If you want to be self sufficient you need a solid team backing you.
This team can have as many members in it as you want and to get on the team, certain criteria need to be met. The larger the team, the more resilient your self-sufficient model becomes.
In this post we list our team members and discuss the criteria we have set for any new team member.
Resilient Plant Criteria.
Everyone will have their own ideas on what they would like or need for a list that sorts out the keepers from the plants that are delegated to the nice to have but have reliability issues category.
This is how we decide our keepers. At the bottom of the post we have a list that works for us here in the wet tropics of Australia. Our list most likely will differ from yours however there could be similarities depending on your location.
Some plant families cross several climatic zones so don’t discount any particular one off hand.
- It must willingly self sow in several locations.
- It must have a good yield to plant ratio.
- It must have multiple purposes.
- It can be seasonal but all year round harvest is very welcome.
- It should be relatively bug proof.
- It has to taste good.
- It has to be nutritious.
- It must be able to be preserved or stored for long periods.
1. Self Sowing Plants That Are Reliable.
The concept of reliability is probably the main foundation we lean on every day.
It is very comforting to be able to go to a plant in the yard and pick from it, knowing that we didn’t plant it, we have no investment in it, we just live with it.
We have many of these plants in the yard and trust that we will continue to. Of note is a connection between wild birds and some of these plants.
Bill Mollison said many times that everything farms, and we see our yard as a living example of that process. The best thing that is going on with self sown plants is the darwinian effect, meaning survival of the fittest.
The end result is robust varieties that suit our conditions. We can rely on them.
2. High Yield Plants That are Tough.
The second criteria is important for storage purposes.
We preserve, dry, bottle, and freeze many foods throughout the year and we have deliberately set ourselves up for coping with the occasional glut.
This allows us to hold several months of a particular food, sometimes we have a few years supply on the shelf.
As we all know, the seasons are not always reliable, so approaching the yard planting with this in mind stacks the deck in our favor with good harvests when they come. It is fantastic piece of mind and gives life to the self sufficiency ideal.
3. Multipurpose Dependable Food Plants.
Any plant that we consider a keeper must have many uses.
The more the better. The uses do not have to be just in the kitchen though, because some plants benefit the garden greatly.
A tree can give fruit, throw shade, have symbiotic benefits to it’s neighbors. It might be a nitrogen fixer plus a crop giver plus attract beneficial insects.
The crop might be heavy but only every year or so, but in that year the crop supplies several years supply of that food. The plant may have medicinal properties, or could be very high in vitamins and minerals. This article details 21 edible gingers that are both food and medicinal, you might want to explore it.
We try to have a spread of these throughout the yard to cover as many bases as possible.
4. Perpetual Harvest Plants.
The plant that come to mind here is the sweet potato. For us, it is a source of green leaf for adding to all sorts of things.
Many herbs are all-year-rounders here however this does not say that they need to be perennial. They often self sow prolifically if the location is right.
Basil and garlic chives are also good for this. Chilies are spread by birds here so we have no idea where they will come up next.
5. Insect Resistance is Important.
Dependable results rely on tough plants and self sufficiency is only possible through dependable results.
We don’t have the attitude of pest control here.
Mark Shepard has a great book called “Restoration Agriculture” and he uses a process he has term STUN. Sheer Total Utter Neglect.
We run a version of that here. It is really the only way to screen out the weak varieties and leave you with the toughest most reliable variety of any particular plant.
6. Flavor is welcome.
Whats the point of growing something if it tastes terrible.
Some things even smell wrong, and we have one in the back corner called Noni Fruit. Islanders ferment it for medicinal purposes and we planted it on a recommendation a few years back.
We don’t do much with it….it stinks. Flavor is vital in the kitchen. We cook a lot, as you would expect, and this flavor criteria is more important that it appears.
It has to taste good to get in the back door, and if it tastes terrible then the chickens better like it, and if they refuse to go near it then it’s gone. Period.
7. Nutritious Plants.
We have a book in our library by Charles Walters called “Minerals For The genetic Code” and within it’s pages are lists of plants according to the quantity of a certain mineral a healthy plant holds.
The book also goes into great detail on the human bodies mineral requirements and what any particular mineral does within our body. It is a good reference for beneficial plants and why we should grow and eat them.
If you are getting a good compliment of the recommended daily dose of vitamins and minerals from the food you have grown then your health can only benefit.
8. Storing the Harvest.
Any plant on our list can either be an annual or a perennial, with the proviso that the fruit or product derived from the plant can be stored for extended periods of time.
Harvest prolongation is very important. The harvest is even more valuable when the crop can be stored on a shelf instead of requiring a freezer.
We have several methods of preservation on hand and we use them all, sometimes often. It takes forward planning and some investment, but the ability to not need to go to the supermarket cannot be undervalued.
A good example of a plant that stores well is rosella. We grow this in several locations in the yard with the main area edge planted under a mango. This are self seeds along with sweet potato as a ground cover.
Rosella can be used in multiple ways and stores for at least a year or two.
Our List of Resilient Food Plants.
- Sweet Leaf ( Sauropus androgynus )
- Sweet Potato
- Tulsi Basil
- Thai Basil
- Snake Beans
- Thai Chili
- Pawpaw / Papaya
- Garlic Chives
- Indian Lime
- Mother of all herbs
We are located in far north Queensland, Australia.
The plants we grow thrive in our conditions and may not suit yours. Please keep this in mind. The list above is what is in production now and has been for a few years.
There are more just a few short years away from producing and are the tree harvest side of things like macadamias, japoticaba, guava.
Once these start producing they will most likely end up on the list as well. The bonus with these coming on is it makes us even more resilient to external shocks in the commercial food chain. Who can argue against that.
As we find time, there will be an article dedicated to each of these plants on the list here on the website to talk about how we deal with the harvest of these foods. Should be fun.
Article by Tim Blanch for TheTropicalHomestead.com. He is a qualified Permaculture designer.
Restoration Agriculture by Mark Shepard. ISBN: 9781601730350
Minerals For the Genetic Code by Charles Walters ISBN: 9780911311853