Sun Drying Fruits and Other Foods

The ability to preserve your own food without refrigeration is an important preparedness skill, it’s also something that’s fun to do and can help cut down on your grocery bills.

Sun Drying Foods

Sun drying is one of mankind’s oldest and most reliable ways to preserve food. Archeological sites in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia show this method of food preservation has been used since 4,000 B.C.

Sun drying is actually pretty simple; it relies on the sun and airflow – that’s pretty much it. While newer methods like electronic dehydrators speed up the process, sun drying is a slow gentle process that can really bring out the flavor of your food. It’s also a reliable method of preserving food during an emergency.

What can you Sun Dry?

You can actually sun dry just about any type of food; that being said, fruits are the safest thing to start with and are preferable because of their high sugar and acid content – something that helps prevent spoilage during the drying process. During an emergency you could use this method to dry meats and vegetables, but during normal conditions I would advise using indoor methods unless you really know what you’re doing.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Hot, dry, breezy days are best. A humidity level below 60 percent is best.
  • A minimum temperature of 85ºF is required, but the higher the temperature goes the easier it will be to dry the food.
  • It takes several days to dry foods out-of-doors, so before undertaking this method make sure you keep an eye on weather reports.
  • At night, fruits must be covered or brought inside to prevent moisture from seeping back into the food.

How to Preserve Fruit by Sun Drying

The first things you’re going to need are some good drying racks.

Small wood slats, bamboo, grill grates, and stainless steel screen mesh are all good material to use for the racks. You can also use cake racks or build small wooden frames covered with cheesecloth. Just remember that your racks cannot be solid, as you need air to circulate around the drying food.

Avoid any grates coated with cadmium or zinc. These metals can oxidize, leaving dangerous residues on the food.

Pretreating Fruit: Most fruits need some type of preparation before the drying process can begin.

  • Fruits with pits should be halved and pitted
  • Light-colored fruit like apples, pears and apricots should be soaked in lemon juice or an ascorbic acid wash to prevent browning. Soak the fruit in the solution for 3-5 minutes
  • Cutting your fruit into uniform pieces will help them dry more evenly, and at the same speed.

It’s time to start drying some food.

Place the pretreated fruit in a single layer on the drying racks. Then place your racks in an area that receives direct sunlight, and a good breeze. Try to pick an area away from animals, traffic exhaust, insects and dust. Once the food is placed on the racks in direct sunlight, place cheesecloth or netting around the racks to keep off dust and keep out insects.

  • At night, make sure you bring your food indoors or cover it to prevent moisture from seeping back into the food.
  • Turn food once a day, or flip the racks if you have dual layer racks.
  • If possible, place a small fan near the drying tray to promote air circulation.

Fruits and vegetables take anywhere from 3 to 7 days to dry in the sun, depending on your local conditions. When the food is just about two-thirds dry, move it into a semi-shady but airy area to prevent the food from getting scorched by the sun.

Pasteurization & Conditioning

Before storing Sun dried foods, you should condition and pasteurize the food.

Conditioning Dried Fruits

To improve storage times and to ensure the safety of your food dried fruits should be conditioned before storage. Conditioning evenly distributes moisture present in the dried fruit to prevent mold growth.

  • Cool the foods on the trays.
  • Place cooled dried fruit in a plastic or glass container two-thirds full; seal and store for 7 days to 10 days.
  • Shake the containers daily to distribute moisture. If condensation occurs, place the fruit in the oven for more drying and then repeat the conditioning process.
  • Check for any signs of spoilage.

Pasteurizing Sun-Dried Fruits

Pasteurization is especially important because it will destroy any insects and their eggs. It can be done using either a freezer, or an oven.

  • To pasteurize using an oven, place the food in a single layer on a tray and then place in an oven preheated to 160°F for 30 minutes.
  • Maybe consider a solar oven to dry and to pasteurize product for long term storage. It would be off the grid sustainable and adjustable for low heat and ventilation to dry.
  • To pasteurize using a freezer, simply seal the dried food in freezer plastic bags and place them in a freezer set at 0°F for 48 hours.

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How to Get Your Chicken to Lay More Eggs

Does it seem that your egg collection is decreased or that your hens aren’t laying as they once did? Or the yolks are pale and lackluster, lacking the nutrients they should provide? When the chickens are part of a plan for independent living or as a structured food supply, this can put a damper on things and thwart being able to rely on them as a nutritional resource. It can be a catastrophic event in a survival situation to have your chickens stop producing a crucial food source.

Eggs come from happy and healthy chickens, so a few tweaks here and there in your program can improve egg yields immensely. In an emergency situation it may be already too late to solve the problem, so here are the top tips and tried methods for getting your chickens to lay more eggs for a bountiful future.

Remember They Are Birds

The first thing to remember is that they are living creatures with their own hierarchy and social order, literally a “pecking order.” Although they have been domesticated ever since someone discovered how tasty they were, along with their ability to be good little producers of versatile daily nuggets high in protein, the most important thing to keep in mind is that chickens still retain their wild bird instincts.

These instincts include foraging, pretending to fly, the desire to roam and scratch for their food, and the mental need to hunt their food. If you do not have the luxury of a large area for roaming, you can still build a nice comfortable coop that suits their everyday needs while providing a good diet. Meeting these needs will be rewarded with the nice steady production of quality eggs.

Put the Egg First

Before we start adding things that go into the chicken, let’s talk about output, the egg. The egg is an amazing little structure. A porous shell offers external protection, this shell mainly consists of calcium carbonate with an invisible barrier made of protein. This protective protein barrier is called the cuticle and it acts as a shield to prevent contamination from bacteria. The nutrient dense yolk is suspended in a liquid composed of protein and water called the albumen that acts as a shock absorber and cushion.

A chicken egg provides 6-7 grams of protein and 6 grams of fat, fatty acids, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. To achieve the highest nutritional output in an egg, it’s important a laying hen is provided a well-balanced diet that is nutrient rich with a diverse diet and fresh, clean water daily.

Top Reasons Chickens Stop Laying Eggs

If you have already had your chickens stop producing, don’t worry it’s fixable with just a few simple modifications!

To understand how to get your chickens to lay more eggs, we need a quick overview of the main reasons chickens stop laying eggs.

Temperature

Having chickens on the ground where it’s drafty or damp, or if they are housed in a poorly sealed coop will affect your egg production as chickens do not fare well in anything but a warm, dry environment.

Light

Chickens lay eggs as a means to reproduce. In winter when a chick has the odds against him for survival, the chicken’s body goes into shut down mode by way of its endocrine system. The endocrine system is signaled to slow production when the daylight hours get shorter.

Molt

About once a year chickens molt and that process can last 3-6 weeks. Having several ages can help negate any lags in production.

Protein needs

When the temperature turns cooler the chickens need more protein to burn as calories. If this higher calorie need goes unmet, the chicken’s body produces fewer eggs to save on expenditure.

Stress

Being prey to most animals makes a chicken nervous about anything it can’t control. Loud noises, excessive noise in its surroundings, or the scent of strange animals can almost guarantee the chicken will stop production.

The Best Ways to Get Your Chicken to Lay More Eggs

We have covered the basics in chicken husbandry and what things can affect egg production. So now for the good news! A productive flock is as important to hobbyists as well as the off the grid lifestylists. Some people keep chickens as pets of course, but for those that are primarily raising a flock for the nutrition packed eggs production can be increased with some simple finessing and system tweaks.

Here are some of the best ways to get your chicken to lay more eggs, or how to get more bang for your “cluck”!

Basic Nutrition

No matter how happy or stress free your hen is, you must provide the basic requirements in her feed in order to have your hens lay. Good quality feed supplemented with oyster shells (or leftover egg shells) need to be available for her to peck at. Clean water is a must and should be readily available 24 hours a day.

How to Feed a Balanced Diet to a Laying Hen

Supplements

Oyster shell is the most common supplement for chickens, especially laying hens as the calcium provided by the shell is needed to make a healthy and strong egg. Many, as we do, use a portion of their leftover egg shells to add to the oyster shells. Without calcium supplements, the laying hen will pull it from her bones and it is similar to osteoporosis.

Kiss my grits

Good food and quality supplements are only half the battle, you need grit and oyster shell to supply the best possible foods for your chickens so you can get the best quality eggs. When chickens roamed free they consumed small pieces of stone and gravel as they foraged naturally, this also can happen when they free-range. Chickens in an enclosure need that grit to be supplied to them as it acts as their “teeth” by grinding food in their gizzard. Without this grit, food cannot be broken down or absorbed properly.

No junk food

Much like with humans, low nutritional value foods that are high in carbs are a no-no for your chicken. Breads, white pasta, potatoes, dairy and white rice are not good for your laying hen. Of course, the comfort foods we love are dangerous for your feathered friends. No salty, sweet, or fried foods and especially no alcohol!

This is a list of foods that can be toxic for your flock:

  • No spinach
  • No asparagus
  • No citrus
  • No onions
  • No raw beans that have been dried
  • No apple seeds
  • No eggplant
  • No avocado

Health conscious chicken treats

There are many things you CAN feed your chicken to promote more eggs and give them a healthy boost.

  • Oatmeal
  • Cottage cheese
  • Pumpkin
  • Melons
  • Sweet corn
  • Ginger
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Cucumbers
  • All grain pancakes
  • Mealworms

Hot tip: spicy. I had many people tell me that adding some red or green peppers boosted vitamin C and the chickens loved them.

Shed Light on the Subject

A hen needs 12-15 hours of light a day to provide the best production numbers in eggs. Installing a light can help keep the production even during winter, or on cool nights. Lights infused with red can prevent cannibalism and keep the coop soothed and calm.Most chickens lay their eggs by 10 am, so after egg collection it’s time for your hens to go out and get some fresh air and light.

Build a Proper Coop with These Tips

There is no one specific design that is best for a chicken coop. But there are a few basics to consider when making a coop.

Personal space

Allow 2-3 square feet of space per laying hen and it is easier to build out later on if your flock increases in size.

Flooring

Dirt is not a deterrent to predators as they can easily dig under the edges. Wood can rot and house parasites. Concrete is expensive and can crack over time. The most current materials used for chicken coop flooring are vinyl over plywood. Plywood also can be easily replaced as needed.

Roosts

Each hen should have at least 8 inches of roost space.  The most common way is to use a 2×4’ with the wider side facing upwards for the roosting bar. This protects those delicate feet in winter from biting cold and frostbite.

Make nest boxes a priority

A good way to make egg collecting easy is to use nesting boxes. A nesting box also protects the egg and helps keep it clean. One rule of thumb is to have one nesting box for every 3-4 birds, and install them about 2 feet off the floor. A layer of soft litter like wood shavings or hay can provide cushion for the egg while absorbing droppings.

Coop ventilation

Year round air ventilation is a must for a healthy coop. A good measure of thumb is 1/5th of your wall space should be vented. We used hardware cloth to cover the vents to keep off the little varmints and creepy crawlies. Be sure to use washers and screws to secure it down and check it regularly for any rips or holes.

Keep a Clean Coop

No matter what system you employ, the main thing is to provide a nice place to live, avoid overcrowding your chickens, and keep them in a clean and dry environment. A regular schedule of laying fresh litter in their houses and removing droppings will help the hens from tracking feces and dirt into nesting boxes and the eggs within. Hens flourish in hygienic conditions and it is advisable to have a quarantine period for any new stock before they are introduced into the flock.

Disinfection

There is a lot of controversy on this. Many swear by bleach, but I do not like it around my animals or eating stock. After some trial and error, I use vinegar to disinfect my chicken coop and lots of elbow grease. I like to disinfect at least every few months by cleaning out everything and then giving it a good hosing. A liberal spray down with vinegar is next and then time drying in the sunlight, which also helps kill bacteria. I soak any bowls or feeding dishes in it, then leave them to dry in the sun also.

If you have your chickens on a dirt floor, you may want to use hay over barn lime to keep things dry and hay is dust free, unlike straw. It does need to be changed every week, but it can be added to the compost.

For smaller flocks, use a tarp. You can lay it out and then cover it in hay. It is easy clean up, as when cleaning time rolls around just fold that sucker up and drag it to the compost pile. Disinfect with vinegar before adding more hay and rebedding.

Rodent Control 101

Rodents can be devastating to a coop and any community they move too. Unfortunately chicken coops are a magnet for mice and rats. The main timeframe is the harvest in fall. Its then that rats will try to invade as their main food supply source is depleted. Colonies of mice will spring up by buildings and they tend to stay inside.

The biggest indicator that you have a problem is droppings. A rat has 40 droppings daily versus a mouse’s 80! This contaminates feed and exposes you, your livestock and your flock to diseases which can include salmonellosis, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis, and brucellosis.

Rodents are also responsible for more than 25% of all farm fires classified as “unknown origin.” These nocturnal dwellers can easily be underestimated, and can wreak havoc on your flock. They are predators and will seek out chicks. Rat infestations can consume hundreds of chicks a day.

The best steps to take to eliminate a rodent infestation around your chickens can be summed up in these 5 methods.

Tidy the coop

Deter the vermin by taking away all places they could set up shelter. Brush, woodpiles, or scrap piles should be well away from your coop.

Lock the feed up tight

Metal trash cans or drums are the best at deterring the little disease carriers, make sure the lid locks tight.

Build a wall or barrier

A mouse can squeeze into openings the size of your little finger, so sheet metal is the best bet to line your coop. Make sure your doors are in good repair with no entry points.

Trapping the pests

Physically removing the rats and mice is the best remedy. Place traps around the perimeter. Colony traps that hold many mice at once may be a good option.

Rodenticides

A last resort of course, and rodents can become immune, so switching it up is needed. Keep it away from other livestock and only in extreme circumstances do I use this. But if it’s between my flock and the mice, I do what I have to.

Thoughts on Confinement Vs. Free Range

Confinement and free-range options for keeping your flock have their advantages and disadvantages. Birds that can free-range will have more room and more opportunity to fulfill their need to be “free” to forage and hunt. But risks are abundant with threats by disease and predators. Being able to identify and find eggs quickly, as well eliminate problems in a timely manner is a plus to being in an enclosed environment.

Access to the Outdoors can help provide variety in their diet as well as plenty of time to take sunbathing and dust bathing seriously. But to me it’s not worth the risk to have them outside and unprotected 24 hours a day so we use a chicken tractor in summer and poultry netting in spring.

What Is a Chicken Tractor?

A chicken tractor is an attachable mobile coop with a trailer hitch that can be moved around so the chickens can have fresh grass and foraging area. It helps spread their fertilizer around the fields as well as keep bugs down as they have fun “exploring” their new surroundings. A happy, healthy hen is your most productive hen.

