOM Seeds
Cucurbita maxima
Item #3149
85-100 days. This gorgeous squash is much more than a decoration. A superior baking variety, it has fine-grained flesh with an enticing, sweet, nutty flavor. Once a staple variety of the Lakota Sioux people, it has not been widely available until recently. This widely-adaptable winter squash stores well.
10- to 20-foot vines.

Where is the “yellow crookneck” or “zucchini” or other summer squash? We all know that one bush about 3 feet on a side makes more than you can eat, and does it quickly. Personally, I’ve settled on the “Rond du Nice” or “8 Ball” (they look to be the same) as a spherical Zuk of about the right size for a family of 2 folks (kids have moved out). Picked at about golf ball to billiard ball size, they are great. (Run to seed they are about 6 to 8 inches in diameter and FULL of edible seeds). These guys make fruits in about 45 days, then continue for most of the season.

Then two lettuces and a melon? Really? All water and not much substance. You will devote dirt area and labor for effectively negative calorie gain? When faced with starvation motivations? You can put the cucumbers in here too. Nice in salads, and the pickles might be nice, if you happen to have a few gallons of vinegar and a canner laying around… But your average Joe and Jane looking for some calories in a hurry in Bad Times? Um….

Finally, there’s the absence of “seasonal sense” again. A Heading Cabbage? Really? It takes a LONG time to grow a cabbage to a head, and it is not for beginners. Yes, on an Amish farm you grow a lot of them. Making coleslaw and storing for the winter is good. Again, if you have done it for a few years, have a couple of acres, and have already learned the ropes. (A heading cabbage is a very large thing…) Now the real “survival” version of this would be a matched set of a Kale and a Collards instead of a heading cabbage. Each makes edible leaves fairly quickly, and for a long time. Kale grows even during light frosts. Collards may be a touch bitter, but will still produce in a Southern summer, and some like Green Glaze are fairly bug resistant. Between them you can have something growing darned near year round anywhere from Miami to about Pennsylvania.

I’d also point out that these lack ‘depth’. I have seeds stored that are better in cold and wet, and better in hot and dry. Not JUST my “typical for this area with a hose”. In a real disaster, I have options no matter if it is colder, hotter, wetter, or drier than ‘typical’.

There are lots more like them. These folks are not chosen as particularly bad (in fact, they are OK in many ways), but as ‘typical’.

The DIY Way

Here’s a one quart wide mouth mason jar with seed packets in it. This lives in the freezer and the seeds will keep for years (maybe decades) that way.

DIY Seed Archive Quart Jar

DIY Seed Archive Quart Jar

For those wondering about using glass and breakage: I’ve had these survive a 7.1 Earthquake in the freezer, fridge, and cardboard boxes. They survive being wet, and when various plastic things (bags, even a thick walled ‘ice cooler’ box) were chewed through by various rodents and ‘possums, these just sit there, solid and safe. Do put them inside a cardboard box with crumpled newspaper around them if in quake country. In a fridge or freezer, and packed so as not to ‘rattle around’, I’d expect these to survive even a tornado or hurricane (if you can find where it is…)

Now that particular jar has 24 packets of “small seeds” (things like radishes and turnips and carrots) and 4 or 5 packages of “big seeds” like peas, beans and corn. All up, about 25 to 30 varieties in one quart, without a whole lot of work. Notice that is a larger number than the 20 to 22 listed above for the example commercial packages.

And, if you want more total seeds, you can make as many of these as you want. Only opening the one that is appropriate for the particular season or type of plants wanted at that time.

Cost? Seeds packets run around $1.80 to $2.80 around here at local outlets (garden stores, Whole Foods, hardware stores). Yet I’ve also gotten them for as low as a dime each (Walmart a few years back, now I think they are at 50 ¢ each). Notice that turnip packet has a 20 ¢ price on it. It is from 2011, so ought not be too much more expensive now. A further trick? Often, at the end of the “garden season” folks will sell out the “about to expire” seeds for very cheap. I got a lot of seeds from a CVS pharmacy for 10 ¢ / package a year or three back. Just ask them when they clear out the seeds and show up then. (Usually about August around here, but maybe into September). So call it $1 to $2 average. That’s a $30 to $60 ticket… yet you can get “something” for as low as $5 to $20 with some shopping for cheap.

Oh, and you don’t need to use the deluxe canning jar I used. I’ve also recycled old mayo jars (back when they were glass) or more recently used tomato sauce jars or even jars from peaches ( Costco sells peaches in jars for not too expensive). Just wash, dry, and load.

What To Put In Them?

First off, this is my major complaint about the “buy a pack and hide it in the prepper closet”. Growing plants is not like opening a can of ravioli. You must know what you are doing. So either actually practice all this stuff with a garden (even a ‘toy garden’) or expect a lot of failures in your first year or two (if you HAVE a year or two to learn post “Aw Shit”…) But there are some general guidelines from what people did in the past.

A) You want three speeds of plants. FAST feed me NOW first up in spring. Medium, typical summer garden. LONG Storage. Things like dry beans, grains, and winter squash. Learn to think in terms of seasons and plant life cycles, not what you buy in a can at the store.

B) It doesn’t matter if it isn’t your favorite. Learn to love things you never eat. Turnips, for example. What matters is the nutrients in them, and when they are available. Or if they grow in your area at all. Turnips were traditionally planted in the fall, then all winter you could dig up the roots and eat them. In Spring they would make greens that could be eaten as well. (Something similar can be done with “fodder beats” or “mangle beets”). The Radish was prized as “first fresh vegetable” of spring. Folks dearly looked forward to that first fresh crunch after a winter of dried beans and cornbread… So love your turnips, radishes, and all. BTW, the “Winter Black Spanish” radish can grow in many areas during the winter. It is quite HOT, so forget the Jalapeno in winter and embrace the Spanish radish…

C) It isn’t up to you, it is up to the plant. You may just LOVE English peas. If you are in a hot humid place, you will have Black Eyed Peas and Lima Beans instead… Similarly, folks in The Frozen North may love a good Lima, but it isn’t going to mature before frost. So look into the historical “regional cuisine” of your area. It has clue about what grows there. “Boston Baked Beans” are iconic because those beans grew well there. Iowa Corn Bread similarly.

That item “C” is why I can not tell you what to put in your jar. And why a “fits all” package is less than ideal. Does a local wilt or fungus just LOVE that particular cabbage? Is the local squash bug fond of taking down yellow straight neck? Your local seed selling store is going to sell seeds that are better suited to those issues. (Also, for example, I’m allergic to corn, so if someone told me to depend on corn, well, I’d be in big trouble). I grow Runner Beans each year as they keep the local carpenter bee pollinator fed, and while I’d not want to eat the fibrous greens in a normal world, they make a large mountain of edible green leaves very fast (the roots are perennial here) with ‘first beans’ very early. (Purple Pod beans also sprout in colder wetter soils than regular green pods, so they are good for ‘faster beans’ too).

That, then, means you must do your own research and reach your own conclusions. But there are still some guidelines.

Generally, you need a couple of types of legumes (beans, peas, fava, lima, …) and some greens or yellows (for vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a surprisingly high level of proteins) and a starch (for those calories and often for storage). The traditional American Indian mix was corn, beans, and squash. The European mix varied, but was things like peas, wheat or barley, cabbages and collards. Asian structure tended to rice, turnip family greens (choy), and ‘long beans’. In The South of the USA, you would find “black eyed peas” and Limas instead of northern white beans, and collards instead of cabbages (both the same family, and will cross, but collards are more heat resistant and grow to leaf a lot faster).

There are literally thousands of varieties to choose from, and that’s your job in the DIY world.

First thing to do is make a planting / harvesting calendar. What is YOUR local weather cycle? In Phoenix Arizona, the “down months” tend to July and August (where heat tolerant tomatoes are OK, but forget the lettuce and peas), while in Fargo North Dakota those are prime growing times. Assign your plants based on how long they take from planting to maturity, and what weather they like. Then find any ‘gaps’ and ask if you can grow something then.

First off, think of radishes. I don’t care if you don’t like them. They are THE fastest thing out the gate in spring, and in a real disaster, you will like them. If the spicy flavor puts you off, the Asian kinds are often quite bland. (Daikon for example)

And yes, you CAN eat the tops. A bit “rough” for most folks most of the time, but in a real disaster, cook and eat.

WHILE the radishes are coming up, you can wait for slightly longer period crops. Look for some very short season things like 45 day sweet corn and those 45 day “8 Ball” zucchini squash. Similarly, you can ‘over plant’ carrots and beets. Then ‘thin’ the little ones and eat them ‘right quick’. I used to resent “thinning” the garden as a waste of seeds, but once you realize that it serves two purposes, better growth AND early eats, it makes sense. Similarly, a fast collard or kale can provide some greens via thinnings while you wait for the main growth.

Bush type is often faster than vining type. So you want both. A fast bush type green bean AND a longer slower vine type that produces to the end of the season. Some beans are “dual purpose” ( or even ‘three way’ ;-) with green beans, ‘shelly beans’ and dried beans all available. Especially in older heirloom types. As it is “dirt cheap” to make one of these DIY systems, feel free to make a run to the hardware store and fill a jar with “the usual suspects – like the hybrid sweet corn and blue lake bush beans in the kits above – and THEN spend time cruising through all those “seed saver” and “heirloom” seed companies on line to find Just The Right Seeds for your area, soils, and needs. The heirlooms can then also be allowed to “run to seed” for your next year crop (assuming you need a next year…).

The traditional pattern was that “root crops” would overwinter in the root cellar or sometimes in the ground. Those got you through the great frozen. If you live in Florida or Arizona this doesn’t matter much. If you live in Boston, it is very important. If you live in Fargo, why? ;-)

(Please, it was just a joke, I know Fargo is a beautiful place to live… and I love snow.)

So to emulate that, you need to plan on some roots that do well overwintered. Turnips and Parsnips are classics. (Be advised that while the roots are tasty, some folks react to oils on the parsnip leaves. I never have, though, but it isn’t a ‘plant and forget’, though will often naturalize. You need to know it to harvest it right, though). Kale can often grow even in light snow.

Plan to have a couple of kinds of kale for fall through spring. (Flavor varies by type and some are not what I’m keen on… so you may need to taste test them. If you like spicy, hot mustard greens can work. Red Russian Kale is a different species and may be more to your liking. Also note that the rutabaga is from the same species, but not the same as the turnip. It has edible greens AND winter hardy roots. It is often called a “Swede” as it grows well in cold Swedish weather. ) Many Asian Greens are in fact in the Turnip family, so can grow in cold time and places. Napa Cabbage (or Chinese Cabbage) is in fact the leafy head of a kind of strange turnip family member. But I digress.

