It is garden planning time! Gardeners are always excited to try new things and there is always room for the newest striped hot pepper or chocolate colored cherry tomato, but it is important to remember the common garden staple crops that are important to have and enjoy in your garden.
Planting staple crops for you and your family is what will save you the most money in the grocery store and add the value of freshness and flavor you can’t find in a store.
What makes a staple crop?
You should like them enough to eat them on a regular basis. For example, I don’t like dried beans. I will plant multiple varieties of green beans and pole beans, but not dried beans.
The plants should have good yield. It’s great to try new things, but if I plant Lewis beans every year because I know I can pick beans every few days in the summer and always get a bumper crop.
They should be easy for you to plant and grow without a lot of trouble. Some parts of the country have different issues. If moisture is an issue in your area, you won’t want to grow crops that are susceptible to downy mildew.
They should be easy to store and last in storage. That means easy to freeze, can, dehydrate or store in a cool dark basement.
- They should be dense with calories and nutrition. Lettuce is great, but by itself, it isn’t the best crop to keep your belly full and satisfied.
Here is a list of 10 common garden staples:
Potatoes are one of the most versatile crops you can grow in your garden. Potatoes give you the greatest number of calories in the least amount of space. They are easy to plant and harvesting them is like going on treasure hunt. Kids always love to dig potatoes, so make it a family affair. Sweet Potatoes are one of the healthiest foods you can grow in your garden. They are frequently thought of as a southern plant, but they can be grown in the north, you just have to do a little more research to find the right varieties.
Most of us know that corn was grown by Native Americans who depended on it as a staple crop. It is one of the easiest crops to grow, but you need to make sure you have ample room and plant enough seeds to pollinate. To grow enough to freeze or can, and to increase your chance of full ear success, consider planting at least 100 seeds in a block of rows.
Both dried beans and green beans are a staple in most gardens. With vertical gardening, you can get a lot of yield out of a small space of dried pole beans. And green beans can be harvested every few days for several weeks once the beans have set on the plants. And beans come in so many great colors and styles.
Nothing beats a hearty cabbage soup in the dead of winter. Cabbage grows well into the fall months and has incredible storage capabilities. Don’t forget making sauerkraut, that’s one of the traditional ways to store cabbage long term. You can also freeze whole cabbage heads or make up your cabbage rolls and freeze them for winter eating.
The best gardens take a lot of planning and included in that plan should be garlic. It is easy to grow, harvest, and dry and it does not take up a lot of room in the garden or in storage. It is versatile for cooking and for medicinal purposes, so why not add it to your own garden?
Some type of greens should be on your list of garden staples. Kale and collards belong to the cabbage family, so they can handle growing into the later, cooler months and can even stay in your garden past the frost date if you can cover them when the temperatures dip. Greens as a staple crop should also be a variety that you can cut and come back again for more. Greens are great as season extenders both in early spring and late season as well.
Although they can be tricky to grow for inexperienced gardeners, once you get the hang of keeping the soil moist for germination, they will become a garden staple. Extend your harvest by planting more every 2-3 weeks and store them with your other long term storage crops after harvesting if you aren’t freezing or preserving them otherwise.
Onions are a must grow if you want to be a self-sufficient gardener. Onions may not be considered a staple crop by some because they are not eaten alone but consider how bland your food would be without onions. Growing onions is far easier than you may think, and they store well without too much difficulty, just be sure to grow the types that are listed for storing.
Tomatoes may not be considered a staple crop by some because they don’t have the long-term storage aspect, but look at the options for preserving them, and you can grow a lot of tomatoes in a small space. Homemade soups, sauces, paste and just diced and canned are all amazing options for excess tomatoes.
Last, but certainly not least, winter squash is a favorite staple. So many options here, how could you go wrong? Winter squash is hearty, stores well, and is rich in fiber and vitamins A and C. In a root cellar, winter squashes have been known to last up to a year without going bad, but it is not recommended to store them that long. The most popular squashes are pumpkin, butternut, acorn, Hubbard, and some kabocha varieties. Summer squash does not store well but can be processed and preserved but that requires a little more work. Growing winter squash also requires more space in your garden, but some can be trellised, and you can look for varieties that grow on bush type plants instead of vining types.
If you have not started planning your garden, be sure to remember these options in yours or add your own depending on your personal list of favorites.
Now let’s get growing!