Exercise

Hens with more belly fat are impeded when it comes to producing eggs, so basic exercise is a must for physiological and mental health. Letting them scratch for their food gives them an activity that boosts base metabolic rates and keeps them warm and limber in winter. Throwing the girls leftover veggie table scraps or fresh cut grass and weeds straight from the garden will keep them happy little ladies.

Cabbage heads (the ends) and older lettuce pieces are fun to peck and I use the compost provided as they turn their food into the dirt and manure for my melon and survival gardens. Other ways to boost compost value would be to add corn cobs, carrot greens, melon rinds, kale, corn silks, or any other veggie leavin’s you may have. My girls love the after dinner treats and are lined up at the chicken yard’s gate waiting for them every evening!

Give Them Things to Do

Nothing is as fun to watch or as sweet as observing hens taking a dirt bath. Chickens like being clean and dirt baths are a way to do this and they promote healthy feathers by whisking away oils, sweat and parasites. If you do not offer a dirt bath, most flock owners come to find their chickens in the flower garden or in the crops.

A few sources claim wood ash is good for a bath or diatomaceous earth, but I believe if I need a mask to be around it then it will get into my flock’s lungs also. I much prefer building my own dirt bath with a simple container that’s 24 x24” and at least a foot deep, or dig a hole and fill it. I use sand and dirt. This type of bath promotes sweet smelling ladies that are lice free, and it’s chemical free so you can’t beat that.

Stress Reduction

Stress is one of the top reasons why chickens stop egg production. A big stressor is also the cold on the body, as well as parasites irritating your chickens. Irritants such as pets, children, and loud music can affect production also. Chickens need a quiet, safe area to relax and claim as their own.

When bringing in new chickens, keep in mind that is a big stressor and production may stop for a few days to weeks as they adjust to their new surroundings. This is normal and soon they will pick back up where they left off when the transition is over.

Do you need a rooster to get your chicken to lay more eggs?

A rooster adds commotion and not much value to your flock unless you plan on raising hatchlings. For egg production, a rooster can make things worse. Plus half of your hatchlings will be roosters so be prepared to find new homes or cull the male chicks.

Culling for Optimum Production

Many people do not like the thought of culling their flock. For optimum production taking out the older laying hens and replacing them with young pullets not only keeps a chicken rotation going, but will release the need for the care of the older hens into retirement.

It is much more humane to find a loving home if you are attached. In situations where every resource has to not only produce, but be a functional part of a homesteaders life, it is better to butcher the older hens than let feed than can go to younger ones in their prime laying years be wasted on them. Soup stocks and frozen meat can last quite a while.

Final Thoughts

Life with chickens is a rewarding experience in any homesteader or food self-sufficient lifestylists program as there are so many ways chickens can help in a garden and around the homestead.

Integrating a chicken flock can benefit a homestead with a constant supply of nutritional eggs, quality compost, and meat when needed. Starting a flock is inexpensive and with just a few tips and tricks you can have those chickens laying more eggs and start to stockpile your bounty. In the old days, every yard had a few chickens pecking around as the eggs were a means of survival. Now it is becoming more and more popular to raise your chickens as the nutritional value and taste of fresh eggs are so much better than anything you can buy in a store.

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Saving Seeds will Save and Make You Money

Having a garden is great, whether you are having plants that bear flowers or the ones the cultivate fruits. Have you ever wonder, as you water tomatoes, how good it is if you can multiply them more and make a profit out of it? Well, guess what, saving seeds can actually do that for you.

But wait, there’s more! If you save your seeds, you do not only increase your chances of making more money, it can also help you save! If you know how to do the process correctly, you will no longer need to shell out money to purchase seeds for the next season.

That is why I decided to create this piece of writing because it is also dedicated to other gardeners, even if they are not after selling their crops.

Let’s cut the long wait and start discussing how you can make the most out of the seeds from your garden (or kitchen, if you are planning to start growing one).​

This article will

  • Tell you the difference between annual, biennial and perennial plants
  • Discuss what pollination is
  • Inform you about the importance of saving seeds
  • Teach you about the lifespan of a seed
  • Give you the materials you will need when you are planning to save seeds
  • Explain the process of saving your seeds: harvest, clean, and store
  • Share with you expert tips and tricks
  • Let you know the difference between hybrids and pure breeds
  • Answer frequently asked questions

#1. All about seeds

What are seeds?​

What are seed

Annual, Biennial and Perennial

Prior to discussing seeds themselves, let us be aware of the different kinds of plants. There are three kinds of them and let me show the difference one by one.

There are plants that produce seeds and develop them fully within 12 months; they are called annual plants. They complete their cycle within 1 year. Coin the term with annual which means year and you will remind yourself about this easily.

Others wait until the next year before flowering. For example, you have to expect your carrot or beet to flower and mature seeds next year even if you harvested them this summer. These types of plants are referred to as biennial plants. “Two years” will be your keyword with this type of plant.

These biennial plants are strong enough to survive cold seasons; you just have to help them. Your role, however, may vary from one location to the other. In some areas, layering leaves or hay on top of the soil is enough, on the other hand, some plants needed to be transferred to a warmer ground and you have to return them to their places when spring comes.

There is a type of plant which can bear and mature seeds continuously every year, the perennials. You might notice them hibernating during winter but they will surely grow back from the same root in the spring.

Pollination

Just like humans, plants can come from a pure ethnic group or they could carry a mix of different races. Plants can pollinate in three ways: from two types of plants, through the help of wind or insects, or by themselves.

If the plant reproduces from the first two processes, it is called cross-pollination. On the other hand, there are plants that have both male and female parts. In return, they would be able to successfully pollinate within. This is what we call self-pollination.

Plants which can self-pollinate can remain pure even without isolating them from other species but if you want to be sure, feel free to do so.

Examples of self-pollinating plants would be beans, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes. Beets, broccoli, carrots, corn, cucumbers, leeks, onions, pumpkins, quinoa, and spinach are the examples of cross-pollinating plants.

Importance of saving seeds

Some of the people I know who started saving seeds did it for one reason: they wanted to save money. Although it is not much, since tomato seeds would cost as low as $2, they would need to spend more for the specific type they wanted. On top of that, they would even have to travel far and exert effort to find it.

Did you know that decades ago, farmers and gardeners do not really purchase seeds from the market? They simply save seeds and produce a good number of vegetable varieties from it. Every gardener knows how to do it before. And every one of them can successfully come up with a produce that is acclimatized to the type of land and kind of weather in their area.​

The rise of technology and modern agricultural processes may have made everything easier; conversely, they have reduced crop diversity drastically. It is not surprising to hear older people looking for fruits or vegetables with a specific description and even the biggest supermarket in town cannot provide it.

Since we are only left with few kinds of vegetables nationwide, the seeds that we can buy from the market have the tendency to be unsuitable to the kind of land in our locality. It is possible also that it could not survive our climate, and worse, it becomes susceptible to diseases and pests – things the farmers from the previous generation do not really consider a problem.

Saving seeds do not only save money, it also saves effort and time. When you have saved seeds, they are already prepared for development. This means all you have to do is to transfer your seed heads to one bed and rotate as needed.

Extinction is another concern for most gardeners that is why seed saving is highly encouraged. The crops we used to enjoy with our grandparents are starting to become wiped out. The culture that is attached to these kinds of flowers or fruits will be affected sooner or later. We may be able to create that traditional dish we have been serving for decades, but the taste will already be altered.

The problem with extinction is that it is not only the classification we should be worried about. Without people who save seeds of certain plants, our grandchildren might not be able to enjoy their presence anymore. Ever imagined them asking “What is an eggplant granny?”? How hard could it possibly be if they do not even know what a ‘plant’ is?

Without seeds, we will be having problems with food security too. With seeds, we no longer have to eat genetically modified produces. These types are often reported to be causing obesity and allergic reactions and are even sometimes classified as carcinogenic products. Grow your plants at home and you free yourselves and your families from crops that are exposed to chemicals. For more ideas, visit our friend at Be Self Sufficient.

If you are still not convinced about the importance of saving seeds, try watching the movie Lorax and see how the future generation wished to see a living tree and how they tried to guard one seed with their life.

#2. Saving Seeds 101

Beginners Guide

If you are already growing fruits and flowers, seeds then can be found all over your garden!

First-timers can start with self-pollinating plants such as beans peas, peppers and tomatoes. I will be guiding you how to identify healthy seeds later on.

For gardeners with advanced skills on seed saving, you can now try other crops such as cucumbers, gourds, melons, and pumpkins. You have to be aware however that there is a high chance that the products may not have the exact characteristics from the parent plants.​

Lifespan of a Seed

The survival of seeds differs from one species to another. Some seeds are naturally long-living and others are not.

The secret for their longevity depends on how carefully you followed the saving process. If the seeds are properly stored, they can stay ‘plant-able’ for three to four years. It is, however, best to plant and sow them according to their cycle.

Some farmers prefer older seeds for selected plants as they believe that they will produce more fruit by that time.

Things that can spoil your saved seeds:

  • Moisture
  • Heat
  • Light

Coarse Approximations

Parsnips can live up to 2 years. Seeds that can live up to 3 years include beetroot, chard and leaf beet, carrots, onions, leeks, spring, and parsley. Courgettes and squashes are viable for 4 years. Beans, lettuces, peas, peppers, and aubergines can last for 5 years. You can save tomato seeds until they’re 8 years old and cucumbers and melons until they’re 10.

What are the things you need to prepare when you plan to save seeds?

Labeling materials will be needed such as markers and optional stickers. This will be used when you warn yourself and others not to pick a particular fruit on your plant or tree. Another case in which you will need this is when you store multiple kinds of seeds. Labeling will help you identify them easier.

Harvesting materials would include pruners to cut off the stem of the fruit from the plant, a knife for cutting the fruit in half to expose the seeds, and lastly, spoon to scoop out the seeds.​

Cleaning materials will be needed after you harvest your seeds. Depending on your practice, culture, and the type of fruit, the resources may vary. The universal thing you will need is, of course, water.​

Others make use of metal sieve to separate the seed from the flesh. Supplementary practices might need glass jar and spoon, wherein they would put the seeds in water, stir it several times to separate it from other fruit parts. I recommend the latter technique for soft and tiny seeds.​

Storing materials are crucial in saving seeds. To separate multiple kinds of seeds, you may use a paper envelope or packets and Ziploc plastics. You have to prepare air-tight containers as well to prevent moisture from accumulating on your samples.​

Selecting and Harvesting Healthy Seeds

Hybrids are not advisable for beginners, instead, go for open-pollinated varieties or the ‘heirloom’ types. These are the ones that have been passed down from generations to generations.

The secret in producing the best fruits lies on the parent seed. Select only the best tasting ones to save.

For runner bean seeds, the healthy ripe ones can be expected from the bottom of the plant. Just like tomatoes, we have to leave them so that they can mature fully. Wait until you see swelling in its pods, and as it changes its color to yellow then brown.

For lettuces, seed heads must be dried for two to three weeks after flowering. The tricky part in harvesting lettuce seeds is that they don’t mature all at once, therefore, you cannot get many seeds in a single harvest. They will be ready when you see half the flowers have gone to seed.

For peppers, wait until they turn red and become wrinkled.

For tomatoes, you can acquire the seeds from the moment they get ripe. However, you might want to leave it on the plant until it gets overly ripe. They will appear to be wrinkled, dark red, and extra juicy. The aim here is to let the seed mature as much as possible.​

Cleaning and Processing​

When processing bean seeds, you can open the pods by hand. If you have a lot of seeds, you can whirl them. If you have huge chaffs, use a fork to separate. The remaining particles should be sorted through.

To prepare your lettuce for cleaning, shake off seeds every day from flowering heads one at a time. You can remove the remaining seeds through manual rubbing. Sift the seeds and chaffs using screens.

Peppers can be processed in two different ways. If you just have a small amount of pepper seeds, it is advisable for you to use the dry method. Remove the lowermost part of the fruit; the seeds in the central cone should be stripped carefully afterwards.

Large amounts of peppers need to be processed during the wet method. Cut off the peppers, this time, on the topmost part. Using a blender put water and add the peppers. Blend slowly until the seeds would sink on the bottom part.​

Slice tomatoes lengthwise and gradually squeeze to extract the middle cavity. This would be the seeds and the surrounding jelly. Place the extract in a glass jar, pour a small amount of water and let it sit for three days.

Ensure that you place the container in a warm area, and you stir it once every 24 hours. After a few days, the water will contain a fungus that eats the jelly components of the mixture. Because of this, germination is then prevented. Another benefit of the presence of the fungus is that it creates anti-bacterial substances that can combat diseases as manifested by bacterial cankers and specks. Let it sit.

Pour warm water into the container after three days. This time, the contents will settle down. Once it fully settles, pour the water out. Repeat until the seeds are rinsed fully.

Aside from the seeds of tomatoes, the flesh can be saved as well if this is properly done.​

Cleaning Techniques

  • BLENDING
  • HAND CLEANING
  • TARPING
  • THRESHING

This was exemplified in our discussion with tomato preparation. Blend water with fruit and the debris and bad seeds will float as the viable seeds will settle at the bottom. Pour the contents leaving the seeds below. Rinse several times until the water being poured off is completely clean.

Storing Seeds

There are different ways on how to store a seed. You have to be primarily concerned about avoiding the seeds to get moist or else they can spoil easily. Check the material of your container and the construction of your lid and seal to be sure.​

The materials that are highly advisable would be glass and tri-laminate foil bag. The transparency of the glasses makes it a perfect choice as it will allow you to observe the seeds easily. However, since light can also damage your seeds, getting colored glasses are wise. Plastic containers can also be transparent; my concern is that the seeds can be exposed to the chemicals of the plastic, eventually affecting the quality of the seeds nonetheless.​

For long term storage, foils are the best choice. Ensure that the foil is tightly sealed. Closely monitor the temperature. A temperature heat sealer that has a jagged sealing bar is also desirable.

For seeds with sharp edges, placing them in a paper envelope might help. Alternatively, you may use vacuum sealed bags before placing them in glass containers.

Make sure you do not forget to put labels on them.

Write down the name, their species, and the date you collected them.

To help you choose the perfect container you might want to read: Selecting containers for long-term storage.Maintain a temperature between 32° and 41°F.You might want to keep your seeds in the fridge if you have extra space.Aside from the temperature, ensure that the seeds will never get in contact with moisture. You may use silica gels or freshly opened powdered milk as desiccants.​

Maintain a temperature between 32° and 41°F.You might want to keep your seeds in the fridge if you have extra space.