You must plan on stored grains, beans, and roots to get through whatever length of winter your area has. Also note that many winter squash store well into February in many places, and that Seminole Squash goes a whole year and does it at room temperature (where other squash often want a single layer in cool storage). So work back from that. How much is needed to still be eating when the first radishes are harvested and the spinach, carrots and beets are being thinned? Now work back from their harvest date to their planting date and plan to plant that much, then.

You CAN grow “small grains”. Traditionally the American Home Gardener grows one grain. Corn (Maize). But you can grow wheat, barley, rye, or buckwheat if you try. It will be “different”, so I suggest practice at it. I buy bulk grain at Whole Foods. As an “organic” you typically don’t need to worry about weird kinds, GMOs, or hybrids. Just buy a pound of a couple of them, put it in small jars in the freezer. Then, as time permits, work on growing it. “Hard red winter wheat” is typically seeded in fall, overwinters under snow, then grows in spring to maturity. Until you are ready for that, eating roasted squash or pumpkin seeds will likely be easier. So start with some “dent” or “flour” corn, and some traditional squash known for the seeds… Then work on your barley and buckwheat ;-)

At this point, you have a ‘winter bridge’ plan of dried beans, maybe dried peas (soup peas) in cold places, some Fava beans (that also grow in ‘near snow’), flour corn (or ‘parch corn’ or even popcorn) an optional ‘small grains’ trial, and some “roots” like turnips, parsnips, and maybe even some stored beets. In old times, large beet roots like those mangle beets, would produce greens even in winter once stored inside, until the root was exhausted. Similarly, some kinds of tomatoes can be uprooted and hung upside down to ripen the green tomatoes into early winter. That “Stowell’s Evergreen” corn is unique in that it, too, could be uprooted and hung upside down to continue to ripen corn after harvest into post frost seasons. You also have a strategy for “early food”, be it digging up overwintered roots, or loving radishes, or even lots of ‘thinnings’. Personally, I’d plan on all three.

That’s the hard nut, and needs working out first. After that, wrapping some “traditional spring / summer garden” around it is nearly trivial.

Making A Season Chart

I suggest making a simple chart of the seasons, and put your candidates in their block.

          Winter          Spring                          Summer                Fall
Beans:    Fava            Peas / Purple pod green beans   Pole Kentucky Wonder  Peas / Fava
                          Bush Blue Lake                  Dry beans

Greens:   Kale            Collards, Spinach               Chard, Collards       Chard, Kale

Grains:   Winter Wheat    Buckwheat                       Sorghum, Corn         Corn

Squash:   Seminole from   Zucchini, Yellow Crookneck      Red Kuril, Lakota     harvest pumpkins
          storage         plant pumpkins & seminole

Roots:    dig turnips     potatoes, carrots, beets        carrots               plant turnips

Notice that lacking from this list is the entire group of saladings along with all the melons? IF you have the room and time for it, they are well worth growing, but this isn’t about a pretty show garden nor ‘what you like’. This is about not starving. For that you need beans and sorghum not cress and cucumber sandwiches. So they go into the “entirely optional” group. Now, that said, nothing at all prevents you from planting them, and a nice romaine lettuce can be easy to grow, tasty, and does have some desired nutrients. Just don’t start putting a lot of effort into lettuce and celery until you have the core starch and proteins worked out.

Also note that “special mention” goes to desert heat and dry garden problems. For example, the Tepary Bean grows in the desert southwest. Darned near killed it two years running as I was watering it. It wants hot, not dead dry but not damp either, and mostly to be left alone. Similarly some desert melons and squash grow best in those conditions. There is even an Indian Corn with a tap root that is specialized in dry land use. So if you live there, search out those specialists. ( I’m interested in them, so discussion of them is welcome if there is interest). I’ve also left out the dozen and one “field peas” from all over the south. I’ve only grown them successfully once, and don’t like the flavor of either okra or black eyed peas, so I don’t know much about them; other than that they like hot and humid.

Similarly missing is one of my favorite topics. “Unusual” food crops. Celosia and Cocks Comb (a special variety of it) make a nice very tiny grain, while commonly being grown as ornamentals. I grow it, along with Amaranth in my efforts to gain mastery of tiny grains, and figure out how to beat the birds to the harvest. (I really ought to store a bird net ‘for that day’, but for now just enjoy the birds). There are many ‘dual use’ and unexpected use plants available, like amaranth where the leaves and seeds can be eaten. But those are a bit outside the mainline and really something folks ought to come to long after they’ve got the basic “corn and beans” with a side of turnips & chard under control. All of the Famine Foods and “eating the weeds” comes into that same category. So foraging for Kudzu or a nice bowl of lambs quarters is workable, but not what you put in a jar in the fridge.

I would strongly recommend becoming familiar with that area, and folks wanting to talk about it are encouraged, but my intent here is mostly to give a short into to making a DIY seed bank for “the usual foods” quickly and on the cheap.

Finally, if you are really “into this”, you ought to plant some perennial foods and trees. And why not? Then they are just waiting for you. I have a couple of apple trees and a tangelo tree. Yes, mostly the squirrels get them as my family are unwilling to reach up and grab food ;-) but in a real “Aw Shit” those squirrels can go from “entertainment” to “dinner” fairly quickly… Edible landscaping can be productive AND pretty.

It is a whole lot easier to have things already growing in a permaculture than it is to come “up from nothing” with a jar of seeds during a disaster.

So it is far better to have a working landscape, some permaculture corners working, and a garden with deep rich soil built over a few years, than to be looking at a lawn over rock hard clay and a shovel, and wondering about dinner. With that garden already “going”, the jar of seeds in the freezer is an old friend that is there to assure you do not need a working hardware store to get seeds, and mostly it is just doing what you have done last year. The alternative of a jar and shovel is a lot harder “row to hoe”…

In Conclusion

With all that said about “it depends on where you are”, I’m quite happy to pitch in with my 2 ¢ worth on what I think ought to work “in your area”. I’m not just tossing you to the wolves of the local hardware store on your own. I’ve spent months just reading seed catalogs (gardener folks are like that ;-) and can help a ‘noob’ over the first hump. Folks past that hump can then explore on their own what works best for them.

There are also folks here from all over the globe, familiar with things I’ve never even heard of, who can likely also give suggestions. For example in more equatorial climates you can grow a perennial “pea tree” called a “pigeon pea” (and a dozen other names in as many languages). I know little about it, though I’ve sprouted some this year to see if it can be grown as an annual here. I have found a Russian equivalent that grows in the cold, but it looks like it may be considered ‘invasive’ in California. But it is a food source, just one I don’t know well.

Hopefully this helps, and if not, hopefully someone here can help.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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43 Responses to DIY Survival or Preparedness Seed Pack

  1. Paul, Somerset says:

    I’m a huge fan of radish. I love the fact that even when they fail to form a bulb, you can leave them in the ground to form leaves that are edible both fresh and ultimately as a flowering pot herb. Basically you always get something, even if cats or dogs trample them or dig them up, and you get it very fast. Take care to choose one variety that’s best in spring/fall and another suited to the heat of summer. Round ones, such as saxa 2, are your first, fast crop for spring, while elongated ones, such as French breakfast or Ostergruss rosa 2, are suited to summer.

    I also like rocket (called arugula, it seems, in the US). Again, grows very fast. Pick the leaves when required, and eventually the flowers. Keeps producing well into the autumn in southern England. Appears to have a decent nutritional value too:

  2. Paul, Somerset says:

    Oh, and an endorsement of your advice to plant fruit trees now, and also to practise your famine crops before there’s a famine. Even if you never need it, there’s a satisfaction in having proved to yourself that you have the skill of knowing what to grow, where to grow it and how to salvage something when things go wrong.

  3. E.M.Smith says:


    Don’t forget that Radish Seeds can be sprouted and eaten as sprouts, and that the seed pods, when green, are edible. (There is even a strange radish from, IIRC, India, where the pods are the part eaten. Typically pickled? Something like that… (he tickles duckduckgo…)

    Ah, Java… that’s where they came from…

    Demonstration of pickled radish seed pods:

    Yeah, I like things where you can eat the entire plant. Folks forget that… Beet Greens are edible, as are turnip greens. Bean leaves as a “pot herb”. I’ve seen folks cut off and throw away the leafy ends of celery bunches eating only the stalks… better to toss the ends in a pot of stew. Celery seed is a nice seasoning, though much stronger flavor than the stalks. Green onions? Eat the whole thing… Peas? Yes, there are “pod types” where you eat the pod and the peas. Leaves make a nice pot herb too. So it goes… In a real “food emergency”, there’s a world of edibles in the garden that most folks put on the compost heap.

    Knowing that cauliflower and broccoli were related to cabbage, and quite closely, I’ve tried their stems and leaves. Quite nice. That we only eat the flowers of them is just extravagance. There are several ways to use “corn silks” in food, but the husks are mostly for wrapping tamales. Then there are grape leaves, loved by many, and other folks don’t even realize they have eaten them. So it goes…

    (Do NOT eat rhubarb leaves nor parsnip leaves nor potato leaves. All are toxic. Same for tomato leaves and raw kidney beans, though the kidney beans have the toxin destroyed at the boil.).

    Maybe I ought to make a list of “most efficient” food plants, where you can eat darned near the whole things… Part of my “complaint” about the including of hot peppers is that so little of the plant is used, when you could instead grow a beet and eat from root tip to end of leaf and all parts in between… and with more protein and carbs too.

