Whether it’s a survival garden or a small-space hobby plot and pots, the concept of producing “high value” crops periodically comes up. That term can be a little bit of a moving target, with a number of variables factoring in. Our growing season, desire for calories or balancing our stored staples with vitamin-rich foods, the amount of space we have in our plots or pots, the neediness of various plants, and other aspects all come into consideration. In an entirely different vein, we might highly value crops like teff (Williams’ lovegrass), yams, amaranth, and some of the perennials and wild edibles because they look less like a food item to most of the country, regardless of effort or yield-per-acre, or because they’re extremely drought or cold tolerant. However, we define value, we want to get the most for our efforts.
Most Common Factors in “Value”
One of the primary factors in value for survival growers is the calorie density – per plant or per space or per week http://www.gardeningplaces.com/articles/charts/World-Staple-Crops-2009.png. Value is also seen as the total bulk for filling bellies by square foot or week, with calories only a secondary or tertiary concern. There’s also a current-cash-value or equivalent-to-cash-value that might come into play.
Staples like wheat, corn or potatoes all have significant calories per square foot or acre, and in the case of potatoes, per plant. Protein from crops versus livestock – and livestock’s feed needs – also merits consideration, large scale or backyard or condo/apartment dweller. Rabbits are quiet, cheap to feed, and need little space, but if we have the land, the protein and calorie boosts from eating closer to the bottom of the food chain may be more attractive.