Aside from the temperature, ensure that the seeds will never get in contact with moisture. You may use silica gels or freshly opened powdered milk as desiccants.​

#3. Saving Seeds: Expert Tips and Tricks

Planning

  • Get organized. Planning properly will help you save time, effort and money. Create a habit of recording so that you can identify the seeds you’ve saved, when you are supposed to sow it and its expiration date. It is also going to be helpful if you note down your observations when you get your produce from a particular seed. This will help you identify what needs to be adjusted or continued.
  • Once you are able to identify the fruit which you think has the highest quality of the batch, you have to label it. It is very important for you to label your target fruits as this will prevent accidental picking of the fruits by anyone.
  • If you wish to produce a pure-breed plant, save seeds from a number of individual plants; about 1 seed per plant is good.
  • Saving seeds from multiple harvests will maintain genetic diversity on your seed sample.
  • If you wish a particular characteristic (example: size, shape or color), get the seeds from the plant that has that a specific trait.
  • Want to know when the perfect time to harvest? When the fruits are starting to fall from the tree or plant, that’s your cue! Oh, I forgot, if there are no fruits, check the pods. You may start harvesting when the seeds rattle.

Saving Seeds

  • Problems with humidity on your container? Put some rice grains inside! It will absorb moisture. (You probably heard about putting your wet gadgets in rice box, or when you see rice grains in restaurant’s salt shaker, they all share the same rationale.)
  • To know the viability of seeds, get some of your samples, dampen it using a paper towel and place it loosely in a plastic bag. Allow it to sit for a few days ensuring that it is properly aerated and warmed. If there is a positive germination, then they are good to go.
  • When preparing peppers using the wet method, do not get the seeds that will float as those seeds are not fully matured yet, therefore, they are not good for saving
  • Drying may take time that is why patience is a virtue. Never speed this process up by cooking your seeds in the oven.
  • Check your sample from time to time. Freezing your seeds might help when you notice a presence of insects in your container. Three-day freezing is acceptable to get rid of them. Remove seeds that have white dots or holes.

Sowing

  • When you sow your seeds, lightly tamp the combination of soil, mix, and seeds in your container. This will ensure that there is a good contact between them. The effect of this tamping is that you will get an assurance that the nutrients will be relayed to the seeds.
  • Selecting your containers matter! Choose a container that is flat and wide. For starting seeds, clay pots are highly recommended. The wider the better, because this will prevent your seeds to overcrowd.
  • Decontaminate your containers before starting your seeds. You may soak your container in bleach (10% solution) for 15 to 30 minutes and dry before using.
  • Drainage and adequate air flow will prevent disease. Remember, bacteria and other pathogens thrive best in moist, dark and warm areas.
  • For practical gardeners like me, you may upcycle cardboard canisters and pill bottles for your storage needs. For starting seeds, feel free to use recycled plastic containers. Think about saving your next yogurt, ice cream, margarine containers for this purpose the next time you consume those.

#4. Hybrid or Pure Breed?

This has been a very controversial issue when it comes to seed saving. Technically, we discourage saving hybrid vegetable seeds to be saved as they will not be producing pure species by the time you harvest them.

Please be guided that the label F-1 does not necessarily mean ‘do not save’. You just have to be informed that this plant is from a successful cross-pollination of two pure lines because they wanted a specific characteristic to manifest. Hybrids are created naturally, however, if your plant is already from a hybrid seed, it is not wise to save your seeds because the generation that this plant will breed will be having low quality.

You might also encounter the word GMO seeds which, just like the hybrid seeds, are a combination of two or more varieties. Unlike cross-pollinated plants and seeds, on the other hand, genetically modified organisms are established in laboratories. If you read my statement slowly, I mentioned varieties, not ‘plant varieties’ to be specific because GE (genetically engineered) seeds are a combination of different biological kingdoms like bacteria and corn.

There are a huge number of researches that prove bad effects of genetically modified organisms on human health. Agriculturally, since GMO crops are still plants, they still have seeds which could be carried by insects and the wind. This may then cross-pollinate other produces. And we do not know how they might change the future generations of the affected plants.​

#5. Frequently Asked Questions

1.  How can I start to save the seeds in my garden?

Start to save seeds from crops that can be easily saved such as the ones we discussed above (beans, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes). Make sure that you have an adequate amount of plants. Take into consideration the fact that you need to have a good population size to get your sample. You may have to adjust the placement of your plants to produce plants which are not hybrid. Proper spacing is important to prevent cross pollination.With this, it is important to properly plan what kinds of seeds you are going to collect and the sowing strategies you have to implement.

2. What are GMO? Are they suitable for saving?

GMO is an abbreviation that stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. From the term itself, these are living organisms that were produced with scientific innervations. Genetically modified organisms have DNAs that are combined from two (sometimes even more) different species.

There is a huge debate on this matter as there are localities banning GMO products. The benefit, however, of altering breeds is that they create a new type in which the good traits of two strains can be combined to create a product that will manifest them both.

Cross-breeding is typically done for different reasons. Primarily, agriculturists would want to create a crop that can resist insect and disease better, are more adaptable to different kinds of soil and climate, are much more tolerant to heat or drought, can withstand pollution, and has a bigger nutritional value. Aside from the aforementioned reasons, breeding can minimize the impact on soil and off-farm, develop produce for populations with low resources, and are claimed to support whole-farm ecology.

In some states, production of genetically engineered seeds is prohibited. There are so many studies that prove the negative consequences of a genetically modified organism. Hence, I also do not support saving seeds from a GE plant.

3. What are organic produces?

Organic produces come from 100% organic seeds. Organic gardening ensures that the crop is void of any chemicals in any form such as fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides. Farmers who grow organic produces make use of all-natural fertilizers, manures, and compost.

Aside from being safe, organic gardening is highly encouraged because it is also easy and more affordable.

Unfortunately, there are so many genetically modified organisms today. To prevent your organic garden to be contaminated with GMOs, buy single-ingredient organic foods, grow your own heirloom or open-pollinated plants, and practice isolation techniques for your plants.

4. How can I grow plants from seeds?

It’s easy! You can do it in five steps: select, harvest, clean, dry and store. Select which fruit you would like to grow next season. Wait until the fruit is overly ripe but not rotten. Once it is ready, cut the fruit in two, and scoop the seeds. Cleaning can be done in different methods if you are saving tomato seeds, put the seeds and the gel around it to a bottle of water and stir occasionally for two days. Once the seeds are totally separated from the gel, you may take it out and dry it. Use towels, plate or glass for drying. Never use paper products as the fibers can stick on the seed. Dry your seeds for at least 2 weeks. You may plant the seeds to your garden beds or pots once they dry completely.

5. I do not have a garden but I am planning to start one. Where can I buy seeds?

Survival Gardening Indoors

Survival gardening when the SHTF is problematic. Thefts from a backyard garden or small farm will be rampant, and with each theft, you lose food, there’s damage to the garden, and you’ve lost labor and other resources. One alternative is to move your survival gardening indoors.

Of course, indoor gardening cannot be a complete solution. The limited space and the need for light and nutrients makes indoor gardening expensive. And the amount of food you can produce will always be very limited. Even so, it can be a useful adjunct to stored food, outdoor gardening, and bartering for food.

What To Grow

Among the easiest indoor plants to grow are container herbs: thyme, basil, oregano, chives, cilantro, marjoram, mint, rosemary, dill, and parsley. Stevia leaves can be grown and used as a sweetener. Parsley is a
particularly good choice as it can be used in greater amounts than many other herbs. Meals prepared from stored food can be rather monotonous. Herbs and spices help make your meals more palatable.

Micro-greens, as they are called, are simply leafy vegetables, such as lettuces, spinach, radish, mustard, arugula, kale, turnip tops, beet greens, amaranth, and others, which are harvested when young. You can get a crop of micro-greens in only two to four weeks after planting. After cutting the greens down to the stem, you can sometimes get a second or third crop to springs up from the stems.

Micro-greens add flavor, fiber, and some nutrition to stored food. They add variety, color, and taste to otherwise boring meals. Today, you can go into any grocery store and choose from thousands of different foods. When the modern food production and distribution system fails, we will all be eating from a much small set of choices. The variety you can get from your own herbs and greens will make a difference to nutrition and taste.

Can you grow anything more substantial? Yes, you can. Certain varieties of tomato are designed for containers, even for small windowsill sized pots and hanging planters. These can be grown on a patio outdoors, or near a window inside that gets plenty of sun. Now you are not going to produce enough food, in this way, to provide a major amount of protein, fat, or carbohydrates for your diet. But take some stored rice and beans, and add tomatoes, herbs, and greens and then you have a much improved meal.

Peppers can also be grown in containers. The smaller containers can produce enough peppers to flavor many meals. A larger container might produce enough peppers to add to a salad or a stir-fry meal, once in a while. Colorful hot peppers can be grown in abundance. Some smaller sweet bell peppers will add to the bounty.

Where To Grow It

A sunny windowsill is perfect for small pots with different herbs. A bay window facing south is probably best for larger plants, such as greens, tomatoes, and peppers. Hanging pots give a plant more room, so that the stems and leaves can spread out and get more sun. Then, if you are a little more ambitious, you could enclose a porch or patio, to make, in effect, a little greenhouse attached to your home.

Another option is to use artificial lighting. On a small scale, the cost and amount of space and electricity is a modest investment. The most expensive thing is the lighting. LED lights are best, as they produce the most light from the least electricity. But they are pricey. I would suggest a few grow-lights used as an addition to light from a sunny window. Once you go whole hog with indoor growing, using hydroponics and lots of LED lights, the benefit-to-cost ratio falls dramatically.

I’ve heard that some people grow cannabis, surreptitiously, indoors. If the food economy collapses, growing food, even indoors, might need to be done in a similar stealthy manner. But again, costs, space, and resource use would be high. It will always be more economical to store food while it is cheap, than to try to grow it when food becomes scarce.

Wild Animal Recipes: From Alligator To Woodchuck

I have always wondered if SHTF and you ran out of food how would you cook squirrel or rabbit etc, I found a great website with a wide range of recipes that include some strange meats like Alligator, swordfish and woodcock.

Its always good to have something like this as a go to if you had to catch your own protein source in any emergency situation. Choose your favorite recipes and print them out. See all the recipes below:

http://www.wildliferecipes.net/

Low-Carb Paleo and Primal for Preppers

I wouldn’t have much to eat in “What’s for Dinner”, so I’m going to write up my own personal paleo/primal low-carb approach to nutrition, especially as it applies to prepping.

The mountain men, hunters, and others rarely had sugar and flour and were healthier. I’m not as active as them, but I’m trying to eat like them.

Micro and Macro Nutrients– What Your Body Really Needs

The first thing to do is separate nutrients from calories. You need nutrients– vitamins, minerals, protein, and a few other things to keep things running. These, like oil and radiator fluid, are things you only need a little of, but they are vital. You also need calories in your fuel tank.

You need a daily supply of vitamins and minerals, the micro-nutrients. For those, when I’m not eating a wide variety of natural food, I have a multi-megavitamin, which has more than enough of my daily supply of all the vitamins and minerals. For example, I don’t have to worry about whether salt is iodized or not, as I get it from the supplement. You need to find vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed by the body, and try to get mega-vitamins. (The USDA 100% requirement is the amount to keep you from death, e.g. scurvy, not the amount to insure your health.) You want to have 100% of what you need each day. Note that some vitamins and minerals are toxic at high doses, so be careful. I’m still looking for the ultimate combination. (My ideal would be to be 110% of the proper amount per 50 pounds of body weight so would be good for men, women, and children.) Feedback and suggestions are welcome, as are suppliers who might want to create such.

The only macronutrient you need is protein. That is in meats, eggs, and some dairy, so instead of worrying about calories, store up the high protein foods. I didn’t mention beans and nuts; many have a lot of protein but also tend to have more carbs, so I don’t do much, but they are also a good choice. You don’t need much, usually only a few ounces, but you do need it. You can get a 5-pound jar of whey protein for about $50. (That’s two to three months for one average person.) I get one unflavored, especially without any added sugar, but there are other kinds of powdered protein. Technically you also need nucleic acids, but you tend to get enough from eating almost anything. Here again, I’m still looking for the perfect protein powder, whey? soy? or something else?

I might only add some “Omega” oil supplements, if you aren’t going to have much fat around. Some lipids are needed, even when not for energy, and your body doesn’t make all of them.

Every nutrient you need for three months fits into a bugout bag with room left over. A small cabinet can contain a 3-year supply.

This makes one thing simple in a TEOTWAKI situation. Just get one set of vitamins and one scoop of protein, and you don’t have to worry about nutrition. No worrying about meats vs. vegetables, but are you getting enough Vitamin A, C, or D, protein, iron, or iodine?

Now for Calories – “Good Calories, Bad Calories” – Fats vs. Carbohydrates (Carbs)

What follows is a bit oversimplified for a short article, but if you want to know more, read the authors, sites, videos, and links for comprehensive information.

When your body has glucose, it won’t burn your fat. Unless you have very little and burn all the glucose daily, you will store, not burn, fat. To burn both carbs and fat, you have to burn a lot of calories like an endurance athlete or our ancestors who had to use lots of muscle power instead of having air conditioned tractors, cars, and washing machines. However, there are endurance athletes who consume no carbs– nothing starchy or sugar-related, and they do fine, many do better.

The “What’s for Dinner” article said Americans consume 40 pounds of sugar yearly. However, most are seriously obese and borderline type 2 diabetic.

Fructose is sugar, but it’s not even a good supply of calories. Only the liver can process it, and you get fatty liver (cirrhosis writ small, not unlike consuming too much alcohol, which is another toxic carb). Obviously, “High Fructose Corn Syrup” is bad, but table sugar (sucrose) is half glucose and half fructose. See Dr. Lustig’s explanation.

Grains, and especially potatoes, are simple starches, which are merely stacked glucose molecules that turn into sugar in your stomach. Yes, you can get a sugar high from potatoes and an insulin spike and everything else, as if you drank a sugary soft drink. There are complex starches in beans and other foods like nuts, but it is easier to avoid all carbs, at least to start. Maltose (in beer) is two glucose molecules. Cellulose is indigestible plant fiber. I’ll leave galactose, lactose, and the other sugars for you to search.

Glucose is also a problem. Your liver can store it up as glycogen (animal starch), as can your muscles, but they can only store a little. Endurance athletes can store lots, but they will burn it all up and burn fat too. Most of us already have a full tank. What happens to the excess fuel? When your blood glucose levels go up, your pancreas (unless you are a type 1 diabetic) releases insulin. Insulin is the hormone that says to store the calories. If your liver and muscles are empty of glycogen, it can go there. Otherwise it changes to fat. Worse, if you also eat fat at the same time you have insulin going up, that fat too will be stored. You will get fat even if you consume no fat, just sugars and starches. Worse, having insulin telling your body to store instead of burn your blood glucose makes you feel weak and hungry, because you are starving inside. You aren’t burning what you’ve just eaten.

Your body (if you aren’t an endurance athlete) will refuse to burn fat until all the internal stores of glucose have been used up and it will resist. You will feel like you are starving, you will feel weak and tired, even if you are obese if your body isn’t set to burn fat. Your body is like a flex-fuel vehicle that slows down and conserves gas until that tank is empty, and only then will switch to diesel.