    I let the dandelions grow in my front yard. The bunny loves them, and I find them tasty too ;-) Somewhere I have a frozen packet of imported Italian food dandelion seeds, just so I can prove that it isn’t a weed patch in my front yard ;-)

  4. Alexander K says:

    Fascinating post, Chiefio!
    Early British and European settlers here in NZ, in travelling from the other end of the planet, picked up some vegetables such as pumpkins from the Indian sub-continent, which are great ‘survival’ tucker as they require little care apart from moderate watering while they grow, are hardy, store without refrigeration or freezing and are great eating. Many have very hard, thick skins which require an axe to cut open, just like your native pumpkin.
    I am the youngest in my family, and about half way into my eighth decade so I remember heaps from when much of my life seemed to revolve around having to be useful in the garden, orchard and kitchen while the great-aunt that we lived with, my mother, my older sisters and female cousins did all the really hard stuff as all the males in our family were off dealing with life at the sharp end of WWII. I am retired from full-time employment now, so I am beginning to relearn the things in the garden that I learnt all those years ago.
    Such as the cultivation of Rhubarb, another Indian vegetable cooked and eaten as a dessert – this grows moderately well here in NZ, but in the cool climate of the UK’s South-West, grows to a spectacular size. My daughter in London grows Rhubarb of a size where a couple of stalks (the leaves are poisonous) provide dessert for four or five adults, while I need about a dozen of our slender stalks cooked with a reasonable sized apple, to make a dessert for two adults. Rhubarb is a swamp plant, and therefore needs copious amounts of water to thrive. If a plant is starved of water, the stalks become soft and lie down before the big leaves wilt. If one waters them every day, the stalks stay upright and firm and the leaves remain stiff and extended.
    Strangely, while my wife and I lived in and near London, UK, for a decade, we discovered that many of our English friends and relatives would not eat Pumpkin and other veg that originated in India as it was ‘only cattle fodder’ to them. The supermarkets were gradually introducing the Brits to foods such as the American varieties of sweet potatoes, an old favourite in NZ. Our own sweet potato is the native Kumara, also grown around the Pacific in Polynesia, Japan and South America.
    As a footnote, another favourite food for my parents generation was corned beef, a more civilised variant of the salted beef that was packed in barrels and a staple food on sailing vessels.
    This is a big seller in NZ – I was bought up on the stuff and still love it. We found that the English had never heard of ‘corned beef and only know about salt beef, which is regarded as peculiar to the ethnic Jewish community. Our local butcher in London would buy it in for us, but thought it was very peculiar for non-Jewish people to order.
    Cheers from NZ,

  5. Larry Ledwick says:

    Another option of course is potatoes. Unfortunately they are largely grown from cloned seed potatoes and it is rather difficult to find “true potato seeds” from the seed fruit of a potato plant.

    Being related to the tomato (both part of the nightshade family) they can also be problematic to keep them disease free.

    This is one plant I want to tinker with, but in a small 3′ x 3′ plot you could only grow one potato plant unless you wanted lots of new potatoes, instead of full sized mature tubers. I have also been seeing some folks who grow them in soil filled trashbags inside tubs, but this year I think I will focus on the conventional garden fare and save experimentation with potatoes for another time and larger garden plot.

  6. p.g.sharrow says:

    I do have real potato seeds of a nearly “wild” purple potato. The seeds produce a Nightshade like plant that produces small tubers, pea to thumb size the first season. Those tubers grown the next year, produce egg size and larger tubers. Damn things once planted are nearly a pest as they keep coming back.from the tiny tubers you miss while digging in the fall. These grow from early spring until winter freeze kills them. Each succeeding season plants from tubers are larger when their wintered over “seed” tuber is larger. Must be how the Andes Indians discovered them in high mountain valleys. while foraging for eats and found beds of fist size tubers growing wild that could be dug every year.
    Another “wild” tuber plant is the “sun-choke” or Jerusalem Artichoke” once planted they create a huge mound of shoots 5 to 8 feet high with “sunflowers” as they create tubers on their central root stem, food for winter or early spring. Also nearly a pest! as once planted they are hard to eradicate.
    AS for grain seed to plant for a grain crop, you must be kidding Right!
    Sprout the grain and eat now! growing a field crop for grain is a massive endevour that requires some amount of good land and a hell of alot of hard hand work. Use your soil and labor for a better return and buy grains to eat. I have raised a lot of grain in fields, with machinery as well as some by hand. Unless you have a lot of experience and like hard work forget it. pg

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    Um, I think I said that (only a bit more circumspectly…)

    But you can grow wheat, barley, rye, or buckwheat if you try. It will be “different”, so I suggest practice at it.
    Until you are ready for that, eating roasted squash or pumpkin seeds will likely be easier. So start with some “dent” or “flour” corn, and some traditional squash known for the seeds… Then work on your barley and buckwheat ;-)

    Some folks will find it’s not for them. (Most, I suspect, but many folks have decent sized chunks of dirt and are not in cities). Corn is “way easier”, yet I’ve grown small patches of barley and triticale. (I also grew a few bits of rice, via the expedient of scattering some old rice on the lawn for the birds, but I doubt that counts ;-)

    So I think it fair to say “start with corn and squash seeds”, but leave the door open for those willing to adventure. Given that the context here is “after the fall”, the idea of simply blowing off all small grains forever seems a bit difficult too. So I’m just allowing for “IF it goes a few years, having small grains will matter – but don’t expect to do it right out the gate year one”…


    I got some “organic” potatoes from Whole Foods and planted them out a few years back. Mix of golden and purple types with some red rosy ones. Let them run for a year or two. They made seeds after a while. I’ve saved the seeds. Since, while I was working in Florida, the “garden” got “cleaned up” and turned into a place for BBQ and hammock, many of my established perennial beds “for that day” got destroyed. (The potato area now has Lilies in it…) I’m hoping that some small bits will resprout and show a very durable line; but if not, I’ll start some potato seeds later this year (fall planting maybe…)

    First year from seed is very small. About pea or bean sized potato. Then, as you pointed out, each year gets bigger.


    True Story:

    Despite them being called “invasive” (which is just what you want in a ‘survival garden’ ;-) I planted these. Along a west facing window. They made a nice seasonal wall of green to help keep the house cool in summer. Grew “like weeds”, which is what I wanted, and hard to remove once there as you inevitably miss a bit digging up the roots. “Great!” I thought…

    Then one year the bunnies were allowed to roam that area. YUM! they shouted in chorus… Every shoot that came up, got munched. Eventually the roots ran out of energy. The next year the patch didn’t return…

    So three lessons: The tops while unappetizing to us are non-toxic edibles for bunnies. This implies that in a real famine one could likely cook them to mush and eat them. IFF you ever get an uncontrolled “infestation” of these guys, a few bunnies are enough to deal with it. And, if you do not want them munched, you will need protection from wild bunnies and likely deer…

    Other than that, these suckers are just a near perfect “no maintenance” food. Though they are not called “the windy root” for nothing… (Though the inulin in them is a good carbohydrate for diabetics, so anyone with diabetes really ought to look at this as a ‘survival food’ plant.)

    @Larry Ledwick:

    There are commercial “potato sacks” sold that are like polymer canvas bags. Fill with dirt, add seed spuds, and grow. The reason for using seed tubers rather than true seeds is that it takes a while to grow the true seeds up to potato producing plants. I did the “bag” once and it worked well. IF you have a bit of patio or driveway with sun, it’s quite ‘doable’…

    @Alexander K.:

    One of the more fascinating bits of history is how during the last 1000 years folks have wandered the planet and found what other people were eating, then shared. That, alone, made a big improvement in life on this planet.

    Folks with an America’s bias have made noise about “the new world feeding the world” with beans, squash, and corn. And yes, they did make a big help (along with the potato saving much of Europe during the L.I.A. as they don’t mind wind so much… or marching armies…) Forgotten in that narrative is all the wheat, barley, rye, oats, fava beans, peas, etc. etc. that came to the Americas from Europe. Mexicans eat a large number of wheat tortillas with they meals not just corn tortillas, and where would “Spanish rice” be without the rice….

    Many “signature dishes” of Asia are based on Portuguese foods, as another example. And what family in the USA or Europe is not familiar with rice… Also remember that millet and okra along with the watermelon came from Africa. Where would southern BBQ be without hogs fed on a mix of corn, millet, and sorghum along with okra and watermelon ;-)

    Now what you mentioned is of particular interest, in that you talk about pumpkins coming from India. ALL of the squash and pumpkins originated in Central and South America. Then spread. So what you have pointed out is a ‘secondary spread’ from one English dominated area (India) to another. Interesting… Oh, and I do remember my Mum being reluctant to eat pumpkin… only would in pies. Squash she came to accept, after a while. (She was from England, but Dad was from Iowa, so we had both sets of foods…)

    Corned Beef Hash was one we had often, then. (Not so much lately… I like it but the spouse not so much). Dad loved it, and would make corned beef hash regularly. Mum tolerated it… Dad liked to put a fried egg on top. Mum liked the egg… on toast… Similar in some ways to corned beef and cabbage, yet stronger flavor when fried with spuds and seasonings. (Traditional Iowa cooking had a lot of beef, and it would be corned or salted to get through the winter…)

    Ah, the sweet potato. There’s a couple of different species from different places called “sweet potato” or “yam” in the USA. “Yams” are used as a synonym, even though they are different species. Real yams are hot tropical country plants. Sweet potatoes not so much. (Warm, not tropical) Both are wonderful. (Took me a while to learn that a sweet potato / yam wants to be at room temperature. Put them in the fridge to ‘keep’ them, and they rot right quick…) I didn’t mention them since they are more regional and not exactly a saved seed. But if you are in a region that grows them, they can be great. So I think your distinction is between the local, a real yam, and the American, actually a sweet potato.

    I grew rhubarb once. It did OK, at best. Now I know why. Didn’t know it was a swamp plant. As things are very dry here, I likely didn’t give it all the water it really wanted. Left alone for any length of time it tended to die, likely as it dried too much (but was watered as much as other things in the garden…) Like it, but the knack of making it into a desert without it becoming mush eluded me…

  8. Graeme No.3 says:

    The English have never taken to eating pumpkin, but in Australia it is close to favourite vegetable when roasted. (The traditional pub ‘daily roast’ is roast beef or lamb, potatoes,pumpkin and peas or green beans). Also makes popular soup (now usually with curry powder or cumin etc). This came about because early settlers found pumpkins easy to grow and reliable yielders, and often had only them as (stored) winter vegetable.
    Not sure where they were sourced although the oldest named variety in Australia was Turk’s Turban. Somehow some local grey skin varieties were bred, Queensland Blue, Triamble and Ironbark. The first is the most popular and is grown all over Australia. Triamble was very popular, faded right out but recently has come back. Ironbark – well, the advice on cutting it says “start with a sharp ax and room to swing”.

    All are noted for their keeping qualities, probably helped by the tough skin.

    Try which has pictures of most varieties.

    Squash is little eaten in Australia, apart from Zucchinis, and the decorative yellow one I think you would call pattypan. Latter for some reason is always expensive; can’t think why as they are easy to grow and almost as productive as Zukes.

    Re zucchini – had a book** by some woman who had decided with husband that peak oil would mean the end of life as we know it, so took up rural living. (4 bedrooms, mains power, internet, paved road out front of approx.10 acres well watered, good soil). She wrote “nobody told me how big zucchinis grow if you leave them for 2 or 3 days”.
    Bears out your advice to practice growing.

