What Are The Best Foods To Grow In A Survival Garden?

best foods to grow for survival

by Jason – www.theselfsufficientgardener.com

It’s generally considered blasphemy these days to be a survivalist and not garden.  Food is the most important survival consideration next to water for the survival minded.  It makes sense to be at least somewhat self-reliant when it comes to food production for you and your family.  In other words, if you don’t garden you should really consider starting.

For those of us who do mix gardening and prepping/survivalism, the perennial question waits:  What to grow?

Gardening prior to SHTF can be a challenge and doing so afterward will be even more of one.  Therefore I’ve devised a rating system for choosing the best vegetables for my garden if I have to rely upon it in an emergency situation.

On a rating scale of 1-5, I rate the following attributes for each crop.

*Reliability—How susceptible is the plant to disease and pests.  Can I count on production?

*Season—How often can the crop be grown?  Does it take long to produce or can multiple crops be grown in one year?

*Nutritional Value—Not only calorie count but also vitamins and minerals.  ATSHTF this will be critical!

*Sustainability—Can the crop be propagated year after year?  We won’t know how long a disaster will last in some cases.

*Storage—Feast or famine?  Eating great for a week won’t sustain a family.  How easy is the crop to store long term?

*Yield—No sense growing things that won’t produce.

*Stealth—If TSHTF, how vulnerable will my garden become?

Of course, everyone’s rating scale will be different.  You can even weigh some things heavier than others or disregard certain ones.  The important thing is that you think about this beforehand and put it to use.

As an example, I will rate three of my go-to crops if I had to survive on garden produce.



Almost no pests eat beets.  They are slightly temperature sensitive for germination and initial growth so planting at the right time is crucial.


Can be started early and grown late.  Germination, as I mentioned above, is the critical phase.

Nutritional Value—4

High in carbs/sugar.  The green tops can be cut and come again harvested and the root, of course, is very nutritious.


Does not produce seeds until it overwinters.  This makes seed saving difficult.


Excellent capabilities.  Beets will store great in a root cellar.  They can be stored in a small box full of sand for a long time.


The greens and the root can be eaten as I mentioned.


Other than the burgundy color, beets and inconspicuous lying low to the ground.

Tally the numbers and I get 24 for beets—not bad.



Several pests like potatoes and we can’t forget about the blight that caused the great famine in Ireland.


Potatoes grow well in cold weather but the require a long growing season.

Nutritional Value—5

This veggie is off the charts in nutritional terms.


The tubers can be divided or even just a small chunk can be used to grow another plant.


Outstanding storage life.  Kept in a root cellar these will last quite a while.


Use a tire or tower setup and one plant can produce ungodly amounts.


Potatoes don’t really have an obvious appearance for non-gardeners but they do get rather big in some cases.

So potatoes score high as well with a 25.



Almost no pests or diseases to speak of effect amaranth.


The growing season is somewhat long and limited to warmer times.

Nutritional Value—4

Very high in many vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.  Both the greens and the grains can be eaten.


Produces tons of seeds!


Though the greens do not store well at all, the grains will store almost indefinitely once dry.




Tall with bright flowers.  The only saving grace is that most people have never seen amaranth.

Amaranth scores a 25.

Just, for example, I’ll give you a crop that most gardeners love but I consider a poor choice for survival gardens.



Cutworms are a problem.  A disease is the real killer here.  Early and late blights combined with blossom end rot leave tomato harvests in doubt.


Only grows in warmer weather and takes a while to produce.

Nutritional Value—4

Good nutritional profile.


The seeds are easy to harvest and store and are generally reliable but only if the plant makes it to production.


Tomatoes are horrible for storage.  The best bet is to harvest green and let them ripen on their own.


Good yields


Everyone knows what a tomato plant looks like and bright red fruit does little to disguise it.

Tomatoes score a 19.

I hope this rating system has at least caused you to look at garden crops in a different way.  Its good to know how to grow a variety of things but it’s also good to know which we can rely on when it comes down to it.

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  1. I’d never even considered growing Amaranth. Now I will and see if my family likes it. No sense growing food you won’t eat unless you can swap it for food you will eat.

    Many crops here in NW Arizona can be grown outside year round so long as they are protected by hoop houses in the winter. Lettuce, Kale, Bok Choi, Beets, Turnips, and for the most part Snap Peas for example. The short days in winter will reduce productivity in peas but as the days lengthen in late winter and early spring they’ll produce like crazy.

    Where do you rate beans? For Reliability I’d give them a 5 as they are easy to grow. For Season: 3 (here in Arizona). Nutritional value: 4 and maybe 5. Sustainability: 5 as seeds are easy to save and I only grow heirlooms. Storage: 5 easily canned, frozen or dried. Yield: 5 they’ll keep producing so long as you keep picking. Stealth: 1 as it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t know what beans look like. That totals up to a score of 33 in my book.

    For a survival garden I’d focus on Potatoes, Squash and Beans with peas, tomatoes and winter greens on the side. 75% of my garden would be devoted to those first three crops with the other 25% going to stuff I like but that doesn’t store well (tomatoes, melons, etc.). If I had enough room I’d grow a bunch of corn as it’s nutritious and stores well.

    I also recommend having an orchard. We have figs, apples, peaches, plums, mulberries, goji berries and nectarines. I’ll add a Bartlett pear or two this year. We’ve canned apples, peaches and plums.

    • I like the way you allocate area to crops. Makes sense. I’m planning my garden for this growing season here in the Upstate of SC. Allocation is one of the big problems.

  2. What happened to peas, beans, okra and onions? Peas and beans once dried can be stored very well. For me, regardless of having power (I have a large kitchen wood stove for cooking and baking when all else fails) I will be canning as much as possible. Onions, they go to the root cellar to hang in bunches. The okra can be canned and also some dried for seed. Lately I’ve experimented with peppers. They all lend themselves to dehydrating and same with the seeds, you can dry them for later. My big challenge lately is how to put back collards. I don’t like the idea of freezing anything since that is the first to spoil if we loose power. I’ve read recently about canning and may try that this coming growing season. For seeds, you can allow a couple of plants “bolt” and capture the seeds. Haven’t tried it, hope to this coming growing season.
    I have 5 fig trees, 2 pear trees, 2 rather wormy peach trees and 2 sickly apple trees which are soon to be in the brush pile. I need to erect a frame work and netting over the fig trees. I still have to find a way to keep the squirrels out of the pear trees. Believe it or not, the crows will clean a tree for you. I leave the wormy peaches for the army of squirrels.

    • Oren Player. You can dry collards and any of the greens. Just remove the thicker vein going thru the middle first for even drying.

    • read abpppout dehydrating kale maybe cn dofor collards don’t know what it does to nutritional value

  3. Beets are not pest free. I have had them eaten by rabbits and mice. Never think that any vegetable is pest free.

  4. oren player, two words: squirrel stew. this year they got 100% of my hazelnuts and concord grapes. perhaps the varieties of peaches and apples are not the best for your location. check stark bros nursery (missouri) as they have quality stock and good info on appropriate varieties for diff locations. apple wood is great for smoking meat.

  5. My simple rule of thumb is grow what you like to eat! And make sure you grow enough! Plant fruit trees now, or 10 years ago!