Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Considering Staples in the Garden

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Harvest time is still in full swing in our garden, and while we are busy, it is still a good time to assess the garden and think of next years garden. Consider growing staples. Staples in the garden are usually easy to grow, and easy to store for long periods. Many take no processing, just harvesting and proper storage. And many don't require any energy to store, just proper attention to the particular vegetable and its storage requirements which may vary. Cool, dry, room temperature, and high humidity are the factors you need to consider when choosing a staple crop to grow and store.

Crops that I consider staples in my garden are potatoes, winter squash, dry beans and storage onions in addition to root crops like carrots, beets, rutabagas, and parsnips. Your list of staples may be different due to climate and growing conditions. Sweet potatoes are a marginal, fussy crop in my area and Irish potatoes are not. The path of least resistance is the most energy conscious footprint for the garden. Grow what suits your area.

The downside to growing staples is that to be a staple, that implies that you need a large amount to last into winter and maybe spring until the garden gets going again. Large amounts of vegetables require space to grow. Growing staples just may become a community building exercise. Garden too small? Ask a neighbor to allow you to expand your garden, or collaborate with a friend and instead of growing all your crops in one place, trade off. Grow up too, the sky is the limit, many plants take well to trellising, and can be trained on various types of trellis materials.

I'm just tossing ideas out there for more pantry building gardens. Soon the garden will be put to bed and seed catalogs will start appearing in our mailboxes. Winter is a good time to rest, rejuvenate and plan for next year. Bring the new seed catalogs on!


dixiebelle said...

We have toyed around with growing 'staples' in our 1000sqm suburban backyard... we have tried broad beans (got quite a lot and dried them to make ful medames, but they went mouldy!), rattlesnake beans (not a lot, but dried & have been using those we got), sunflowers (oh the effort to harvest, let alone press for oil!), chia (again, harvesting was the issue, and we'd never be able to grow enough) but have great success with pumpkins, spaghetti vegetable, delicata squash and even yacon (these grow well & store well), as well as preserving our own tomatoes, which we aim to do even more of this year, by growing less of the fanciful stuff (the experiments) and more of the basics.

Maybe we can guerilla garden the council owned reserve next to us... terraced rice paddies??!!

The Younger Rachael said...

I love the idea of growing staples, but storage is an issue. There is no cool place in the summer, at least "cool" is 80'. But I guess I need storage so much in the summer. I use 3 to 5 onions a week, which makes A LOT of onions. And my experience with onions is sketchy -- they never went to a bulb, and I ended up using them as "green onions".

But I am keeping track on the calendar of all the veggies I use, to give myself a better idea of what to grow. I've had good success with potatoes, so far. And tomatoes are a staple for us. But to keep us in stock would take A LOT of plants! I love the idea though, and am working towards it. I keep reminding myself -- baby steps.

Kristy said...

Another approach if you don't have the space and can't 'make' a space, is to let your local quality grocer/market garden provide you with your in-season staples at low prices (since they're in season) and to grow the 'other' stuff at home - the things that may cost a little more in the shop, or that you like to use a lot of, or like a specific type of - or even if you can grow things against a hot wall, or a cold corner to get a crop that otherwise you couldn't that season.

So another possibility. :)
Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

angela said...

we are very lucky here as our winters are mild enough that we cand grow food all year round. But I too try and grow enought of my staples to last.