    ** Written approx. 2001, Peak Oil was going to be 2005, they moved from inner city Sydney terrace home (no room for garden), book thrown away approx. 2008 after about 2 days.

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    I got distracted by “sweet potatoes” and found out that many of them are grown in California (for the USA). They do better in the hot central valley area, but as long as soil is over 50 F for 100 or so days, they will do OK. I think I’ve got that here. (June July August). It’s a bit complicated to grow them (as they have both a ‘make small plant slips’ and an “age warm at harvest” wrinkle). OTOH, it turns out that their greens are edible too. So it might be an easy way to make a big pile of greens… Hmmmm…

    This one says that the Santa Clara Master Gardeners did a trial. That’s the same zone I’m in, so it ought to work here too. puts California at 20% behind North Carolina. Who knew… (Well, they did, but I didn’t ;-)

    Also a surprise, at the bottom it mentions that about 25% are processed into other products with the majority of that being Sweetpotato Fries. Didn’t know they were that popular… Maybe I need to make some and find out why ;-)

    I’d always figured that they needed more heat than we had here. Looks like it is mostly just “stays over 50 F soil temp for 100+ days”. (Then cure in a hot garage in late August and store inside during winter…)

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    @Graeme No3:

    Some of the Down Under types with blue dusky skins are showing up here now. The various “heirloom seed” sites list several of them. “Ironbark” sounds like a good one for “survival” circumstances ;-) (Dear, the deer has broken its teeth on the squash… best put it in the freezer…)

    I’ve grown my own seed Zuks. They get about 2 feet long and 6 inches across, with a gourd like though thinner skin. If you don’t pick them every day or two, on the “weekend pick” you will find them about double the mid week size, it seems… I’ve now got a food dryer so I’m going to try drying some of the excess this year. Tried canning and got near-mush… Freezing worked very well, but would need a new barn for the freezers ;-)

  11. p.g.sharrow says:

    I grow yellow, red and white sweet potatoes here at 2000ft they do great here, take little water, are good for the soil, keep up to a year in a cool, DRY place, under the bed works best. Early, set a very few tubers in dampened soil/sand in sunlight for “slips” to sprout. When the outside soil is warm, weeds growing well, soil drying, squash planting time, break off slips and set in soil deep, Roots Unnecessary! even maybe a feature for large tubers yield. get out of their way. way back! When these things start growing well the vines grow fast! They like warm dry and will climb over everything. The American varieties are Morning Glory derived and grow much like these pests. Be sure to dig in the fall as the vines begin dieing back. Do Not Leave in the soil as they will rot in cool damp soil. a great way to grow food with little work, poor soil and little water.

    I only grow winter squash as the small immature fruit are wonderful sliced & steamed and any not picked are winter food. Summer squash is a waste of time and space.

    The only “grain” I would recommend to a small farmer is corn “maize” as you can get a good yield from a small “patch” and the hand labor for growing and harvest is not too bad. Use “Indian” corn, not field dent. It is more likely to breed true and has a better food value balance. pg

  12. p.g.sharrow says:

    Note to those that want to save corn seed for next season. When stripping the cob of kernels, discard the grains at each end, only save the regular shaped seeds from the middles. At least that was the way the oldtimers did it. Corn is a mistake that has always been hand selected to keep it from reverting to it’s parent grasses, only save the best ears for seed production. NO hybreds! pg

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    Many “Indian Corn” types are a Dent corn. (Just not the same dent corn hybrids grown commercially…) The “flint” type that most folks think of as “Indian Corn” have a very hard shell, but the dent kinds have a softer more flour rich interior and softer shell, so shrink just a bit on drying, giving the ‘dent’ in the end. (Sweet corn has so much sugar and water in it that, on drying, it shrivels up and looks like a raisin… but this is also a way to tell if a seed will be a sweet or flour type…)

    Some heirloom types are ‘mixed use’ and can be eaten sweet at a young stage, then for flour or grits later… My favorite, that I’ve grown a few times for the family, is Black Aztec. When young it is a white sweet corn. It then starts to turn black. So “when to pick” it tells you! Any streaking showing up, pick it! When dry and black, it makes a decent flour corn.

    Bloody Butcher is a classic old dent mixed use corn:

    but more the parching / roasting sort of use than straight sweet.

    Bloody Butcher Dent Corn 1/2 lb
    HeirloomSouthernOrganic (red) 120 days. [1845. Originally from Virginia.] Stalks grow 10-12 ft. tall producing 2 ears per stalk. Kernels are blood-red with darker red stripes, and occasional white or blue kernels. For flour, cereal, or roasting ears. (½ lb = 8 oz = 228 g)

    An interesting selection of native corn here:

    They list flint types to, as a flour type that is more pest resistant and keeps better:

    They also have a selection of american Indian dent corns:

    Native sweet types here, also including Sowell’s Evergreen:

    The have a popcorn section too, but you’all can find the link ;-)

    God I wish I could still eat corn…

    Your comment on corn parent grasses is interesting. It IS a hybrid of two similar grasses, but that are technically different species. The “seeds up top” turned into seeds on a cob on the side… I had a corn plant one year make some kernels on the tassel… I’ve got them somewhere. Probably time to plant it and see what happens…

    Now that folks have figured that out, there is some talk of going back to the parent types and seeing if different “mixes” can make new and interesting corns… as if there were not enough types already ;-)

    BTW, much of my interest in growing non-corn grains comes directly from the fact that I can’t eat corn anymore due to that food allergy… So I need something… Amaranth worked OK until the birds heard about it in the second year. Now I watch happy birds 8-0

    Barley was “way easy” in a small test of a square foot or two. (Harvesting a 1/4 acre likely not so much…) I’m presently trialing sorghum (being in a naturally ‘dry land’ place) and millet. Celosia was fine again until the birds got into it, so I think I’m going to end up with Quinoa as it is bitter to the birds (wash to eat.. wash well…). Hey, once you have all the other stuff growing fine, a guy needs a challenge ;-) Besides, as a “pseudo grain” you can also eat the leaves of quinoa and celosia and amaranth… I’ve planted some buckwheat for the first time this year. We’ll see how that goes.

  14. Graeme No.3 says:

    re smal grains how about Teff? “Eragrostis tef has an attractive nutrition profile, being high in dietary fiber and iron and providing protein and calcium. It is similar to millet and quinoa in cooking, but the seed is much smaller”.

    Apparently tolerant of all sorts of conditions, hence “survival crop” in Ethiopia area. Used also for flat bread production. Somebody must be experimenting with it in the USA.

    @ EMS.
    Beetroot chips. Definitely try. Better than sweet potato to my palate.

    @p.g. sharrow – there is a purple sweet potato apparently of vietnamese origin. Whether it is the same species I cannot say, but vietnamese migrants in Australia eat it like a sweet. I first saw it in Sydney about 1997.

  15. p.g.sharrow says:

    @EMSmith; ” I can’t eat corn anymore due to that food allergy…”

    2 weeks ago I drank a beer while waiting for service at a local restaurant, Sierra Nevada Beer, and almost needed emergency assistance due to the allergic reaction! A BEER man! This is serous :-( scary. Hope it was just a fluke and not all beer. pg

  16. E.M.Smith says:

    @Graeme No3:

    I have a bag of Teff flour in my pantry ;-) It is interesting. Adds a ‘different’ taste to quick breads. The “issue” I have with trying to grow it is that the seeds are nearly dust sized. I have no clue how to harvest dust… Frankly, quinoa and amaranth are already at my lower bound of “able to harvest” and with amaranth I still have 1/3 or so of it “hit the dirt” for birds and next year volunteers. There’s undoubtedly some “trick” to it, but I haven’t got it yet…

    Not everyone will like the taste. It also shifts the gut behaviour a little. Not particularly bad, but noticeable. I do feel more energetic when I’ve got a bit of it in me, so maybe that’s a good things. Not sure I could eat a whole bowl of cooked teff, but at the 25% level in a corn bread like analog, it’s interesting and nice. ( 1/2 wheat, 1/4 Teff, 1/4 {other grain like sorghum or millet} then the usual cornbread stuff of egg, riser, salt, sugar…)


    OK, the “beer issue”…

    I’ve found that, with the demise of the German Beer Purity Law and the rise of “Dick With Factor” in the USA, what is “beer” has become very lax. In particular, all sorts of things are now thought of as suitable for making beer. (Budweiser contributed to this via using loads of rice and beechwood…)

    I first recognized the “issue” for me via Corona. Turns out it is made with corn… Then proceeded to find a lot of beers with corn in them (more every year, it seems). So most Mexican beer is on my ‘hazard’ list, as is some specialty beer and more. (Near as I can tell, Czech and German beer have avoided it entirely). Sam Adams main beers are fine, but they have a load of specialty beers that are suspect ( IIRC one or two of them use corn for a ‘crisp finish’ or some such tripe cover for ‘it is way cheaper than barley’… though it does change the character.)

    Now you are not likely to be reacting to corn, but need to figure out what it was.

    First easy test:

    Buy a six pack each of 1) a Czech Pilsner ( I like Pilsner Urquell as an ideal, but sometime hard to find. Radeberger Pilsner is from Germany, but almost as good and as pure. 2) A good German beer (just look for “in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot” on the label). 3) Budweiser. (Yes, I know, but there’s a reason…).

    Drink them. (NO, not all at once… space it out, one type a day… you DO need to be able to observe and record any reactions…

    The purpose here is very simple. The Czech Pilsner and the German Reinheitsgebot are both very good very clean very pure beers. If you can’t drink them, you are either reacting to hops, barley, or yeast. (And have my condolences). They ought to be fine for just about anyone who is not having “issues” with yeast or hops (or highly gluten sensitive folks).

    Once they are shown “not a problem”, proceed to the Bud. Why bud? Because it is made with a boat load of rice. (In California they located a large brewery near rice country and on a major freeway for just the purpose of minimum cost to buy rice and ship beer…) Now they do NOT use corn, as they have already chosen their cheap grain and heavily committed to it in advertising. However, they do tend to use all the other “modern tech” and added things like heading agents and what all. This lets you test that cluster.

    At this point, if those all were “OK”, have a Corona six pack. They are known to use corn. That “clarifies” any corn issue along with the “allowed by Mexico but not the USA” additives and processes.