When you body has adapted to burn fat, it is called “ketosis”. It takes about two weeks of not eating carbs for your body to switch. Your body releases stored fat (or what you eat), your liver turns it into ketones, and your muscles (even your brain) burns them without any problem. You don’t feel hungry. Most people say they have lots of energy and think more clearly. They lose all the extra fat and keep it off as long as they avoid carbs. Most lose their addiction to sugar; they have no insulin spikes and no starvation. Eating fat releases Leptin– the “I’m full” hormone, so they stop eating when they’ve only had a little.

Most of the diet science was revived by Gary Taubes Good Calories, Bad Calories, and his follow-up Why We Get Fat, books available from Amazon, but there is a video with the basics.

I’m also not kidding when I call it “sugar addiction”. Your brain on sugar (other than the insulin shock) looks like your brain on heroin or nicotine, or alcohol. Even caffeine’s main effect is to cause your liver to release glucose into your bloodstream. Avoid booze, illegal drugs, tobacco, but eat 40 pounds of sugar each year?

Saying you must eat potatoes, pasta, bread, or sweets is wrong. You don’t have to. You can eat anything else. You can eat any green (non-starch) vegetable, salads with dressing (read the label to see if they add sugar, HFCS is in everything), eggs any style, meats, and fish. I banished carbs from my house but always have a dish of hard boiled eggs and something like a variety of near-zero-carb cheeses and lunch meats. Coffee and tea are available but no sugar (and no honey!) I have a wide variety but am rarely hungry, usually only after a long time or a lot of activity. Once I had some surgery where I couldn’t eat anything solid for a week. I wasn’t hungry and I lost 10 pounds. I tend to eat out of habit daily, and I do need the nutrients from real food– real meat, milk, eggs, vegetables, and they bring a little fat with them so I’m not pencil thin, but I’m healthy. And I’m doing almost no exercise.

My Challenge

If you want to try, give up sugars and starches for Lent. Especially break your sugar addiction, if nothing else. To switch your body to burn fat, you need to eat no more than 20 grams of carbs every day. (Read the labels, ignore “effective carbs”, and just do total carbs.) See the DietDoctor.com website or find other books– paleo or primal are two diets, Atkins was the original. You just need to read the labels and count carbs, not calories. Then eat as much as you want and maybe a little more when starting to avoid your body thinking it is starving; eat an extra egg.

Between now and Lent, eat up all the carbs in your house (or if you have stores, put them far in the back somewhere) so that by “Fat Tuesday”, green vegetables, fat, and protein are the only things you can eat without going out, but make sure some are right at hand so you can grab them when hungry. And eat a bit more salt; bullion is one way. Look up “carb-flu” for why. It is important not to have the bad calories available. Why do they have candy in the checkouts? This is like pretending having a copy of Playboy on the table is okay because you know your male friends would never give into temptation. This is the “near” in “avoid the near occasion of sin”. For Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, all leaven is removed from the home.

For Lent, eat all the eggs, meats (except when it is a day of abstinence), fish, cottage cheese, green (non-starchy) vegetables you want. I’d be careful with dairy, as milk has lactose. Just count the carbs. Don’t cheat or admit that it isn’t a fair test if you have and fail.

You can use sweeteners, but it is better to lose your sweet cravings completely; sweeteners can by themselves raise insulin levels as your body is anticipating sugar. Still, if it will make the transition easier, do so.

If it works, and you are in ketosis, burning your stored and eaten fat, no longer have a sweet tooth, and you are thinking clearly, have energy, lost 20 pounds or more, you might want to continue. You can lose as much as you want and carry your calories with you, since your body is burning fat. Then determine if you want to store more or get thinner.

Final Notes and Miscellany

As always, especially if you have special medical conditions, check with your family physician, but remember he might have been trained in the old, wrong school that only counting calories matters.

Strictly speaking, storing highly processed food, like sugar and flour, is easy, and if in TEOTWAWKI you are going to be burning 5000+ calories a day, it might be a better option. They are less expensive. (There are pallets of the usual bags at my local grocery store), and even fungi and bacteria won’t eat them.

I don’t understand why it matters if pure sucrose (there is nothing but that in the bag) comes from GMO or non-GMO plants or if it could be produced in a chemical factory.

The Healthy Home Economist is another excellent resource but more toward natural and alternative foods, cooking, and health.

The only sugars I eat is a rare raw honeycomb from local farmers. It is rumored the pollen helps with allergies. It’s not 40 pounds per year but more like four ounces at most, and there’s almost zero fructose (just some low-sugar berries. Lustig notes the natural fiber slows the release), and little starch, mostly complex starches in vegetables, but no potatoes or grains (except for an occasional experiment with paleo-food like einkorn).

I haven’t mentioned storage. I have a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer. I don’t have to mess with canning or worry about botulism, and it is less work. I can open up a bag and start crunching, or I can soak it to restore the original texture with 97% of the nutrition. Canning is high effort to store, reduces nutrition, and you have to be careful to cool afterward. What is the total cost in time, effort, and money to preserve X nutrients using canning versus a Freeze Dryer? Though, you can do canning on a wood stove.

I’ve stored what I’ve been eating all along– meats, eggs, vegetables, yogurt, cottage cheese. I buy extra and freeze-dry it; there’s one for me and one for the cabinet. I store vegetables in the growing season and meats, eggs, et cetera in winter. Oils are another matter, since they need a different approach, and the one in “Whats for Dinner?” works. I prefer butter. I might not even need to dip into my multivitamin and protein powder, if I’m just continuing to eat what I usually do but from my stores. There are lots of natural calories when you know how to get them, but you can’t control the nutrients. If I suddenly go from under 1000 to 5000 calories per day, then I won’t have to worry about eating carbs, and there’s lots of carbs around where I live since that is what the more commercial farms produce here.

Since except for an occasional garden, I don’t grow enough, I’m into CSA – community supported agriculture, Natural meats, Free range hens (sometimes running through the yard), raw milk from grass-fed cows , heirloom seed vegetables, et cetera since I don’t think we were created to digest things which come from factories. Different states have different laws, but I’m surprised – Montana is restrictive and Wyoming next door has food freedom (ignore the headline) from the link: Summer 2015: Governor Matt Mead signed the Wyoming Food Freedom Act into law on March 3. The new law gives farms, ranches, and home kitchens the right to sell any foods they produce, other than meat products, direct to the consumer without any government regulation or inspection. Sales can take place at farms, ranches, private homes, farmers markets, and through delivery. The Food Freedom Act legalizes the sale of any raw dairy product, including unaged cheese. The sale of raw cheese that has not been aged at least 60 days is prohibited in interstate commerce, but states do have the option of not having any aging requirement in their laws. At this time, Wyoming has the most favorable laws on the sale of raw dairy products in the U.S. You might want to remember that if you want to have a farm in the Redoubt. There are still regulations for more commercial sales, but I buy most products at Farmer’s markets.

Mostly, I want to eat real food. Although I suggested natural but processed supplements at the start, that is for an extreme situation. I was blessed with good health and an iron constitution, but I still feel much better since I’ve reduced the supply line and even minimal processing from the plant or animal to my table, which isn’t possible even with big-box “organic” food. Sugar and flour are bad just on that basis. In the garden of Eden, only one tree was off limits. However, the rest were firmly planted in the ground. Post flood, animals were to be respected, even if eaten and not treated like some factory input. Even raw honey, real original fruit, grains, or even potatoes are different (to draw a parallel, how many own or want dachshunds, yorkies, or poodles instead of something that could easily be mistaken for a wolf?). I’m skeptical of some of the miracle claims but am even more skeptical that processed foods aren’t seriously lacking in nutritional value. Low carbs, paleo, primal (though I don’t believe in evolution) is the closest to the ideal.

How to Dry Cure Meat at Home

50 g salt  5 g pink salt #2  20 g Hungarian paprika  20 g pepper  10 g fresh garlic, minced  4 g dextrose  3 g white pepper  24 g reduced dry white wine (Hungarian Tokaji)  3 ft of beef middles 1. If using natural casings, soak the casings in cold water for about an hour, making sure to rinse and replace the water at least once halfway through. Open the casings underneath running water to rinse the insides. 2. Grind partially-frozen meat through small die and pork fat through large die. 3. Dissolve the starter culture in de-chlorinated water. Let sit for 20 minutes. While it is rehydrating, chill the beef and pork in the freezer to keep it cold. 4. Combine meat with starter culture, salt, and remaining dry seasonings. Mix for 1-2 minutes, until it becomes tacky. 5. Add chilled Tokaji wine and mix until combined. If you took the optional step to boil off the alcohol and concentrate the wine flavors, be sure to add the same mass of liquid that the recipe calls for (start with a quantity of wine greater than 24 g and boil this down to 24 g). 6. Stuff immediately into casings. Prick all over with a sterile pin to eliminate air pockets. Weigh the mass of your salamis and record this value. 7. Ferment in the Cave chamber at 70ᵒF and 90% relative humidity for 72 hours. 8. Cold smoke for 6-12 hours. 9. Dry in the Cave at 55-60ᵒF and 75% relative humidity until the salami has lost 30% of its weight. Adjust airflow so that it is highest at start of drying, and gradually decreases until the salami is complete. This may take 2-3 months if using beef middles.

One of the old forms of food preservation is fermenting and curing meat. It’s also one  of the tastiest in artisan salamis, pepperoni, aged cheeses, and of course, bacon, just to name a few. Not only does fermenting add preservation to the meat, but it adds flavor, flavor. Need I repeat it again.

If learning how to do things the old-fashioned way, bringing back traditional skills and learning true art forms, or just plain eating delicious foods that you know where they came from and went into them, then you my friend, are in the right place. Let’s raise our cheeses and pepperoni together!

Today we’re talking about the art of using salt and fermentation to preserve your meat.Many people use the freezer or canning to preserve their foods, and while I’m a die hard Mason jar and canning addict, looking back at older forms of food preservation is just as important.

The art of fermenting is using the good bacteria (and salt with meats or dry curing) to give flavor and preservation to the meat, along with drawing out the moisture, which allows it to be a form of preservation. 

Advantages to Fermented and Dry Cured Meat

Cured meat increases in flavor as it ages, as opposed to time in the freezer where over time your meat slowly degrades. Hanging and aging your whole muscles cuts and salami it concentrates the flavors and gives it a more intense flavor process. Plus, there’s the cool factor of being able to have shelf stable meat cured like the pioneers did.

 How to Dry Cure Meat at Home

Purchase a culture specifically for meat SausageMaker.com or ButcherPacker.com  You can keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to do your meat.

The easiest way to preserve your meat is taking a whole muscle cut, make a salt and spice rub and cover it with the rub, and put it in the fridge for a few days. This way you don’t have to use nitrates or any special ingredients.

After a few days, when the salt has had a chance to get in there and draw out some of the moisture, hang it in a controlled environment at 60 degrees Farenheit with 70% humidity and let it dry until it’s lost about 30% of its water weight. That is preserved traditionally and you can eat it raw.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. I make a commission if you make a purchase, but it costs you  no more. Thank you so much for helping support this site and podcast.

Resources for Dry Curing Meat at Home

Kitchen Scale– digital kitchen scale weighing up to 18 pounds at a time to make sure you can accurately tell when 30% moisture loss has occurred.

Salt This is a pink Himalayan sea salt with no additives

Curing Salt– for use in ground up cured meats to help prevent the growth of botulism

The Cave – unit that allows you to control the temperature and humidity on any refrigerator or freezer.

Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing -the book on how to cure meats at home.

Three FREE Recipes on How to Dry Cure Meat at Home- homemade pepperoni, salami, and prosciutto

How long do you let your muscle cut cure?

Prosciutto cuts can take up to a whole year, but smaller cuts don’t take as long. It depends on when it looses the 30% of its water weight. So you need to weigh the cut going in and then after its aged.

You can make Panchetta, which you usually cook, so if you cook it, and don’t eat it raw, then the 30% weight loss isn’t as crucial.

How do you store your cured meat and how long is it good for?

You can continue to store it in The Cave to continue to age it and concentrating the flavors. If you keep curing it will get really hard, otherwise you can store it in your fridge.Lowering the temperature slows down the aging. You can freeze it as well.

Once the meat is completely dry cured, it is shelf stable. You can keep it out on the counter. But to keep it as palatable as possible,  you store it in the fridge or freezer to extend the shelf life and keep it from drying out too much.

Karen says they take they’re salami camping and don’t worry about keeping it in the fridge.

What cuts are a whole muscle cut?

The most popular would be your back leg of a pig, deer, or lamb. You can do something smaller like a loin or neck muscle. Just a whole muscle group, just follow the line and separate that muscle from the rest of the muscle groups. This way you don’t need a grinder.

A grinder is a small investment and you can find both manual and electric
meat grinders here–>stainless steel meat grinder

You can take any piece of meat and do this process of salting and dry curing it.

Back when people naturally cured their own meant, they’d use an basement, cellar, or attic.

You want a slightly warmer temperature so the good bacteria blooms and forces the bad bacteria out, and not being to cold helps with this.

You can use cheese cloth to wrap your meat while its hanging if its in an open environment like a basement or attic. For ease and safety, a contained chamber is best, not only to keep the bugs off, but to help with humidity and temperature levels.

Karen and James created a product, called The Cave, to control your humidity and temperature that attaches onto any refrigerator or freezer. It has a touch screen that allows you to set the humidity and temperature for dry curing meat, cheeses, and even culturing yogurt and sourdough. It has a wireless app so you can easily change the settings if you’re not home.

Right now (thru June 8, 2016) they have a kickstarter campaign going for the Cave including some special kits and e-books.

The fridge or freezer you put it on should be a single unit (no separate freezer) and the heater for warm cultures works best at 10 square feet.

With cheese and meat, if it gets to dry on the outer layer of your meat and cheeses then it creates a hard crust and that hard crust traps the moisture inside and creates a safety issue. This is why the humidity level is so important.

This is also true of your cheeses, if the good mold doesn’t start to form. We had some disasters in the first few years, before The Cave, which is why we ended up creating.

How to Make Bacon at Home

Take your pork belly and throw it in a container with spices, maple syrup or brown sugar is a favorite, and put it in the fridge and flip it once a day for a week. Then throw it in the smoker or in the oven and cook it to a set temperature and you’ve got your bacon.

On the Kickstarter campaign is bacon making kit, both ginger garlic and apple cinnamon bacon.

Salt Safety in Dry Curing

Again, you really need some type of scale. You need 2.5% percent of the weight of the meat to salt ratio, if the meat is 100 grams then you need 2.5 grams of salt to the meat.

If you’re grinding the meat you need to include some type of sodium nitrate or pink salt, and it’s .25% in order to prevent botulism. Nitrates are controversial, but our opinion is we’d much rather not die of botulism if we’re aging salami, the nitrates protect against that.