    Past that, we are into the land of “strange things done by small brewers”. There are hundreds of them. From pumpkin beer to a really horrid sorghum beer I had once (but zero gluten…) and more. I suggest eating some bread to test for gluten problems rather than trying the sorghum beer… but if it IS an issue, you can buy that beer at Whole Foods. Also, you can try a wheat beer to check that it isn’t barley (though I don’t know of any specific barley allergies).

    Also note that some beer and wine may have sulphite gas added. Some folks get very wheezy on sulfites. (Put your wine in a blender and blend for 10 seconds for an “instant aeration”, then into a decanter. The improvement is wonderful…) Read your labels to see if sulfhites are present and test both ways to prove an answer.

    You didn’t say which Sierra Nevada beer. They make many. This is the default:
    which ought to be a regular fairly clean lager. Sierra Nevada is a decent craft brewer and generally makes good stuff. ( I can drink it…) lists the ingredients as:


    YEAST Ale yeast
    BITTERING HOPS Magnum, Perle
    MALTS Two-row Pale, Caramel

    So a check of reaction to hops, malt and yeast ought to cover it. (Frankly, I’d suspect that something else was the trigger and try a sip or two of another Pale Ale to confirm a non-reaction; but I’m prone to self experimentation… BTW, a benadryl tablet chewed and under the tongue / against the cheek gives a very rapid antihistamine dose for allergy suppression… not quite as fast as an ‘eppi-pen’, but always in the pocket and cheap / easy to get. Does make the tongue numb though ;-)

    Is looking particularly at the issue of “Vegan Beer” (and like the idea or not, the Vegans are very picky about what is in their food so often can get ingredients discovered when the rest of us can not… So embrace your vegan “canary in a coal mine” friends…) and has this to say about Sierra Nevada: (I’ve bolded a few bits)

    Company email (October 2014):

    “To start from the top, we brew all of our beer at our own facilities in Chico, CA and in Mills River, NC and we do not use any animal products in the processing or filtration of our product. Most of our regular production brews do not contain any of the listed ingredients either, and are made from Water, Malt, Hops and Yeast. However we brew many specialty beers that occasionally use additional ingredients like honey and lactose sugar. Your best resources is our website, that lists the ingredients for all of our beers: Note: the Coffee Stout available in the Snow Pack now does contain lactose sugar, which is listed online.”

    Company email via Rick:
    Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. uses the highest quality and most natural brewing ingredients while utilizing the very best brewing practices. This allows us to create ales and lagers with superior flavor, aroma, balance and character.

    All our bottled beer is brewed, filtered and packaged without the use of isinglass, bone char or any other animal byproduct. Our beers are brewed with two row malted barley, whole cone hops, yeast and water.

    Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is one of our bottle conditioned beers. Bottle conditioning is unique to our style of beer. We dose back a small amount of yeast in the bottle. The yeast ferments the priming sugar and creates the finish carbonation and flavors unique to our beer. Currently, we are using very small amounts (less than 1/2 of 1% by weight) of potentially four different GMO free dextrose’s in our priming’s, some of the starch may have been derived from corn but is converted to nearly 100% fermentable sugar and is completely converted to alcohol and CO2.

    We do not brew with Carmel colors, adjuncts (rice, corn grits, corn syrup).

    So mostly in keeping with the Reinheitsgebot. Not a lot of adjuncts. Minimal animal derived products (lactose from milk. And yes, Vegans consider honey to be an animal product. No, don’t argue with me about it, just deal with it… an animal touched it and bee colonies are somehow unpleasant for bees or some such… but that’s the level of detail they go to, just accept that they look at everything to painful detail and accept the data…)

    The do use a bit of corn products, but as noted, it’s the starch (that I know I can eat – I react to the protein component) and even that gets turned into sugar (likely ‘corn syrup’) prior then then being eaten by the yeast…

    So “all in all”, I’m not seeing much to which you could have reacted. Can’t even have sulphites as the ‘bottle conditioning’ requires living yeast.

    So my take on it is this:

    Either you have an issue with just about any beer, or
    There was something wrong with that bottle – contaminant or rogue bacteria, or
    It was something else that set you off.

    Most food allergies have a delayed response. For me, it’s about 1/2 hour to an hour even for beer with corn in it for the first symptoms, and often not for a few hours. Some food responses can run 24 to 48 hours later. (This drives me nuts as I’m constantly working on “what did I eat yesterday or the day before?” when something “goes wrong”. It was “the day after” that I had the reaction to Corona, for example.) So unfortunately, proximity of response is as often a misleading clue as a helpful one. That means that while you still remember it, write down all you ate and drank in the prior day, or two if possible. Then test each of those things…

    One final note:

    To the extent you might have a yeast reaction, avoiding “bottle conditioned beers” will reduce it a lot. Filtered beers have the yeast removed, so only a little of their “products’ remains. Miller even advertises their “cold filtered” IIRC. Coors developed a high efficiency ceramic filter (and ended up spawning a whole new business of specialty ceramics) for their use. So trying one of them will let you sort that question (though I’m pretty sure Bud uses a similar filtration step, just not quite as hard core as Coors IIRC – but it’s been a few years since I looked into that comparison.)

    Hope all of that is of some help. (It is amazing what a food reaction can do to make one obsessive / compulsive about “what is in that crap I’m eating”… )

  17. adolfogiurfa says:

    Dear E.M. , I just found your blog again: Survival for what date? Here it is some probable date:

    Next question and O.T.: How could you solve this problem? As you are an specialist:

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    Has an interesting article on harvesting and eating fava bean leaves. I planted a few big favas after the test germination of decade old seed had near 100%.. and just about two weeks later I have plants 6 inches or so tall. The implication of this is that for “quick greens” fava beans can be faster than radishes…


    Welcome back. I do general prep mostly due to earthquakes and huricanes, since I seem to live near one or the other…

    For a proximal cold collapse, I think it has started since it is cold and dank in Central California this “spring” and with snow predicted for the mountains, but it will take 20 years to reach peak, so lots of slow adjustment time.

    I’ll take a look at your links over coffee, but they probably belong on a politics thread instead of a seed thread… then again, this is specifically about prepper seed pack, so it is ok… back after coffee :-)

  19. E.M.Smith says:


    After the two annoying pop ups on the first link (just reload the page to remove them without risking a click and potential javascript attack) the rest of it sounds like a drug fantasy or a spoof of the paranoid fringe. Not much logic, lots of leaps on no data, and threading together unrelated things into a ball of delusion. But I could be wrong, so post a summary of which predictions were right about next halloween.

    As for the guy wanting free tech support over youtube, he spends the first 3 minutes talking about his insomnia?!

    What I would do, based on nearly no info in a disjoint ramble:

    1) boot a linux rescue CD and use it to suck off his data into a USB drive.
    2) reinstall his Widows.
    3) Web search for password crackers for whatever still lock him out after reinstall and where he can not remember his password.
    4) admonish often and strongly NOT to use a program to remember all his passwords for him. Introduce the concept of a pocket notebook for the basics, and a thumb drive for keyrings…
    5) explain why backups are your friend and do them often to external media or USB disk.
    6) submit bill.

    Yes a paper notebook. It can not be electronically hacked. It is easy to secure and track. It can be quickly scrubbed in any need (strike match, apply to page). Several kinds of easy “secret writting” can obscure the contents from casual observation (from simple invert case to using greek letters for roman text to shifting each character down one row on the keyboard to…) and it is obvious if taken or lost.

  20. Larry Ledwick says:

    Speaking of seeds, in the midst of testing some old seed for viability right now.

    I had a stash of old seeds, stored at room temperature in a sealed plastic jar, expiration dates on the seed packs show fall of 2008 as their sell by date. The fastest sprouting seeds were some Walmart Burpee Crimson Giant Radish and Burpee Green Ice loose leaf lettuce. The radish had 90% sprout germination in 48 hours, Lettuce had 80% in 48 hours, The Radish achieved 100% germination but the Lettuce never got past 80% (only 10 seeds tested each).

    The Walmart “gardens” brand seeds for Evergreen bunching green onions never sprouted at all (no big surprise) and the California Wonder green peppers are just now (day 7) starting to show signs of sprouting 2 of 10 so far.

    Last some Burpee Blue Lake Bush green snap beans are now finally showing good sprouts, They were at 40% germination at day 4, and now at 60% germination at day 7, probably will only get one or two more out of them.

    My intent was to get a good idea of what the typical time to sprout was for each variety. To anticipate how long it takes to expect to see shoots in the garden for each, and also to make a wild guess on how long to presoak the seeds for seed priming before planting in seed starting trays. In the case of radish and lettuce, probably only 12 hours – 24 hours seed priming needed before putting in seed starting tray. The Green Beans obviously need more time, perhaps 48 hours before placing in the trays.

    All these were done in low ambient light conditions (one window across the room) and conditions were about 70-72 deg F room temp. Some seeds need red light to encourage sprouting so sprout times might change in other light conditions.

    The Beans are supposed to be planted one inch deep so likely do not respond to red light exposure. The California wonder peppers are supposed to be started 8 weeks before planting indoors in full sunlight with a 10-12 day germination according to the seed pack (which says these seeds are right on schedule) and planting depth of only 1/4 inch so they might like some red light to encourage sprouting.

    The onion seeds show a germination time on the pack of 10-12 days so I have not given up on them yet, they still might come through with some sprouts. As already noted the onions are fragile seeds and need freezer storage for any long term viability.

    The Lettuce surprised me, although it is a small seed, it sprouted very quickly (another quick yield plant to get a bit of greens in the menu.) It seemed to have fared quite well after 8 years at room temp storage at relatively low humidity. (Here in Colorado it is relatively rare for humidity to get over 30% and indoor humidity can easily drop into high single digits and low double digits both in hot dry summer conditions and during the winter heating season).

    Bottom line, it is clear as noted above any significant carbohydrate yield from survival seeds will take time, so any seed stash needs to be supplemented with some long storing source of basic energy carbohydrates. Depending on body fat reserves you can only survive for about 30 days without at least 500-1000 cal a day food intake and that would seriously weaken you. About 1500-2000 calories a day is needed for most people. Small stature people obviously have an advantage due to lower basal metabolic requirements. One of the reasons 3rd world populations often see growth spurts in their children when they start living with western food intake. Marginal food intake and periodic food shortages selects for small stature in the population.

  21. adolfogiurfa says:

    Thanks E.M.!! Missing our paper notebook and carbon pencils….and, last but not least, telepathy instead of FB. :)

  22. E.M.Smith says:


    You are most welcome. BTW, for any who don’t already know, I don’t do facebook nor linkedin nor any of the other “gather all your data and contact trace while publishing your identity to the world” sites. Just not a secure thing to do. Even if I am quasi-public on some things here.