You don’t need to use nitrates in a whole muscle cut. Unless, you’re rolling up panchetta, in that type some of the meat has been exposed to oxygen, and some hasn’t. Nitrates are needed when the  meat has been exposed to oxygen and is then put into an anaerobic environment. 

Type of Salts for Dry Curing

You want to use salt that doesn’t have any additives to it, like anti-caking methods.

Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Himalyan Pink Salt.

Is your cured meat okay if its moldy?

Orange and black are bad.

You’re dry aged pepperoni’s are covered in white mold.

You can buy mold powder to add to your meat when you’re hanging them. It’s beneficial to help with the moisture level and to establish the good mold.

We dissolve the mold culture into water and then spray our sausage with it to help bloom that mold onto the surface of our sausage.

What’s the molds purpose?

It helps the flavor profile and when you make a sausage like salami, the casing helps it not dry out too quickly, and the mold does the exact same thing. It helps regulate the moisture loss, so you don’t dry out the outside too quickly and then moisture gets trapped inside instead of releasing.

Three Dry Meat Recipes:

Home Curing Recipes Pepperoni: Homemade pepperoni is worlds above what you can buy in the store. It is also a great “beginner” fermented sausage, since it is aged in a smaller casing and is ready to eat much sooner than other sausages.

1400 g pork  600 g lean beef (or venison)  10 g Bactoferm F-RM-52  50 g de-chlorinated water  50 g salt 5 g Pink salt #2 (not Himalayan salt—pink salt is a mix of sodium nitrite/sodium nitrate)  30 g dextrose  56 g nonfat milk powder  13 g paprika  6 g sugar  6 g black pepper  6 g cayenne pepper  5 g anise seeds, crushed  1 g fennel  24 g reduced dry red wine (optional: boil wine for 15 minutes then chill)  3 meters hog casings, or 6 meters sheep casings

If using natural casings, soak the casings in cold water for about an hour, making sure to rinse and replace the water at least once halfway through. Open the casings underneath running water to rinse the insides. 2. Grind chilled beef and pork through the small die of your grinder. 3. Dissolve the starter culture (F-RM-52) in de-chlorinated water. Let sit for 20 minutes. While it is re-hydrating, chill the beef and pork in the freezer to keep it cold. 4. Combine meat with starter culture, salt, and remaining dry seasonings. Mix for 1-2 minutes, until it becomes tacky. 5. Add chilled dry red wine and mix until combined. If you took the optional step to boil off the alcohol and concentrate the wine flavors, be sure to add the same mass of liquid that the recipe calls for (start with a quantity of wine greater than 24 g and boil this down to 24 g). 6. Stuff immediately into casings. Prick all over with a sterile pin to eliminate air pockets. Weigh the mass of your sausages and record this value. 7. Ferment using the Cave fermentation controller at 85ᵒF and 90% relative humidity for 12 hours. 8. Optional: cold smoke for 6 hours. 9. Dry using the Cave fermentation controller at 55-60ᵒF and 75% relative humidity until the pepperoni has lost 30% of its weight. Adjust airflow so that it is highest at start of drying, and gradually decreases until the pepperoni is complete. This should take approximately 2-3 weeks, if using hog casings (less time if using sheep casings)

Goat Prosciutto: Lamb or goat prosciutto is easy to make, requiring only a few minutes of hands-on time before hanging in the Cave. It is intensely flavorful and has an amazing mouth-feel when sliced thin. This is a traditional recipe made with juniper berries, garlic, and fresh rosemary. You could also substitute other game animals for this

de-boned and butterflied goat leg (or leg roast)  3.8% sea salt  0.25% cure #2 (optional)  3.0% sugar  2.0% minced garlic  1.0% fresh rosemary (or 0.6% dried rosemary)  1.4% pepper  0.4% crushed juniper berries 1. Start by de-boning and butterflying the goat leg. Trim off any silverskin. 2. Mix the salt, cure, and seasonings Cure in the refrigerator: place it all in a zip-loc bag (or a covered non-reactive container) and put in the refrigerator. Cure for about 5 days, being sure to redistribute the cure every day or so. 4. Rinse in water or wine and pat dry. Weigh the meat and record this number. 5. Tie with butcher’s twine and hang in the Cave. Age at 55ᵒF and 75% relative humidity. The goat prosciutto is done when it has lost 30% of its weight and is firm to the touch. 6. Slice thin and enjoy!

Hungarian Salami Hungarian salami is a slow-fermented sausage with traditional flavors of Hungarian paprika, pepper, and garlic.

1200 g pork  400 g lean beef (or venison)  400 g pork fat  0.9 g T-SPX dissolved in 30 g de-chlorinated water 50 g salt  5 g pink salt #2  20 g Hungarian paprika  20 g pepper  10 g fresh garlic, minced  4 g dextrose  3 g white pepper  24 g reduced dry white wine (Hungarian Tokaji)  3 ft of beef middles 1. If using natural casings, soak the casings in cold water for about an hour, making sure to rinse and replace the water at least once halfway through. Open the casings underneath running water to rinse the insides. 2. Grind partially-frozen meat through small die and pork fat through large die. 3. Dissolve the starter culture in de-chlorinated water. Let sit for 20 minutes. While it is rehydrating, chill the beef and pork in the freezer to keep it cold. 4. Combine meat with starter culture, salt, and remaining dry seasonings. Mix for 1-2 minutes, until it becomes tacky. 5. Add chilled Tokaji wine and mix until combined. If you took the optional step to boil off the alcohol and concentrate the wine flavors, be sure to add the same mass of liquid that the recipe calls for (start with a quantity of wine greater than 24 g and boil this down to 24 g). 6. Stuff immediately into casings. Prick all over with a sterile pin to eliminate air pockets. Weigh the mass of your salamis and record this value. 7. Ferment in the Cave chamber at 70ᵒF and 90% relative humidity for 72 hours. 8. Cold smoke for 6-12 hours. 9. Dry in the Cave at 55-60ᵒF and 75% relative humidity until the salami has lost 30% of its weight. Adjust airflow so that it is highest at start of drying, and gradually decreases until the salami is complete. This may take 2-3 months if using beef middles.

So You Want to Eat a Tree

Trees provide us with lots to eat―all kinds of nuts, fruits, and berries, not to mention maple syrup. But what about the other stuff: can we eat the trees themselves?

It turns out we sure can. While trees should not be your go-to forager’s fare (in fact, they’re more of a famine food), their different parts can be repurposed into all kinds of nibbles, often venturing into the gourmet.

By Tao Tao Holmes

MAY 20, 2016

Trees provide us with lots to eat―all kinds of nuts, fruits, and berries, not to mention maple syrup. But what about the other stuff: can we eat the trees themselves?

It turns out we sure can. While trees should not be your go-to forager’s fare (in fact, they’re more of a famine food), their different parts can be repurposed into all kinds of nibbles, often venturing into the gourmet.

We chatted with several dedicated foragers to get the inside scoop on how best to eat trees. Here’s a guide to what we found: the edible parts of trees.

Sassafras roots and bark are used to make different teas and beer. (Photo: The 3 Foragers)

Cambium
Cambium is the layer of inner bark between the hard wood and the rough, papery outer bark: it’s a soft, moist, paler layer, the part of the trunk that is actively growing. It’s nutrient rich, and if you taste it, can actually be sweet, though the taste can vary a lot from tree to tree. The cambium of hundreds of trees―most, in fact―is edible, and can be harvested throughout all four seasons.

If you’re desperate, or just curious, you can try chewing it, kind of like gum. More palatable, perhaps, is if you shred cambium into strips and boil it, to soften the texture and taste, or turn it into chips or bark jerky by frying it in oil or butter. Dry roasting can create an almost crouton-like salad topping. However, it’s most commonly (and historically) repurposed as a flour: dried and then pounded into a powder, which can then be used in breads and baking, and added to other flours.

But you won’t last long on cambium alone, and if you eat too much of it, you’ll definitely upset your bowels. Naturalist and self-declared “Wildman” Steve Brill says that if you’re trying to survive on cambium, you have no idea what you’re doing.

Just pluck it off and pop it in your mouth. (Photo: The 3 Foragers)

Spruce Tips
Delivering a strong taste of pine and citrus, spruce tips are easy to gather and currently in season. You’ll find them on evergreens, such as the spruce and pine, as the trees are growing their new needles for the year. Those small, young, soft bits at the end of branches―a lighter color than the matured needles―are fully edible, and tender enough to just eat them on the spot. Karen Monger, who runs a website devoted to family foraging, says that her kids like to chew them plain.

You can also candy them, or use them to infuse a sugar or salt by mashing them with mortar and pestle; adding a cupful of spruce tips while baking scones or shortbread adds a really interesting flavor, says Debbie Naha, a naturalist and nutritionist who specializes in wild edible plants.

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Though spruce tips are only available in spring, pine needles are perennial, and you can give the needles of the white pine a quick chop and simmer to make tea, which Naha notes is a good source of Vitamin C.

Alder bark can be used as a bittering agent for primitive beer and also to provide a reddish color. (Photo: Pascal Baudar)

Outer bark
While today, bark is not seen as a viable or appealing food source, you might be surprised to know that the name “Adirondack”―best known for the mountain range, but also the name of a Native American tribe―derives from the Mohawk Indian word atirú:taks, which actually means “tree eaters.” It appears to have been aderogatory term used on neighboring Algonquian tribes who would resort to buds and bark when food was scarce.

Bark flour has made numerous cameos as an emergency food; for example, during World War I, there’s evidence of ground birch bark being added to enhance rations. During World War II, since flour was expensive, wood chip powder was regularly used as a filler.

The bark of the black birch has strongly wintergreen-flavored inner bark and twigs, that can be made into birch beer, used to flavor drinks and desserts. (Photo: The 3 Foragers)

Sassafras bark and root are used to make the traditional Southern tea, as well as traditional root beer. The bark of the hickory nut tree can be stripped off and boiled into a simple syrup, that boasts an earthy, nutty flavor and can be added to breakfast foods and baked meats.

Birch bark can be used as a flavoring, providing a sweet, wintergreen kind of taste. In parts of Scandinavia, pine bark is reduced to powder and made into cookies with the subtle flavor of Christmas. The ponderosa pine, for example, smells distinctly of vanilla.

Pascal Baudar’s shrimp cooked in eucalyptus bark with mountain spices such as white fir and manzanita berries. (Photo: Pascal Baudar)

In the middle ages, a lot of bitter barks were used to make beer, as well as being used for dyes, says Pascal Baudar, a professional forager and wild food consultant. Baudar likes to roast bark and use it in vinegar, which imparts a smoky, aged taste.

He’ll sometimes smoke and roast old bark and put it in sauerkraut, or he might infuse the bark with beer or white wine and use it cook fish. Baudar also uses bark as part of his concoction to make bitters, but a lot of the time, he simply uses bark to plate the food, rather than as an ingredient itself.

Linden tree bracts and flowers, which make an aromatic and relaxing herbal tea. (Photo: The 3 Foragers)

Leaves
To answer your burning question: yes, you can make trees into salad. The young, tender leaves of trees like the beech, birch, Chinese elm, fennel, mulberry, hawthorne, sassafras, and linden can be tossed into a salad, though some are better tasting than others. You can also pick and eat them fresh off the tree.

Steven Brill has used the very young leaves of white oak trees to make wine (the best wild wine he’s ever made, he says). Leaves, like cambium, have also served as a famine food in the past, as well as being used for medicinal purposes.

Black locust flowers, equally beautiful and delicious, can be used to make sweet and fragrant crepes, doughnuts, drinks, and custards—though all other parts of the tree are toxic. (Photo: The 3 Foragers)

Flowers
A number of trees grow delicious flowers. Right now, says Naha, the redbud tree boasts beautiful and very nutritious pink flowers, which are packed with antioxidants. And, if you miss your window, you’re still in luck: when the flowers fade, they turn into tiny pods, which can be cooked and eaten like snow peas.

The flowers of the linden tree are the most famous, used in various calming teas and cordials. Those of the black locust are also scrumptious, though be careful―they’re the only part of that tree that isn’t toxic.

Pine pollen, apparently high in testosterone, is used as a dietary supplement, added to baked goods and smoothies. (Photo: The 3 Foragers)

Other comestibles
Maple trees are not the only trees from which you can collect sap. People sometimes tap birch, black walnut, and hickory trees, though their sap has a lower sugar concentration than that of the maple, which makes transformation into syrup too much of a hassle.

Pine trees boast a cornucopia of edible parts. Not only can the cambium, needles, and tips be used in food, but pine cones―the young, male ones―are also edible. The male cones are small and soft, in contrast with their tougher female counterparts. In fact, they are less cones and more clusters (strobilus). On top of that, pine pollen is also collected for use as a dietary supplement.

As for all those tree branches? The twigs of some trees, like the birch and spice bush, can be scratched to extract flavor for drinks, puddings, and sorbets, according to Monger, of The 3 Foragers blog.

Homemade sassafras root beer. (Photo: The 3 Foragers)

There’s definitely a learning curve―don’t just set off into the nearest forest and start tasting plants. While the bark and cambium of most trees is edible, or at least harmless, there are also toxic ones loaded with tannin and cyanide, like in yew and cherry trees.

The ultimate toxic tree is the deadly manchineel, which you should not touch or even go near. You should also be mindful of the trees themselves; when you are harvesting the inner bark, you must make sure not to strip off an entire ring or you’ll kill the tree, cutting off the irrigation system that allows water from the roots to reach the leaves. Brill says that you’d have to be a very particular kind of herbivore―one who specializes in browsing rather than grazing―to really make food out of trees.

And while the internet provides all kinds of field guides, foraging blogs and apps, your best move is to find a forager in your area and go out with them. Dedicated foragers go out nearly every day, and they know exactly where to look―which means that for the most part, you won’t be looking at trees.

Survival Bread

Many years ago, at a Preparedness Fair, I picked up this recipe for Survival Bread. The recipe says that after it’s made, it “will keep indefinitely”. Hmmm… Made me think of Lembas bread – something the elves would make (for you Lord of the Rings fans). “One small bite will fill the belly of a grown man.” Since I can’t stand to waste, it didn’t sound like anything I wanted to HAVE to consume on an otherwise perfectly good day, with soft yeast bread and an abundance of other good foods in the fridge. But this recipe keeps popping up in front of me, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and bake up a brick of Survival Bread today. 

Many years ago, at a Preparedness Fair, I picked up this recipe for Survival Bread. The recipe says that after it’s made, it “will keep indefinitely”. Hmmm… Made me think of Lembas bread – something the elves would make (for you Lord of the Rings fans). “One small bite will fill the belly of a grown man.” Since I can’t stand to waste, it didn’t sound like anything I wanted to HAVE to consume on an otherwise perfectly good day, with soft yeast bread and an abundance of other good foods in the fridge. But this recipe keeps popping up in front of me, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and bake up a brick of Survival Bread today.

Here’s the original recipe, just as I received it:

Survival Bread

2 cups oats

2 1/2 cups powdered milk

1 cup sugar

3 Tbl honey

3 Tbl water

1 pkg. lemon or orange Jell-O (3oz)

Combine oats, powdered milk and sugar. In a medium pan, mix water, Jell-O and honey. Bring to a boil. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. (If the dough is too dry, add a small amount of water a teaspoon at a time.) Shape dough into a loaf. (About the size of a brick.) Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Cool. Wrap in aluminum foil to store. This bread will keep indefinitely and each loaf is the daily nutrients for one adult. 

Well, the ingredients don’t sound too bad, but that last line bothers me for some reason. Healthy food should deteriorate, shouldn’t it? I have teenage boys and not much goes to waste around here, so I figured it was worth trying out. Even though the recipe doesn’t specify, I used quick oats. As for the liquid, that little bit didn’t even begin to cover it. It was so dry, I was still stirring mostly powder, so I ended up adding another 1/3 cup water plus more – almost 1/2 cup! It was very stiff, and very sticky. I wonder if I should have added less and got my hands in there and just packed it all together when it was still a lot drier. I don’t know, but here’sthe results:

It doesn’t look so bad! AND – it actually tasted pretty good! It has a heavy powdered milk taste, which I’m not a big fan of, but with a little butter, or honey, or butter AND honey(!) I hardly noticed. I’m sure the recipe can be altered. Maybe less powdered milk and more oats? Unless it’s formulated to an exact scientifically nutritional specification! 🙂  But I doubt it.

Has anyone else had any experience with survival bread? Or maybe if you have a different recipe you’d like to share, email it to me and I’ll post it with your name.

Food/Water

First – Why store food? There are many reasons why it is beneficial to store extra food. Numerous life events can impact the ability to provide for your family. These events can include unemployment, inflation, sudden unexpected expenses, and of course some catastrophic disaster (man-made or natural). The bottom line is – you will always need food. Period.

What follows willfocus on short-term, medium-to-long term, and long-term food storage options.

First – Why store food? There are many reasons why it is beneficial to store extra food. Numerous life events can impact the ability to provide for your family. These events can include unemployment, inflation, sudden unexpected expenses, and of course some catastrophic disaster (man-made or natural). The bottom line is – you will always need food. Period.

What follows willfocus on short-term, medium-to-long term, and long-term food storage options.

Getting started: Short-term food storage

Much of what sits in your cupboards and pantry right now are foods that can be stored for the short-term (3 months to 2 years). If you are beginning a food storage program – the bulk of your food should sit in this category. There is a saying – “Store what you eat and eat what you store.”I am a big believer in this as common everyday foods – compared to many specialty long-term foods – are relatively inexpensive and readily available at your local grocery store.

Virtual grocery store trip – Since I can’t go to your local grocery store with you – I went to mine and snapped a few photo’s (and received some very strange looks!). The purpose of this was to show you some food storage items that are available and inexpensive.

One note on shelf life: I will be discussing shelf life in terms seen on the packaging of the food. My experience as well as numerous others is that the actual shelf life of most food is MUCH longer that indicated on the packaging. With today’s lawsuit friendly environment as well as to increase sales – expiration dates are very conservative.

 

Soup

 Soup.  Does the body good. Right?

Canned soup has been a mainstay of family pantries for decades. Relatively inexpensive and having a pretty good shelf life (2-3 or more years). One great thing about soups is the huge variety of flavors. Bean & Bacon is my personal favorite from Campbell’s – but there are probably more than 50 varieties to choose from.

I typically stock up on Campbell’s Chicken Noodle and Tomato for as little as .20 cents a can when bought on sale and also using coupons.

This is a excellent place to take your shopping cart first during our virtual shopping trip.

 

Stuffing…..great side dish and decent shelf life

 Side Dish. Stuffing isn’t just for Thanksgiving! These dry boxes of stuffing store well as long as they are kept in a location where critters cannot reach them. Shelf life is usually around 1 year. Dry stuffing requires the addition of a little water to prepare and then heating. Excellent to add variety to your “Store what you eat and eat what you store” program.

Next.

Coffee!!!!!!!A great morale booster and barter item

Coffee.Who could forget coffee. I could because I hate the stuff but I know that most everyone can’t get their day started without it. Excellent barter item and morale booster. Coffee can be purchased on sale and using coupons very inexpensively. Shelf life should be literally forever.

Throw a few in your shopping cart.

Canned Pasta

Pasta. Pasta is a great source of carbohydrates which provide energy. Canned pasta comes ready to eat right out of the can. Like other canned foods – shelf life is around a couple of years. Often can be bought on sale and using coupons to maximize savings.

Moving on.

Beef Stew, SPAM, and canned Ham…….oh my!

Beef Stew, SPAM, and Canned HAM!!

Solid ingredients to a well rounded food storage program right here on these shelves. These items are a little pricier however this is where protein comes in (and a whole lot of salt with the SPAM). Beef stew contains a many ingredients to add variety to your post-SHTF diet. Shelf life similar to soup. SPAM is one “kinda-meat-like” substance that can store for many year. Of course a canned ham would be a welcome addition to the dinner table deep into a grid-down situation. Shelf life for canned ham is several years – minimum.

Just imagine – many people struggling to figure out what they will be eating after SHTF, and pop open a canned ham. Feel bad for them…..don’t be one of them.

Start filling that cart up here……

More soup – such a huge variety…..

More soup. Ok…..I got lost and ended up back at the soup. Just look at this……more and more soup of all kinds of flavors and varieties. Especially in colder climates – soup is a welcome meal when it is cold out.

Go ahead…..you know you want to….throw a few more cans in the cart. (Don’t dent them!)

Hormel Compleats Meals……poor man’s MRE

Hormel Compleats. These are great as they are all pre-cooked and taste very good. These meals come in a plastic tray with some type of thick Mylar top. Often referred to as a poor-mans MRE as it does come Ready to Eat. These cost around $2.00 each – cheaper with coupons.

Stack ‘em up….

Canned Chicken

Canned Chicken. There are not that many sources for storage-grade meat from the grocery store. Canned chicken (as well as tuna) is one of them. Not very cheap – but stores well and would be very valuable when food sources are scarce.

Add some to your cart……..

Beans, beans………and more beans

Dried Beans. Dried beans are super cheap and very versatile. There are so many things you can do with beans. Years ago beans used to be called the “poor mans meat”. They are high in carbohydrates, low in fat, and contains protein as well. Do some research on bean storage and recipes – you will be happy.

Stack ‘em high!!

Rice…..a food storage basic

Rice. Combining rice and beans in a meal provide a “complete protein”. Rice, like beans, is very inexpensive. Buy it and store it in bulk. There is a tremendous amount of ways that rice can be prepared. This one food can and should be a major part of your food storage program. Shelf life? If properly stored – forever.

Load up about 20 pounds right now in your shopping cart……

Canned Beans

Canned beans. One of my favorite foods. I love to open up a can of Bush’s Baked Beans. Good shelf life (2+ years) and inexpensive considering the amount you receive in a can.

Stock up…….you can’t have too much.

Ramen Noodles…..gotta have ’em

Ramen Noodles.A common food item discussed in preparedness forums. Ramen Noodles are popular due to their lightweight, decent taste, and very very inexpensive. These do require a decent amount of water to prepare. Cost runs less than .25 cents per serving. Shelf Life? If properly stored more than 2 years.

Get another shopping cart and fill it up with just Ramen Noodles.

Instant Potatoes

Instant Potatoes. Potatoes have to be one of the most used and consumed foods – next to corn. Instant potatoes which are prepared generally with water, milk and butter is very inexpensive. Coupons are often available. Shelf life on the package is usually a little over 1 year.

Buy a bunch – along with some powdered milk.

Oatmeal & Grits

Oatmeal & Grits. If you like this stuff (I don’t) stock up on it. Inexpensive – you can get a lot for your money. Another good candidate for storing what you eat and eating what you store. There is a lot you can do with both of these as far as preparing them in different ways.

Grab a few…….

Peanuts

Peanuts. An all-time favorite snack. As a survival food – peanuts contain a high amount of energy in a small amount of food. After SHTF – calories will be valuable. Peanuts are high in calories. Shelf life is a couple of food.

Throw a few varieties in your shopping cart……..

Pancake Mix & Syrup

 Pancake Mix & Syrup.  Obviously these go together. There are several varieties of pancake mix available that need only water to make. This would be the best kind for storage. Easy to prepare and a great morale booster. Shelf life…..like many others – up to 2 years or more.

These are cheap……go ahead and get a few boxes and a couple bottles.

Hot Cocoa Mix………cheap “smiles in a cup”

 Cocoa Mix. Got kids? Being able to make hot chocolate….especially in the cold….will be of great comfort when things are not the best. Shelf life is a good couple of years.

  Get at least 3 boxes……get the ones on sale.  

 

That’s it……that’s the tour.

Summary: Buy lots of your favorite foods on sale and using coupons when you can. From there……store what you eat and eat what you store.

Medium – Long Term Food Storage: This food category is often stored in larger quantities in easy to stack pails.  Military MRE’s are generally stored in boxes by the case.

Here are a few examples of typical bulk-packed food items in this category:

  • Wheat
  • Rice
  • Beans/Legumes
  • Oats
  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Instant Milk

Many when considering these types of foods for storage think of wheat, milk, honey and salt (Mormon basics). For variation and to reduce monotony – additional items need to be included.

What is critical for proper preparation of these bulk foods are additional supplies/equipment such as grain mills, spices/seasoning, and oil. Eating bowls of boiled beans and rice will not be very satisfying day after day.

Properly stored foods from this category can have a shelf life from 7 to 20 years. Several of my sponsors carry these products so take a look around.

This is one subject that I must pass the torch to the experts.

  • Wheat
  • Honey
  • Breads and Cereals
  • Beans

One significant advantage of these foods is the cost. It is possible to establish a years supply of bulk packed food for one person for less than $500. Not bad at all. 

MRE’s (Meal, Ready to Eat): The MRE was developed for the military for use in a combat environment where full cooking facilities may not be available. These meals come fully cooked and are – as the name suggests – ready to eat right out right out of the package. Each bagged meal contains approx 1200 calories which come from the main entree as well as snacks, a side dish, and a dessert.

Typical contents of a Meal, Ready to Eat

MRE’s are a very popular food storage item due to their dense caloric content, ease of preparing, cost, and decent taste. MRE’s made specifically for the military are not easy to find and in my opinion the least desirable type of MRE. I prefer MRE’s made for the civilian market which is often manufactured by the same companies that make them for the military. The advantage of civilian MRE’s is you have better knowledge over how they have been stored. You never know if the case of military MRE’s that you just purchased might have sat in the 120 degree sun in Iraq.

Shelf-life is reported to be in the neighborhood of 7 years – more if stored in cool conditions.

Cases of MRE’s are available through several of my sponsors – so check them out

Long-term food storage – 25+ years
Freeze Dried Food is known for being lightweight, have a very long shelf life, and are great for activities like backpacking and hunting. Freeze dried foods are easy to prepare – generally needing only water and a heat source to warm. Due to this these foods are often used for survival kits, bug out bags, and of course as an ingredient in long-term survival preps.

This category is exciting to me due to the incredible shelf life and variety of foods available. Many of my sponsors carry a variety of freeze dried foods in multiple packaging methods. One very important factor with freeze dried foods – is taste. I have tried quite a few varieties and for me – taste is hit or miss. Some are great – some are not. I must admit I am a picky eater so for you this may not be much of an issue. Small foil packs can be purchased for taste tests.

Bottom line – freeze dried food is an excellent food storage solution for pretty much any disaster situation. They are more expensive than every day grocery store foods – but of course they have several advantages over them to justify the cost.

There you have it folks. Now – check your inventory and make a plan to add to it. The reality is….your and your family’s life just may depend on it.

Budget Friendly Ground Beef Jerky Recipe

Homemade ground beef jerky is easy and economical. You can use lean beef or venison – whichever you have available – and common pantry ingredients (except the liquid smoke, which I did buy just for jerky making). My jerky gun came with seasoning and cure packets, but these were full of all the ingredients I’m trying to avoid in commercial jerkies (MSG, hydrolyzed soy protein, nitrates, etc.).  (Those little packets are expensive, too, if you purchase them separately.)

Homemade ground beef jerky is easy and economical. You can use lean beef or venison – whichever you have available – and common pantry ingredients (except the liquid smoke, which I did buy just for jerky making). My jerky gun came with seasoning and cure packets, but these were full of all the ingredients I’m trying to avoid in commercial jerkies (MSG, hydrolyzed soy protein, nitrates, etc.).  (Those little packets are expensive, too, if you purchase them separately.)

Do you need a jerky gun to make jerky with ground beef?  Nope – but it’s rather handy and somewhat entertaining.

Why Use Ground Beef for Homemade Jerky Instead of Beef Strips?

I prefer ground beef jerky for three main reasons:

  1. It’s cheaper. I can get ground beef or venison much cheaper than a roast.
  2. It’s easier to make. Working the jerky gun or rolling the meat out thinly is much easier than wrestling to cut strips out of a piece of meat with bone and connective tissue intact.
  3. It’s easier to chew. Eating a piece of regular beef jerky can sometimes be like chewing on an old shoe, especially when there’s a lot of connective tissue. Ground beef jerky has the meaty, salty jerky taste we love without the bits that get stuck in your teeth.

This recipe has been adapted from Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook – “All American Marinated Beef Jerky”.  Mary makes hers with beef strips, but it worked well as a ground beef jerky recipe, too.  For the soy sauce, I prefer grain free organic tamari. Most soy in the US that is not organically grown is genetically modified, and non-organic wheat may be sprayed with glyphosate prior to harvest.

Homemade Ground Beef Jerky Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or venison

Directions

In a glass bowl, combine all ingredients and let sit (refrigerated) for at least two hours.  I mixed this up at bedtime and let it sit until after lunch the next day, and it wasn’t too strong.

Load the mixture in the jerky gun and use the gun to load your dehydrator trays.  I do recommend using the mesh inserts or fruit leather trays for your dehydrator. This mixture is fairly soft because of the added liquid, which makes it easier to fire through the gun.

If you don’t have a jerky gun, roll the mixture out very thinly (1/8 inch thick) and score lines where you would like the pieces to break apart.

Dry at 145° – 165° F (63° – 74° C) for 4 to 12 hours, until jerky is hard but still flexible and contains no pockets of moisture. For extra safety, heat finished jerky in a 275° F (135° C) oven for 10 minutes.

Jerky will last in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 – 2 months. For longer storage, place in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Vacuum sealing will extend shelf life.