    @Larry Ledwick:

    Great Work! And very good info.

    BTW, I’ve been doing some germinations on variety things as well. All of these were refrigerator stored, not in the freezer.

    Some Kentucky Wonder beans (white) from 2000 stored under refrigeration have zero sprouted, and are starting to get “that smell” that says not going to happen. Similarly some Kaboche squash from the same year. Note that, at least for beans and likely for other seeds too, white doesn’t store as well as colors (in particular brown). That’s why I have 16 year lentils and the K.W. croaked at somewhere less than that (about 10 years was so-so IIRC). The tannins in the seeds are antioxidants and protect from oxidation in storage. Eat colorful food and store colorful seeds.

    Carnival Squash (pepo) that’s sort of an acorn with dumpling squash markings, had about 90+% on an undated package (that IIRC and from the type of package was about the 2004 ascension) So I’m going to have a LOT of squash this year ;-) ( I’d figured on maybe one or two so dumped about 25 seeds in the pan… Oh Well…)

    A nice Red Kuri from about 2004 has given me 3 viable out of 10 so far, but was sulking and doing nothing on the table. I moved it to the warm spot (on top of the TV decoder ;-) and they sprouted faster (as did the Carnival once moved there). This brings up a point about temperature. Some seeds, like squash, really like it warm. They rot under 50 F, only go at 70F+ most of the time, and think 90 F is dandy… Others, like oats, sprout as low as 34 F. So “when in doubt, warm their bottoms”… I really like the Red Kuri…

    Note that the Carnival is an F1 hybrid, so who knows what the seeds will yield…

    Some ought to be dumpling like, some acorn like, and some retain the mix. After “enough” grow outs selecting for the mixed types, the genes have time to swap between chromosomes so you get a consistent type (Called “stabilizing the cross” – some familiar open pollinated types started as F1 hybrids and then were stabilized…)

    At any rate, both types are good so I’ll “eat them all!” ;-)

    Some 2000 “white pumpkin” seeds (from that Halloween decoration…) that have a white Maxima look to the seeds are doing nothing, but are still on the table, so next up to the “warm spot”. But I expect they are duds. For more than a decade of storage, you really want frozen. Some things will make it to 15 years, but the germination really drops off after 10 in the fridge for others (especially small and white seeds, and onions).

    These folks have a nice chart of how many years seeds can be stored with about 75% germination for common garden vegetables:

    Go with the fridge, you can about double that (or maybe a triple with some higher loss) while the freezer is a “whole ‘nother animal” and I’ve not found the limits on it yet, but somewhere over 15 years at a minimum.

    As my garden space is nearly full, I’m mostly going to be test germinating things that I’m pretty sure are not going to succeed, as I have nowhere to plant much more ;-) But it will let me clear out some big old packages of things like Halloween from 2000 … that were just put there for testing anyway.

  23. Larry Ledwick says:

    Some links that discuss the importance of light color and plant growth and behavior of the plant (ie leggy or stocky plant)
    It looks like light spectrum changes due to cloudy weather, pollution, high dust content in the atmosphere, etc. Could explain certain summers when plants refuse to set fruit or bloom in spite of what would appear to be acceptable temperatures.

    Click to access 146.full.pdf;jsessionid=E2065D5B3C09F29B01FB4538C5948DA4?sequence=1

    Clearly this is an area of experimentation to get maximum germination and quick germination of seeds under “difficult conditions” where sprout efficiency is highly desirable.

    This is one of the things I will be playing with during these sprouting tests, to see if there is a magic recipe for spouting certain seeds.

    I can’t find the source I saw the original reference to sensitivity of red light and germination in some plants right now but it mentioned that plants which respond to red light to help germination often require very shallow planting depths at the time they are exposed to sufficient moisture to sprout.

    For example I suspect this might be the case with weed seeds which lay dormant for years but when the ground is disturbed bringing them to the surface and other plants are cut back they suddenly come alive and rapidly sprout and try to take over the bare ground as “pioneer species”.

    One of my next projects is to go down to some of the indoor “gardening vendors” and see about picking up some LED grow lights and playing with them.

  24. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Larry Ledwick, Thank you for the links. I create and raise many plants in my greenhouses, specially in winter and often use supplemental lighting. Mostly Cool White Florescent T-12 rapid start twin 8 foot tubes. They seem to work better then red and blue tubes and a lot cheaper. Actually the little curly tube screw ins seem to work best to get adequate light density. The use of LEDs seems to be the future thing, I too will be trying them in my next upgrade. The old T-12 rapid starts are beginning to be obsolete. pg.

  25. E.M.Smith says:

    I once experimented with a flat of Radishes indoors…. They got long and spindly and fell over while staying the two fist false leaves… Why? The glass window blocked UV that is the trigger to say stop elongating, you are in the sun… So you might need a UV source for some seeds to sprouts. Tobacco seed must be sun exposed to germinate, for example.

  26. Larry Ledwick says:

    Hmmm yes a daily shot of UV on the seed starting tray might also hold off mold formation.
    A high intensity quartz Halogen light might server rather than a UV bulb.
    My radish sprouts are also reaching for the window across the room. I need to pick up a couple timers for lamps so I can replicate a day time light cycle as I tinker with finding what encourages certain seeds to sprout.

  27. E.M.Smith says:


    $15 gets you a UV Lizard Lamp that ought to do it. UVB not UVA but I think it ought to be enough. Spouse uses one in winter to cure SAD and keep Vit D level up (even though technically a forbidden use…).

  28. Larry Ledwick says:

    I have issues with SAD syndrome from about Thanksgiving to early February due to my work schedule (hardly ever see the sun in the winter time). I will have to check on that for both applications. Thanks!

  29. PaulID says:

    here is something you might find worth your while in the onion group I am going to try these in my garden you might not be able to get them from this site but there might be a california centric site you can get them from

  30. Larry Ledwick says:

    Okay I made the mistake of going down to the local garden outlet (Home Depot) this morning,and starting a new round of sprout tests, and put a couple of my first test plants in the garden plot.
    I also picked up a couple LED lights one warm white and one bright daylight varity. Color temperatures are 3200K and 5000K

    In the process of doing that I cleaned up some of my prior tests and since Radish plants are completely edible (greens and the mature bulb) I sampled the sprouts.
    Hmmm food in a week from sprouts. I think that sometimes we forget that you can eat plants before they are mature. The radish sprouts are tasty, have the characteristic radish “bite” would be a good spice garnish to a mild lettuce or other vegetable salad.

    For fast food, it might be worth while to over stock on fast reliable sprouting seeds and eat them in just a matter of days after they sprout. Sprouts are very rich in some vitamins as well.

    No way I would want to chow down on a couple pounds of radish sprouts (same active ingredient as hot mustard and horseradish so probably not wise to over load on it). One of my next moves will be to examine which highly reliable quick sprouting seeds produce fleshy sweet or starchy shoots, as a tide you over crop until the mature vegetables come in. Squash leaves are also edible so might be “pruned” a bit as the plant comes in for some greens as well. A little google searching found this item:

    ” it turns out that the leaves, tendrils and young stems are a common vegetable in Sicily, called tenerumi. The preferred variety is tromboncino, also called cucuzza.” Also another poster noted that his wife prepares the leaves (about palm of hand size), She is from Malawi and there they prepare pumpkin leaves sauteed with tomatoes and peanuts and eaten along with nsima (cooked maize meal).

  31. Larry Ledwick says:

    Interesting list of edible greens not commonly used in America.

  32. p.g.sharrow says:

    Learn to do and use sprouts. A very nutritious and fast way to “grow” food. Better for you then most salad mixes. Most sprout seeds are fairly inexpensive in bulk. Sprouting seeds is easy but some attention to detail as well as nearly everyday attendance is necessary for best results. Emm…………… kind of like all farming. 8-) pg

  33. Larry Ledwick says:

    Today I found a simple listing of typical germination times for various common vegetables and their preferred conditions for sprouting. I was surprised to see how warm some plants like to be for seed germination, it can cut weeks off of the germination time, which would be important if you were rushing to get a crop in before the final frost.

    This also suggests for folks like me who are not in warm sunny climates much of the year, that some clear plastic for hot boxes would be a good idea to extend the growing season.

    Looks like I will be ordering one of these too ( yeah I am too lazy to crawl up on a stool to check seeds on top of the fridge a couple times a day which is necessary for some of the faster seeds).

  34. p.g.sharrow says:

    For quick, inexpensive green house creation you might try these links:
    also this dugout greenhouse that is more difficult but very temperature stable and a more permanent creation:
    As one that is addicted to growing things as well construction projects I seem to have to create places to grow things in the cold months. ;-) pg

  35. E.M.Smith says:




    I had some multipliers onions many years back, and managed to cross them with some shallots. Though my onion patch died during my absence, I have some saved seeds I’m going to trial “soon”. Hopefully they were refrigerated enough… I like the multipliers, but like all onions, they are slow. I think my main “issues” with trying to grow onions are their slow growing and desire for consistent water (that isn’t common here in our natural desert…) But I’m going to keep trying.

    They and garlic are grown commercially all around here, so it can be done… I just need to work on my skills…

    @Larry Ledwick:

    The “Lizard Lamp” seems to work fine at about 3 to 5 feet for about 20 minutes. While I’ve admonished the spouse to sit with her back to the light for more exposure, she sits facing it. I’d worry about UV in the eyes, but she wears adaptive lenses so I guess that takes care of it.

    I’d done a “test” when we first got it to assess risk. Sat with my back 1 foot from the bulb. Took something like an hour to get a mild (stage 1?) burn, so with W/d^2 fall off, I figured 20 minutes at 3 to 5 times the distance ought to be safe. YMMV and test with your own bulb and skin…

    I found the “risk” to my skin was less than high noon at the beach… even at 1 foot. This does not allow, though, for more subtle issues from spectral differences. (UVA vs UVB and sunburn vs long duration cancer issues). OTOH, at our age (spouse and me) we are already committed to whatever damage was done 40 years ago, and anything done now is likely to show up way after we are gone…

    You also want to investigate the use of a garden cloche
    like a miniature greenhouse put over a single plant or small group.

    Per sprouting and germination: Good stuff! Yes, “warm is good”. In many ways a colder world isn’t limited by growing ability so much as by time between soil warm enough to germinate and first frost. You can get weeks to months of “jump” on things by starting pots on a warming mat under a growlight or even just plain fluorescent tubes.