How Much Homemade Jerky Do You Get from One Pound of Raw Meat?

The weight of the jerky will decrease by about two-thirds during the drying time, so for every pound of raw meat you use, you’ll get around one-third pound of finished homemade jerky.

How Can I Be Sure My Jerky is Safe to Eat?

The University of Wisconsin suggests the following two options for safe jerky making at home:

  1. Dry meat at 145° – 155°F for at least 4 hours followed by heating in a preheated 275°F oven for 10 minutes. Drying meat at a temperature below 145°F will produce a product that looks done before it is heated enough to destroy pathogens, and before it has lost enough moisture to be shelf-stable.Only a few dehydrators currently on the market will maintain the necessary temperature of 145° – 155°F: the Gardenmaster by Nesco/American Harvest and the Excalibur are two such units. Each of these units has a large heating element, strong air flow, and adjustable temperature setting. Dry for at least 4 hours (6 hours is preferable) and remove jerky from the dehydrator. Place dried strips on a baking sheet, close together but not touching or overlapping. Heat in a pre-heated 275°F oven for 10 minutes to an internal temperature of 160°F – strips thicker than ¼” (when raw) may require longer to reach 160°F. In our research, strips removed from the oven were sizzling hot. Remove oven-heated samples from the oven, cool to room temperature, and package. Always include the post‐drying oven‐heating treatment as a safety precaution.
  2. Steam or roast meat strips in marinade to an internal temperature of 160°F before drying; heat poultry to 165°F (internal temperature) before drying. The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline currently recommends this method for making safe jerky. The pre‐heating step assures that any bacteria present will be destroyed before drying and a lower dehydrator temperature (130° to 140°F) can be used. After boiling, dehydrate meat for 4 to 6 hours. No post-dehydration oven-heating is necessary. Since it can be impossible to accurately measure the internal temperature of a thin strip of meat, consumers can boil meat in marinade (or water) for 5 minutes before drying. Unfortunately, this USDA‐recommended method produces a dried, crumbly product that would be judged inferior by Wisconsin standards for chewy, flexible jerky.

Do I Need a Dehydrator to Make Jerky?

No, it is possible to dry jerky in the oven.

Process homemade jerky in a 250° F (120° C) oven with the door slightly open for 2.5 hours. Rotate baking sheet and bake for three hours more.

You may be able to reduce drying time slightly by flipping the jerky over at the 2.5 hour mark so the underside of the jerky is exposed.

With the Excalibur dehydrator, a batch of jerky is done in about 4-6 hours, depending on the humidity level. Drying overnight gets the jerky a little too dry for my taste. It’s still good, but a little too crumbly.

The last time we made jerky, my eldest mixed up the jerky marinade and meat one day and my youngest loaded up the Excalibur the next morning. The jerky gun makes nice, thin strips about an inch wide when you use the “double barrel” attachment.  The gun also has option of a single wide strip or a tube shape.

We made some of the wide strips (he wanted to try the different barrels) and perforated them with a thin bladed spatula so they broke apart easily when dry. (You can use this same scoring technique for jerky that’s rolled out instead of made with a jerky gun.)

Scoring the jerky Scoring the jerky After drying, the jerky breaks easily apart.   After drying, the jerky breaks easily apart.

This has become one of my favorite snack foods since we’ve been working to reduce our carbohydrate and grain intake.  It’s relatively quick and easy to make, and the gun was pretty inexpensive.

Do you have a favorite jerky recipe?  Have you tried making jerky with ground beef?  Has anyone tried making jerky out of organ meats?  I’d love to hear from you.

Ground Beef Jerky

Easy and economical jerky recipe that’s great for lean beef or venison.

Ingredients

  1. 1/2 cup soy sauce
  2. 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  3. 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  4. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  5. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  6. 1 pound lean ground beef or venison

Instructions

  1. In a glass bowl, combine all ingredients and let sit (refrigerated) for at least two hours. I mixed this up at bedtime and let it sit until after lunch the next day, and it wasn’t too strong.
  2. Load the mixture in the jerky gun and use the gun to load your dehydrator trays. I do recommend using the mesh inserts or fruit leather trays for your dehydrator. This mixture is fairly soft because of the added liquid, which makes it easier to fire through the gun.
  3. If you don’t have a jerky gun, roll the mixture out very thinly (1/8 inch thick) and score lines where you would like the pieces to break apart.
  4. Dry at 145° – 165° F (63° – 74° C) for 4 to 12 hours, until jerky is hard but still flexible and contains no pockets of moisture. For extra safety, heat finished jerky in a 275° F (135° C) oven for 10 minutes.

Notes

  1. Jerky will last in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 – 2 months. For longer storage, place in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Vacuum sealing will extend shelf life.
  2. Ingredients
  3. 1/2 cup soy sauce
  4. 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  5. 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  6. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  7. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  8. 1 pound lean ground beef or venison
  9. Instructions
  10. In a glass bowl, combine all ingredients and let sit (refrigerated) for at least two hours. I mixed this up at bedtime and let it sit until after lunch the next day, and it wasn’t too strong.
  11. Load the mixture in the jerky gun and use the gun to load your dehydrator trays. I do recommend using the mesh inserts or fruit leather trays for your dehydrator. This mixture is fairly soft because of the added liquid, which makes it easier to fire through the gun.
  12. If you don’t have a jerky gun, roll the mixture out very thinly (1/8 inch thick) and score lines where you would like the pieces to break apart.
  13. Dry at 145° – 165° F (63° – 74° C) for 4 to 12 hours, until jerky is hard but still flexible and contains no pockets of moisture. For extra safety, heat finished jerky in a 275° F (135° C) oven for 10 minutes.
  14. Notes
  15. Jerky will last in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 – 2 months. For longer storage, place in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Vacuum sealing will extend shelf life.

Portable soup

Reblogged from:  http://stoneaxeherbals.blogspot.com/2016/01/how-to-make-simple-nourishing-bone-broth.html

broth

FLEX-GRUB SUSTAIN EMERGENCY MEALS

Our ancestors have been making instant, travel ready meals in various forms from jerky or pemmican to powdered grains and vegetables for thousands of years. In the last 500 or so years portable soup, known previously as “veal glew”, “cake soup”, “broth cakes”, “solid soop”, “portmanteau pottage”, “pocket soup”, “carry soup”, “soop always in readiness”, and “glue-broth”, has been gaining popularity. The modern equivalent, bouillon, while flavorful, is a far cry from the life sustaining and convenient portable soup of yore. Traditionally, it is made from bone broth boiled down until thick and gelatinous and then dehydrated. To make your own portable soup, see the recipe I provided in yesterday’s post “How to Make Simple Nourishing Bone Broth”. You can also learn about why bone broth is amazingly healthy and why I love it here.

While some valued portable soup for its flavor, the vast majority preferred it for its high nutrient value, lightweight nature, and convenience of cooking. And who can disagree when 1/2 cup of it weighs just a couple of oz and makes over a gallon of bone broth in just minutes? In the 17th- 19th centuries portable soup was highly popular among soldiers, travelers, explorers of distant lands, woodsmen, housewives, and sailors. So popular in fact that many famous explorers brought large quantities of it with them. In 1804 Lewis and Clark went over budget to spend $189.50 for 193 lbs of the stuff, more than they spent on instruments, arms, or ammunition. Captain Cook brought 1,000 lbs of it on the Endeavor for his 1772 voyage to Australia. He was said to be a fan because they “enable us to make several nourishing and wholesome messes and was the means of making the people eat a greater quantity of vegetables than they would otherwise have done”. Although, the people apparently  did not like eating their vegetables because it is reported that Cook flogged any who refused to eat it.
William Byrd II, the founder of Richmond, Virginia, described it as “a wholesome kind of food, of very small weight, and very great nourishment, that will secure them from starving, in case they should be so unlucky as to meet with no game” and suggested that “should you be fainting with fasting or fatigue, let a small piece of this glue melt in your mouth, and you will find yourself surprisingly refreshed”. Even the Scottish poet Robert Burns describes hunters carrying portable soup in their packs.

Portable soup was not just for wars and expeditions, though, it was also a common household staple, prized for its convenience, ease of preservation, and its ability to nourish the ailing. From the 1694 book recipe “To Make Veal Glue” from The Receipt Book of Mrs Anne Blencow to Hannah Glasse’s 1747 cookbook The Art of Cookery Plain and Easy to the 1743 Lady’s Companion, portable soup was featured in many cookbooks of the era. In 1837 Eliza Leslie advised in her Directions for Cookery, “If you have any friends going the overland journey to the Pacific, a box of portable soup may be the most useful present to them”.

Portable soup became commercially available in 1840 when Justus von Leibig, a german chemist, developed “beef extract” to feed the “craving multitudes”. Spoiler alert, like a beauty pageant queen von Leibig did not solve wold hunger. Von Leibig did feed Henry Morton Stanley on his search through Africa for Dr. David Livingstone, nourished arctic explores such as Nansen, Amundsen, Shackleton, and Scott, and fed Allied soldiers during WWI. It was later marketed to housewives as Oxo.

Although portable soup has sadly morphed into the artificial, MSG filled bouillon of today, the good news is that you can make it yourself with a couple pounds of bones and a lot of time. You can dissolve a teaspoon in a cup of boiling water for a quick snack, use as broth in soup, beans, or rice, add to salads instead of bacon bits, or mix in with pasta or fried rice for an extra kick of flavor and nutrients. Again, you can see how I made portable soup in yesterday’s post “How to Make Simple Nourishing Bone Broth”.
For over 300 more pages on bone broth and portable soup, I highly recommend that you check out Sally Fallon’s new bookNourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World (not a sponsor, I just love this book so much).

This much portable soup will make a gallon of bone broth!!

broth2

Information for this post from:
– Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World by Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla T. Daniel
-National Geographic: http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2014/09/25/the-luke-warm-gluey-history-of-portable-soup/
– Jas. Townsend and Son, Inc. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fE5KzvOZRk

Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completly accurate or complete. Sorry, I’m only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I’m not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them.

What to eat in the wild

Today I want to talk about a subject that always creates a lot of buzz and has generated quite a few emails; what to eat in the wild. As I have said in previous posts about the 5 principles of survival, food is way down on the list as even the skinniest of people can survive for a few weeks without food. Despite that, I want to touch on this subject and answer the questions I have received from readers. The only real way of knowing what to eat in the wild is to do a taste test.

what-to-eat-in-the-wild

Today I want to talk about a subject that always creates a lot of buzz and has generated quite a few emails; what to eat in the wild. As I have said in previous posts about the 5 principles of survival, food is way down on the list as even the skinniest of people can survive for a few weeks without food. Despite that, I want to touch on this subject and answer the questions I have received from readers. The only real way of knowing what to eat in the wild is to do a taste test.

The taste test for unknown foods

The process is actually very simple, but time consuming, and there are a few things I want to stress before I go on

1. This system DOES NOT work with mushrooms and fungi, unless you are an expert then leave them well alone. Mushrooms and fungi will kill you in some pretty horrific and painful ways if you get it wrong. How can I tell a poisonous mushroom? Truthfully, it is just too hard to tell and is simply not worth the risk vs nutritional benefit received.

2. There are exceptions to every rule; what I am teaching is a rule of thumb but it is not fool-proof.

3. It is better to understand what plants and animals are in your area before you need them in an emergency. That should hopefully allow you to live off the land. The process that follows is to be used in extremis only (see point 2.)

4. Tasting something that you are unsure of can result in death, so never eat something that you cannot positively identify as edible or if you are in a true life or death situation. If you are truly starving then use the following taste test.

What exactly is the process then?

  • Take a very small piece of the food and rub it on your skin – Wait 24 hours
  • Take a very small piece and rub it on a small part of your lip – Wait 24 hours
  • Take a very small piece and rub it on your tongue – Wait 24 hours
  • Take a very small piece, chew it and spit it out – Wait 24 hours
  • Take a very small piece and eat it – Wait 24 hours
  • Take a larger piece and eat it – wait 24 hours
  • Gradually increase the size waiting 24 hours each time until you are content its not having an adverse effect on you.

what-to-eat-in-the-wild2

You are probably thinking, ‘I will have starved by the time I get to eat anything’ and you are not far wrong. Unfortunately the wait is the most important part of the test, you are waiting to see if you suffer ANY abnormal reaction. If you do, then under NO circumstances eat what you are testing. That is why education and practice are your best bet; positively identifying something as edible will mean you don’t have to do any tests.

But all is not lost there is a way to speed the process up slightly; however, see rule 3.

What to eat in the wild if you really have to.

Plants – If it is hairy, has a milky sap, strong smell or has brightly coloured berries then avoid.

Animals – Mammals and reptiles are generally a safe bet as are most fish. Avoid the livers of uncommon animals such as seals or Polar Bears which have toxic levels of Vitamin A
Insects – Okay, I know what you are thinking and trust me I feel the same… However, some of the most nutritious and easily accessible foods available are insects. Avoid if they are hairy, have spines, brightly coloured or are known to be venomous. It is also good practice to avoid insects that you would associate with your house as they will likely be diseased i.e. Cockroaches. And, honestly they don’t taste that bad, I have tried quite a few over the years.

what-to-eat-in-the-wild3

Funny story – When doing the Desert Survival Instructor course in the Nevada Desert we were being given a lesson on finding food. Our instructor (Chalky, you bastard!) told us that a delicacy in the founding years of the USA was
an insect called the perfume beetle. It is a small black beetle,
than when threatened, would do a little handstand and secrete a fluid from its butt.

So there we were as trainee Desert Survival Instructors all looking to impress and do well. When Chalky challenged us to eat the sweet tasting ‘Perfume Beetle’ we all jumped at the chance! So half a dozen of us at the same time took one of these live beetles, put it in our mouths and started chewing as quickly as we could to get it over and done with.

To say that the ‘Perfume Beetle’ tasted foul was an understatement, it is without doubt the most horrible thing I have ever had in my mouth. The moral of the story, never trust a survival instructor when he tells you insects taste nice; especially when its real name is the Stink Bug because of how bad they smell…. And taste!

what-to-eat-in-the-wild4

Fungi – Just to be clear, I am talking about all fungi, mushrooms and toadstools. They are very difficult to identify and can kill you very quickly. Simply put, do NOT eat them unless you are an expert!

All of the above food sources will still need to have the taste test completed if you are not 100% sure you have identified them as edible.

Time doing homework is never wasted

There you have it folks , should you find yourself in a dire situation and you cannot identify local foods then you may be able to work around the problem. The method described is not foolproof but it will help you should you be starving and in danger of eating anything you come across out of desperation.

Your best chance of eating the right thing is to get out into the wild with a couple of pocket books and identify your local plants and animals before disaster strikes. Better still, find out who the local foraging guru is and see what classes they run; it could just save your life.