    There are a lot of food seeds that are also edible, and can be eaten directly or sprouted. Beans are a classic. Traditional oriental been sprouts are mung beans, but you can sprout others, like lentils, too. Lets you choose between starch (seed) or vitamins and proteins (sprouts). If buying “in bulk” make sure they have not been chemically treated for planting seeds. (Many seeds can be dusted with various fungicides or pesticides to assure they don’t rot or get eaten before planting, but those are not “food grade” treatments. Captan on field peas in the South is very common, for example.

    As a “sprouts” strategy, I’d use radish, mung beans, lentils, chia, amaranth, and maybe some others. IIRC, wheat and rye tended to rapidly make side roots on the sprout, so you had to check them every day to avoid ‘fibrous mat of roots’ issues… but the taste was nice… So a large sack of seeds no only lets you have several tries at planting, but sprouts too.

    On squash leaves: The ones I grow are fairly spiny (by design… keeps the pest issues to near nil) but there are some that are not so feisty. Also in a pinch it’s nice to know I could likely pressure cook them to mush to get rid of the spines and still have “food” at the end ;-) There’s an odd species of squash that isn’t usually grown here that is edible with few spines… (He searches…)

    It’s on my “get some seeds” list… Intended that you eat the whole thing.

    Cucurbita ficifolia, which has many common names in English, is a type of squash grown for its edible seeds, fruit, and greens. Although it is closely related to other squashes in its genus, it shows considerable biochemical difference from them and does not hybridize readily with them.

    Here’s what I like about it from a “prepper” point of view (aside from just the mountain of edible leaves…)

    The fruit is oblong with a diameter of eight inches or 20 centimeters, weighs eleven to 13 pounds (5 to 6 kilograms), and can produce up to 500 seeds. Its skin can vary from light or dark green to cream. One plant can produce over 50 fruit. The fruit can last without decomposing for several years if kept dry after harvest.

    so 50 fruit, at 5 kg is 250 kg of fruit. And you can store them for several years…

    Plant seeds. Start eating cooked greens once taking a leaf from each plant does not over load it. (Do same thing with beans nearby…). Enjoy greens and green beans all season. Have squash all winter, and toasted seeds. Repeat next year, consuming last of the stored squash along with excess seeds with the greens during ’round two’… You can also make jam… And it is useful for diabetics.


    The flowers, leaves and tender shoots are used in Mexico and other countries as greens.

    The most nutritional part of Cucurbita ficifolia is its fat- and protein-rich seeds, which can vary in color from white to black. They are used in Mexico to make palanquetas, a sweet similar to peanut brittle.

    The fruit has several uses as food. The immature fruit is eaten cooked, while the mature fruit is sweet and used to make confectionery and beverages, sometimes alcoholic. The fruit is low in beta-carotene, as can be seen from its white flesh, and is relatively low in vitamins and minerals, and moderately high in carbohydrates.

    In Europe: In Spain this squash is used to make a jam known as “cabello de ángel” (angel’s hair), “cabell d’àngel” in Catalan, that is used to fill pies, sweets and confectionary. In Portugal, where the fruit is known as “chila” or “gila”, it is still used extensively in the production of traditional Portuguese sweets and confectionery; it was also used as a crop for non-human consumption in order to feed pigs.

    In Latin America: In Chile and Argentina, jam is often made out of the fruit of “alcayota” or “cayote”. In Costa Rica, it is traditional to make empanadas stuffed with sugared “chiverre” filling at Easter time.

    In Asia, the pulp strands are used to make soup, quite similar to shark fin soup, hence the name “shark’s fin melon”. The cultivation and this usage feature briefly in the film Grow Your Own.

    Across Asia, eating this melon is also said to help people with diabetes. Several scientific studies have confirmed its hypoglycemic effect. It is used effectively to treat diabetes due to its high D-Chiro-Inositol content.

    The vine and fruit are used for fodder. Because of its ability to keep for a long time, the ripe fruit was taken on voyages on ships, and used for food for livestock on board.

    But I don’t have any yet … Next year, maybe…

  36. Glenn999 says:

    Excellent article and hope to add something. I was thinking that until you actually put in the garden you don’t know what kind of soil you have, or even if much will grow. You may have to bring in soil amendments to create enough good garden soil. If the ground is very rocky or filled with roots, you may need to have a machine extract stuff for you. Once this hurdle is crossed, raising baby plants is fraught with peril with everything from animals to insects. There is the question of watering, which includes timers and distribution methods. Insect pests and deer are my biggest problems, but raccoons and possums are bad for some folks. What kind of insecticide to use, powder, wettable, the sprayer etc. Fencing the garden can keep out a lot, but climbing pests have to be kept out with a wire cover or something similar. Fertilizers is another topic.

    For people thinking of starting farming for survival, a collection of seeds is definitely a great start, but waiting to start learning farming will be a mistake. Start now and prepare the land and we learn from there.

    I would love to continue the dialog with anyone about some of the issues I brought up.

    Thanks to el chiefio for writing this article once again!!

  37. Glenn999 says:

    Forgot to add a few things. I also have grown the Seminole Pumpkin, and the ones I have are the ones that look more like a butternut. These were susceptible to boring caterpillar while green and young. After that, they were nearly indestructible.
    There is also the issue of collecting seeds again, after planting the survival seeds, from your mature plants. This also requires expertise, which we can all learn, but is another of those techniques that we need to perfect. The plants which are allowed to go to seed will also take up valuable space in the garden, so you’ll need another batch of prepared garden soil to begin planting the next crop.
    I also have experimented with certain types of naturally reseeding crops for my area which are currently wild mustard greens and some chinese cabbage.

    Anyway, I hope this helps.
    Thanks once again.

  38. E.M.Smith says:


    That’s a great summary of what I was only hinting at with my ‘grow a garden now is better’.

    FWIW, I’ve gone out of my way to not use pesticides on the theory that I wanted to know what worked, and didn’t, without them. So far I’ve learned that the first year sucks, then the spider and wasp population build up and in following years they keep the place fairly clean of pest bugs. Other than bean weevils that you kill by freezing the harvested dry beans…

    I’m still dependent on city water, but working on moving to “rain fed winter” and “drought tolerant summer” planting schedules.

    I also found that Miracle Grow is your friend. A Lot your friend. I would likely stock a 50 lb bag of 10-10-10 or even 15-15-15 if it looked like an Aw Shit was coming, but right now I’d have much lower yields without added fertilizers.

    And yes, ground prep is a Big Deal. First year was hell as digging 4 x 4 foot beds into the adobe gravel mix often felt like it was a lost cause. Soil and sod in the top 6 inches, then like cement for the next 2 feet… After a few years of “turn it each season” and digging in either compost from the pile or just turning under what’s there, I’ve got very nice soils in most squares. This year I dug a new spot. I’d forgotten how much work it was…

    But if the choice is “seeds in the freezer and hope for the best with a shovel”, it’s better than no seeds in the freezer.

    Per Possums:

    I had a horrible snail problem the first couple of years. Then a momma ‘possum moved in under the shed. She ate them all… and the crop of little ones was just so darned cute. Yeah, the occasional plant got a bit of nibble, but it was net a big win from the snail removal. They have moved on now (no snails left) but I’d not mind at all if they returned some day.

    For water, in a small garden, a hose is ‘enough’ as long as you have a water source. In an “aw shit” you typically have 8 more hours a day not spent at work…

    Seed Savers Exchange has some great material on seed saving. I’ve been doing it for years. Mostly it is just harvest when fully ripe, dry seeds, put in jar in freezer. There are some exceptions, but for things like corn, beans, squash that works fine. Yes, squash seeds are a bit better if you soak them in water for 3 days to ferment, then rinse and dry; but I’ve tested just spreading them on a pie pan and drying at room temperature for a few weeks and it worked fine.

    The thing that would throw most folks is the biannual plants. Beets, cabbages and kale and collards. And more. So you grow them one year, then the second year get seeds. Then there is separation in space or time to keep the variety “true”; but really, in a major Aw Shit worry that the F1 or F2 generation of your Rond du Nice squash might end up a bit long and regular zucchini like or slightly yellow and oblate from crossing with another squash 2 houses down will not be a significant issue. I’ve gone out of my way to let “mules” happen just to see, and it’s been more joy than issue. ( My “kalards” are a 3 way cross of Green Glaze collards, a purple cabbage from the grocery store that Would Not Die even after months in the bottom of the fridge and grew roots…, and Dinosaur Kale. It’s a wonderfully hardy collard like plant, but sweeter like kale / cabbage, and fairly aphid resistant. I’ve also got an interesting lime green hand grenade shaped squash from an 8 Ball / green pattipan cross… and more… Though I also keep a set of pure seeds in the freezer… in case something turns out to be a Bad Mix ;-)

    But yeah, best to “learn by doing” now, and enjoy the food and exercise, then wait until you have no choice…

  39. E.M.Smith says:

    Just confirmed, the Kuboche / Moschata seeds stored under refrigeration only and using just an envelope since 2004 are 100% non-viable. Keeping the air out matters…

    A set of Christmas Lima’s from 2000 that were also in an envelope, but that inside a jar, has had 50% viability (that are now planted out in the garden ;-)

  40. Larry Ledwick says:

    I guess now is a good time to do a quick up date on my sprouting experiment.
    As noted above, I started off doing just some very simple sprouting experiments to see if 8 year old seed was viable and how long it took for it to show the first signs of germination. Radish and lettuce seeds showed true sprouts in only about 48 hours. Sprouting conditions were temps near 72 deg F (22 deg C) ambient room light with a little LED light from some desk lamp type fixtures.

    After this test, I decided to toss that set of sprouts and start again with other seeds I was more interested in for a survival garden and sprouted some green bell peppers, some kale, leaf lettuce (as above) turnips (which I have never eaten in my life) but know were a key survival crop in the past and a blue lake bush bean and some summer squash.
    I sprouted them as before, 72 deg F (22 deg C) on 4 layers of paper towel in the bottom of a disposable Ziplock brand square container (capacity 3 cups) which are about 5 inches square and 1 3/4 inces deep. Turns out a standard size paper towel segment folded in half 2x to form a four layer square just fits in the bottom snugly.
    Indoors in these conditions, the seeds showed first sprouts as follows:
    Radish 13 of 15 seeds showed sprouts in 22 hours
    Turnip 7 of 31 seeds 20 hours
    Green ice loose leaf lettuce 2 of 30 seeds in 21 hours, and 8 sprouts by 28 hours
    kale 4 of 25 showing sprouts in 20 hours 8-25 showing sprouts by 51 hours
    summer squash 6 of 8 seeds 40 hours

    Once they showed sprouts, the next trick was to get them in a small peat pot with soil without injuring the sprouting seeds. I ended up borrowing a trick used to make home made seed tape.