I hope you enjoyed this article and it has generated some food for thought (pun 100% intended) and encourages you to get out and see what exists in your local area. Please dont disappear straight away, have a look at my other articles especially this one about eating food in a survival situation. Of interest will be this post on harnessing your survival instinct.

82 Common Edible Flowers

Now before you run out and start eating the various flowers, you need to do a bit of study.  On many of these plants only parts of the plant are edible.  I suggest that as you plan your garden you research the various flowers and make sure that you know what parts of the plants are edible.  In some it may be the flowers on other the leaves or roots.

edible-flowers

Now before you run out and start eating the various flowers, you need to do a bit of study.  On many of these plants only parts of the plant are edible.  I suggest that as you plan your garden you research the various flowers and make sure that you know what parts of the plants are edible.  In some it may be the flowers on other the leaves or roots.

A list of Edible Flowers

  • Angelica                                                Anise Hyssop
  • Apple Blossom                                       Artichoke
  • Arugula                                                 Bachelor Buttons AKA Cornflower
  • Banana                                                 Basil
  • Borage                                                 Bright Lights chard
  • Calendula                                             Carnation
  • Chamomile                                           Chicory
  • Chives                                                  Chrysanthemum
  • Cilantro / Coriander                               Citrus
  • Clover                                                  Dandelion
  • Daylily                                                  Dianthus
  • Dill                                                       Elderberry
  • English Daisy                                        Fennel
  • Freesia                                                 Fuchsia
  • Geraniums                                           Gladiolas
  • Hibiscus                                               Honeysuckle
  • Hollyhock                                             Hyssop
  • Jasmine                                               Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Johnny Jump Up                                   Lavender
  • Lemon Verbena                                    Lilac
  • Linden                                                 Mallow
  • Marigold                                              Marjoram
  • Mint                                                    Mustard
  • Nasturtium                                           Oregano
  • Okra                                                    Onion
  • Orange Blossom                                    Pansy
  • Passionflower                                        Pea blossoms  NOTE: Flowering ornamental                                                                     sweet peas are poisonous
  • Pineapple Sage                                     Primrose
  • Radish                                                 Red Clover
  • Redbud                                                Roses and rose hips
  • Rosemary                                             Rose of Sharon
  • Runner Bean                                        Safflower
  • Sage                                                   Savory
  • Scarlet Emperor’ runner beans               Scented Geranium
  • Snapdragon                                         Society Garlic
  • Squash Blossom                                   Sunflower
  • Sweet Marigold                                    Sweet William
  • Thyme                                                 Sweet Potato
  • Tuberous Begonia                                 Tulip
  • Viola                                                    Violet
  • Winter Savory                                       Yucca

You should have no problem planning and planting a garden that only consists of food producing plants.  This is a great way to supplement your food storage.  The more you learn about the different flowers, the better your chances of survival are in an emergency.

If you do a search of this blog under the category edible plants, you will find information on a number of these flowers.  In the future, I intend to write more on edible flowers.  As with any plants take the time to study and learn about them so that you can make a positive identification, this may save your life, some plants are poisonous.

20 Common Wild Plants You Can Eat For Survival

Plenty of people believe that when things fall apart, they can just go into the wild, living off the land. While such a life has a lot of appeal to it, I’m also enough of a realist to understand how hard that will be. While many people did live off the land in the early days of this country, things have changed. There isn’t as much wilderness available today as there was back then, and as a people we aren’t accustomed to such a lifestyle.

20 Common Wild Plants You Can Eat For Survival

common-wildflowers

Plenty of people believe that when things fall apart, they can just go into the wild, living off the land. While such a life has a lot of appeal to it, I’m also enough of a realist to understand how hard that will be. While many people did live off the land in the early days of this country, things have changed. There isn’t as much wilderness available today as there was back then, and as a people we aren’t accustomed to such a lifestyle.

The two biggest problems with trying to live off of what nature provides are too many people and a lack of knowledge. Back when people did live off the land, there weren’t a 10th of the people in the country that there are today. They also had a lot more knowledge about the flora and fauna around them. There are few people today who can hunt without baiting the animals in and even fewer who can identify edible plants.

Of course, that gives a distinct advantage to those who know how to hunt and can identify edible plants. In fact, being able to identify edible plants might just be what keeps some people alive. Considering that few people can identify them, there is little risk that there will be much competition for those plants.

Watch Out for Poisonous Plants

In addition to edible plants, there are many plants you can find in the wild which are dangerous to eat, even poisonous. Unless it is a dire emergency, survival isn’t the time to go around trying new things. You don’t know what you might find that would hurt you.

Since there is no sure way of identifying which plants are safe and which are poisonous, the best way of protecting yourself is to stick to eating only plants that you know and can identify as being safe to eat. When looking at other plants, you probably want to stay away from any plants that have:

  • Milky or colored sap.
  • Any sort of spines, thorns or fine hairs.
  • Seeds inside pods, as well as beans and bulbs.
  • Any plant with a bitter or soapy taste.
  • Plants whose stems have an almond scent.
  • Any plants with three-leaved growth patterns.
  • Grain heads with spurs that are pink, purple or black.

Of course, there are edible plants which display some of those same characteristics. That just proves that not all poisonous or healthy plants have distinguishable characteristics. These characteristics only apply to plants that you cannot identify.

Here are 20 of the most common wild plants that you can find, providing you with a starting place for identifying what you can eat in the wild. Learn them, and then go on to learn what else is available for eating in the area where you live.

1. Amaranth

Amaranth

Amaranth is a prolific weed which is native to North America. All parts of the plant are edible, although you do need to be somewhat careful. The grain from the amaranth plant has become more popular in recent years. There are spines on some leaves which should be avoided. The leaves contain oxalic acid, especially if the plant has grown in nitrate rich soil. To protect yourself against that, boil the plant in water and then throw away the water. If worse comes to worse, it can be eaten raw.

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2. Asparagus

Asparagus grows wild in parts of North America, especially the northeastern part of the United States. Wild asparagus has a much thinner stalk than the commercial varieties. To harvest, bend it until it snaps off. It will snap at the right point to prevent killing the plant, while providing you with the most edible part.

3. Bamboo

If anyone around you has decided to grow bamboo in their backyard, it’s probably gotten out of hand. This prolific grass spreads rapidly, taking over everything in its path. While the mature plants are like chewing on wood, the shoots can be eaten. Shoots should be harvested before they are two weeks old and one foot tall. Peel off the outer leaves and boil them to soften. Bamboo shoots are often added to salads, put on sandwiches or used in stir-fries.

4. Cattails

Found near the edges of wetlands, cattails were a staple in the diet of many American Indian tribes. Most of the plant is edible. You can boil the roots and lower stalk for eating. The leaves can be cooked and eaten like spinach. The flower spike at the top can be broken off and eaten like corn on the cob. Surprisingly, it tastes much like corn.

5. Chicory

Chicory

Chicory is most easily identified by its flowers. It is a bushy plant with small blue, lavender and white flowers. Leaves can be eaten raw or boiled. The flowers are a quick, tasty snack. The roots can be eaten as well, but require boiling to make them edible. Toasted chicory root has been used in the past as a substitute for coffee when coffee wasn’t available.

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6. Chickweed

This low-growing plant has bright green, pointed oval leaves. It is highly nutritious, containing vitamins, minerals and omega-6 fatty acid. Young leaves can be used effectively in salads. However, if too much chickweed is eaten, it can cause diarrhea.

7. Clover

Clover is very common throughout the country. Anywhere you find a grassy area, you are likely to encounter clover as well. They are easy to identify for the three leaves. The plant can be eaten raw, but will taste better cooked.

8. Curled Dock

These are some of the hardiest, most widespread and most persistent weeds found anywhere. You can find them nearly everywhere. Like dandelions, it is almost impossible to pull one out of the ground. If you do, it will probably be replaced by two more. The leaves are tasty and can grow as large as two-feet long. There are also other types of docks in this family, but the curled dock is considered the tastiest.

9. Dandelion

This common “weed” is actually edible; in fact, the entire plant is edible: roots, leaves and flowers. It’s also rather healthy, being a “cure-all” in herbal medicine. You’ll want to eat the leaves while the plant is still young, as mature leaves have a bitter taste to them. Boil the roots before eating, and then use the water from boiling the roots as a tea. The dandelion flower makes an excellent garnish for a salad.

10. Fireweed

This is another plant that was eaten by many American Indians. It is easy to identify by the vein pattern in the leaves. Rather than terminate at the edge of the leaves, the veins create a circular pattern.

These plants are best eaten when young and tender. As they age, the leaves become tough and bitter tasting. Both the leaves and the stalk can be eaten. The flowers have a slightly peppery taste.

11. Garlic Grass

This is a wild strain of garlic which is often found in fields, pastures and forests. It resembles cultivated garlic or spring onions. The shoots are often very thin. Nevertheless, it can be used in sandwiches, salads, pesto or chopped like scallions to add to cooked dishes.

12. Green Seaweed

This particular variety of seaweed is found in all the oceans of the world. You can even find it close to shore and on beaches. Once harvested, it needs to be rinsed with clean water and allowed to dry. It can be used in soups or eaten raw. Add some fish and rice and you’ve got some sushi.

13. Kelp

Kelp is another common form of seaweed, and can be found growing in most parts of the world. The kelp plant grows very long, anchored on the bottom of the sea and reaching to the surface. Internal air bladders keep it afloat. This seaweed is used in many different oriental dishes. Like the green seaweed, it should be rinsed once harvested and can be cooked in soup or eaten raw.

14. Kudzu

This is known as the “weed that ate the South” for its prolific way of covering trees and other plants. Kudzu is a fast-growing vine, which could provide a literally unending source of nutrition if you have it in your area. The leaves make an excellent tea for treating colds, fevers and indigestion. The roots of this plant can be boiled until tender and eaten with a sauce, such as soy sauce. Jams and jellies can be made from of it.

15. Lamb’s Quarters

Lamb’s quarters

This plant is a relative of wild spinach. It grows from two to six feet high and is easily identified by the shape of the leaves, which are a jagged-edged and diamond shaped. This plant has a high amount of protein, making it one of the few non-beans that does. It is also rich in iron and vitamin B2. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.

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16. Plantain

This weed will grow just about anywhere and is often found on the edges of gardens or driveways. Pick the rippled leaves, leaving behind the stems and flower stems. Like kale and other tough greens, plantain is best eaten after cooking. Blanching it with some butter and garlic makes it come out quite well.

17. Prickly Pear Cactus

Called “nopal” in Mexico, the prickly pear is not only edible, but extremely good for your health. Not all the leaves are eaten, but only the newest ones where the spines have not been fully formed. The spines are cut off and the leaf cut up for cooking. It can be boiled, but is most often fried, along with tomatoes and spices. The fruit of the prickly pear, which looks like a red or purplish pear, is also edible, although hard to encounter.

18. Sheep Sorrel

Although not native to North America, sheep sorrel has found a home here. It is a prolific weed, especially in highly acidic soil. That means it will grow in places where many other plants won’t grow. It has a tall, reddish stem that can reach 18 inches tall. You really shouldn’t eat large quantities of it, but the leaves can be eaten raw. They taste almost like lemon.

19. Watercress

Watercress, which comes in a number of varieties, such as garden cress, rock cress and pepper cress, is common in Northern Europe. It has been migrated to the United States, where it is more commonly found in northern climates with a lot of moisture. It has a spicy tank, making it great for salads, soups and sandwiches.

20. Wood Sorrel

Wood sorrel grows in all parts of the world and in all climates. There are many varieties of this plant, and the flowers vary in color. The Kiowa Indians ate it, and chewed on it to alleviate thirst. The Cherokees ate it to cure mouth sores. The leaves of the plant are a great source of vitamin C. If the roots of the wood sorrel are boiled, they can be eaten. It has a flavor similar to potatoes.

For further information on this and other plants, it would be advisable to buy a book that deals with the edible plants in your area, as it varies from region to region around the country.

8 Tips For Placing Your First Survival Food Order

veggies

I’ll never forget my first, official order for survival food. My friend,  Chrystalyn, was a pro at this, and she guided me through a bewildering order form with products and container sizes I didn’t recognize.

A #10 can? What was that?

A #2.5 can? Is that what I need or is the #10 size better?

What is wheat germade and will my kids eat what I’m buying since it’s not in name-brand cans?

Survival Food Ordering Made Easy

If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have ordered wheat germade at all and would have ordered far more #2.5 cans of cocoa! Yes, we prefer brownies to hot cereal!

From years of experience, I pass on to you a few simple ways to determine what to order from survival food companies, such as Augason Farms, Thrive Life, and Emergency Essentials.

My 8 Tips For Placing Your First Survival Food Order

1. What produce do you use most often in the kitchen? Jot down the fruits and vegetables that you typically buy at the grocery store. Those will be the best choices for your early purchases, since you know they won’t go to waste, and you use recipes that incorporate them.

2. What are a few of your favorite recipes? It’s a good idea to stock up on those ingredients. Example: a hearty pasta and sausage dinner recipe. You could buy sausage crumbles, Italian herbs, dehydrated onions, freeze dried mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and macaroni. Of course you can use some of those same ingredients in other recipes, and that versatility is great.

3. Consider the staples you use most often: sugar, baking powder, herbs, etc. and then compare the food company’s prices to what you typically pay at a grocery store. Keep in mind that these products will be packaged for long term storage unlike those purchased at grocery stores. That is a big bonus. When we moved to a humid environment, several of my cardboard containers of salt were ruined.

TIP: Which size should you choose when shopping for these foods? Here is a link to my complete answer to that question.

4. Keep in mind the importance of snacks. My kids love the yogurt bites in all the various flavors. Perhaps order a few snack items in either the pouch or #2.5 can sizes to try these out. The smaller containers are also good for emergency kits.

5. Do you have some just-add-water meals for emergencies or power outages? Each company has their own varieties to try out. Make sure you give them a taste test, though, before buying in large containers or quantities. They’re lightweight, nutritious, and if you can manage to boil 3 or 4 cups of water, you have a meal in about 15 minutes.

6. When it comes to the various types of meat and poultry, which do you use most often? Prioritize those and then buy smaller containers of the ones you tend to buy and use most frequently. Give them a try in some of your recipes. If you really like the flavor, texture, and convenience, then you’ll know what to stock up on. As always, customize this to your preferences and the recipes you make most often.

7. You’ll need some meal-stretchers, such as rice, small pasta, certain grains, and beans. I like this category because these foods are versatile on their own, but then, when added to a casserole or soup, they help provide many more servings, as well as more nutrition and fiber.

8. Stock up on ingredients for soup. You may not make soup very often, but it’s an ideal recipe for survival scenarios. The concept is simple (start with a broth of some kind) and then add whatever is handy. Have a balance of veggies, proteins, and grains, and you’re good to go.