    Supplies required:
    small square peat pots, with soil
    about a teaspoon of wheat flour mixed with water to form a thick flour paste
    a bamboo skewer.
    Cut up one peat pot into 1/4 inch (5 mm) square pieces

    Daub a bit of flour paste on the center of the peat square, then use the bamboo skewer with a bit of flour paste on it to “pickup” the sprouting seeds (especially the lettuce seeds very tiny and almost impossible to pickup any other way without mashing them.)
    Once the sprouting seed was “glued” to the peat square, it was carefully planted in the soil filled peat pot at the recommended depth for planting seed and watered so the dry peat square did not suck the water out of the sprouting seed. Some of the sprouts were also similarly planted out in the small garden plot outdoors at the same time.

    As luck would have it, we have had a very cool wet spring since the outdoor sprouts were planted on May 17 with lows in the high 40’s and highs in the low 60’s with solid overcast days with light cold rain several times a day. Average temps for the past 8-10 days in the 50’s.
    Yesterday 5/24 I noticed the very first sprout showing in the outdoor garden plot.
    One of the bush green beans and one of the kale plants were just poking up above the soil surface late yesterday afternoon. This morning the count is 4 kale showing tiny leaves 2-3 lettuce and the bush bean.

    Meanwhile the indoors sprouts have fared much much better. At indoor temps under 24 hour LED grow light illumination the kale spouts are between 3/4 and 1 inch high with full leaves, the leaf lettuce are about 1/4 inch high with full leaves just opening up. The more favorable sprouting temps gave the indoor sprouts a huge head start on the outdoor sprouts planted at the same time.

    Lesson learned — in a survival situation get sprouts started indoors under favorable temps you will gain a week or more in growth just by having better sprouting temps.

    Note that some plants need a dark period to grow properly but so far the Kale and Lettuce have fared well under 24 hour LED grow panel illumination using one of these panels about 4 inches above the peat pots. (plants which grow well in Alaska such as cabbage can thrive under 24 hour light)

    LED grow panel used for all but the first 2 days of sprouting

  41. Larry Ledwick says:

    From wiki page on Palmer Alaska,_Alaska

    Palmer is home to world record vegetable harvests. The Mat-Su Valley, and Palmer in particular, are known as the farming center for the state of Alaska. Growing conditions here are ideal. Vegetables adapted to cool temperatures thrive, the glacial soils provide organic matter to keep nutrients in the root zone, many insect pests, diseases, and weeds that are common in the lower 48 are not common in Alaska, and there is plenty of sunlight in the summer to help plants grow. In June, Palmer gets 19 hours of daylight every day, so crops can keep growing until midnight. The sunlight also makes crops sweeter. Carrots spend 75 percent of their time making sugar, and 25 percent turning that sugar into starch. Species in the Brassica family grow very well in Palmer. That would include plants like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, collards, various mustards, radishes, rutabagas, and turnips. Potatoes, beets, carrots, spinach, and lettuce also grow very well here. The Vanderweele farm is the biggest vegetable farm in Palmer that sells its crops commercially.

    Palmer holds the world records for kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, romanesco broccoli, turnip, and the green and purple cabbage. The record for the cabbage was set in 2012 at the Alaska State Fair with a weight of 138.25 pounds. The State Fair is the best place to see the giant vegetables. The primary reason they are able to grow so large is because of the near constant sunlight during the summer months.

    I guess the lesson is if you want to grow lots of vegetables you would do well to try to mimic Palmer Alaska conditions. I remember a story many years ago in Readers Digest of a person who wanted to grow a cactus but kept killing it by over watering. Ended up she subscribed to the Phoenix news paper and every time it rained in Phoenix she watered her cactus plant and it grew well.
    Perhaps watching the Palmer weather stats and mimicking that in your grow house would be a good starting plan for indoor agriculture on long day cycle adapted plants.

  42. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry Ledwick:

    All good stuff! I’d not thought of using paste…

    My “method” has been to use fingers for large seeds (corn, beans, squash) and tweezers for small seeds (radish, beets), and for tiny little things, use a drop of water on finger or stick to pick them up via surface tension (but sometimes the water drop gets stolen by the paper towel…). Occasionally a toothpick has them stick to it.

    Per “starting in pots”: You can get more like a month or two of advantage. For one thing, you can start them well before “last frost” date. Then you can have them growing out to much larger sizes faster too. I have some squash seeds all sprouted in the same ‘tray’. Some “planted out” and 4 in pots. The 4 in pots are already at “first true leaves” while the planted out are about 1/2 at ‘just emerged’ and 1/2 at ‘enlarged first non-true leaves’. A good 2 weeks difference just from “time in the pot in the warm room” vs “in the yard in cold nights and shady days”.

    Now add a 2 month ‘head start’ if I’d started this before “last frost”… and maybe another month if I was using “grow lamps” instead of just “whatever comes in the window”…

    BTW, I killed my first batch of tepary beans by watering them (the same as your story). They are a desert bean and want dry soil after sprouting. I was keeping it moist and the roots rotted… Moral? Know your plants…

    FWIW, I don’t see a “survival garden” as being a “all the food you need” thing. I see it as a variety improver and stored food extender. It’s easy to store starch and proteins, even vitamin pills. But man a decent tomato or some fresh radishes make things better ;-)

    Then having 3 to 6 months of “from the garden” turns a 6 month “emergency supply” into a 1 year meal plan. At that point, either the civilization has recovered, or collapsed to the point where those still alive have a mostly empty place to themselves… and finding some more dirt is not going to be that hard. (i.e. if you make it to the one year point, and it really is a disaster, 80% of those around you will not be around you anymore…)

    As long as there is electricity, you can grow some foods all the way to consumption entirely indoors. Saladings especially. Radishes, lettuces, kale and spinach; all ought to be easy. Most tomatoes today are “hot house” during off season times. But for that to work, you need electricity and a supply of greenhouse fertilizers and ability to recycle growth media (i.e. hydroponic sands, gravels, perlite, whatever.)

    As California is a mild climate place, I’ve not bothered building a greenhouse, but I have thought about it and played with some bits of the tech. Pretty much decided that some ersatz cloches would be ‘enough’ to get me through 10 out of 12 months of the year… and turnips / kale / wheat would cover those 2 anyway ;-)

    Give that you said you have never eaten a turnip:

    The are sweeter if harvested after a cold spell / freeze and best if overwintered and harvested during cold into spring. Greens are edible. Harvested early, or if grown in hot weather, they are spicy hot almost like mustard. A few added to a stew adds a nice counterpoint. Boiled and mixed with potatoes in “mashed roots” can be good too. Eaten all by themselves with butter and salt requires that you like turnips…

    The rutabaga is a similar root, with edible greens, but a slightly milder taste IMHO. It is a different species as it is a turnip / kale hybrid IIRC. VERY cold hardy…

    Other Seed Bits:

    Some Kentucky Wonder from 2000 did not germinate.

    Some Amaranth (yellow seed – i.e. not the Hopi Red that has black seed) grown out last about 2004 had a nearly 100% germination and did it in about 24 – 48 hours. I think it was overnight, but frankly was not expecting to see it sprout at all and had not even noted the start day yet.

    Mung Beans of similar date had about 20% germination then, and I’ve not checked in the 2 days since, but expect to see much more.

    Some Safflower seeds (from a local feed store as bird feed) from about 2004 had about 90% germination and has been planted out. (Grows well in dry soil after an initial start with water. Doves love it…)

    Some very old buckwheat (2000 to 2004 ish?) was scattered in a grassy area and vaguely watered in. It now has 1 foot tall buckwheat plants. I’d figured it for dead. Guess I was wrong…

    On the Pests vs Organic front:

    As we are under water rationing, I’ve let the front grass lawn area go dry. A part of it (inside a front fence) is shaded and gets litter drop from some redwood trees “up sun”. So has bare dirt as much as “grass”. I decided to plant 2 hills of squash there using those Carnival sprouts I had to great excess “as an experiment”. Of the 20 or so, most all of them did fine. For a while.

    Then they started to mysteriously disappear. Some with 1/2 eaten leaves before the final demise.

    Going out at night with light, found pill bugs and earwigs chowing down with the occasional slug.

    Seems my crop of pest controllers ( wasps, birds, spiders, beetles…) from the back yard garden are not in the front yard yet… Reminded me of my first 2 years of converting over from pesticides. I’d not appreciated that the predatory insects would be so geography specific as to not be available all of 30 feet away on the other side of the structure… I’ve hand picked the bugs and slugs for 2 nights now. We’ll see how that goes, or if I give up and buy some Sudden Slug ‘N Bug Death in a can… But, “Note To Self: For a survival garden, you might not want to take a 2 year transition to Organic and might want a couple of gallons of Toxic Sludge Spray… ”

    Especially if you are in a place like East Texas where the bugs are measured in pounds / square foot in summer… (California is dry enough there are very few bugs, really.)

    But in places that are “bug heaven”, folks will find it far harder to grow without a chemical supply house available.

  43. Larry Ledwick says:

    Yes I understand if you have pre-planned you should get things started weeks in advance. I was talking about that day with no notice when you wake up and say — holy crap I need to grow food or I am going to be in deep trouble. Then starting from zero at the same time, sprouting temp is very important to get the plants off to a running start. Enough to be worth expending considerable effort to get soil temps up into the ideal range for growth with small hot boxes, or milk jugs full of hot water, what ever it takes. I just today ran down to the store and picked up some cheap transparent plastic bowls and put them over the heat loving plants to warm up the soil and hold moisture in.

    On your comments about water rationing, I have been pondering going down to a local ceramic tile store and seeing if they have any chipped or clearance tiles. Thinking about putting them on the soil around the plants for two reasons. One they will have instant run off of any precip directly into the area I want the water to go (with a bit of minor landscaping to give them the right slope). Also they should drastically cut down on evaporation from the soil under them helping hold water in the soil. If light colored might also help reflect sunlight on to the plants for a bit of extra light intensity.
    Good in cool weather, but might cook the plants in blistering summer conditions, when a little shade fabric might be your friend.

    Fun to ponder all the little things you can do to give yourself a small edge on the growth cycle.

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