Back to Garden for Nutrition Index
Choose your background color:

Self-sufficiency Garden Crops

Greens Root Crops Legumes Squash Seed Grains

Self-sufficiency garden crops need to be the most nutritious. The foods listed here encourage maximum health because they are high in nutrients while being low in toxins and anti-nutrients.

For a more in depth discussion of nutrition and why so many crops were excluded, please refer to Nutrition Overview and Remaining Crops.

****************************************************
Greens: 
Collards (Brassica oleracea L. (Acephala group): 
(Point of origin: Eastern Mediterranean / Asia Minor)
    Nutrition: High in calcium, lutein, zeaxanthin
               , sulforaphane.
               Rich in glutathione.
               Eaten raw is a good source of B1 and B6.
               Eat raw only if thyroid is healthy. 
               Cook to de-activate goitrogenic compounds.
               Harvest after light frost for improved flavor.
    Advantages:
           Parboil and dry for late winter use.
    Disadvantage: 
           Members of this Brassica family will cross
           Stager by years to save seed
           Insect susceptible.
    Varieties: 
              Champion, Vates - excellent for cold weather 
              Georgia Southern, Green Glaze - good for warm 
                            regions where insects survive winters 
              F1 Hi-Crop, F1 Bull Dog - good for extremely adverse
                            weather conditions
    Sources: Johnny's, Territorial, Seeds of Change, Sakata, Takii

**************
Turnips (Brassica rapa): 
(Point of origin: Siberia)
    Nutrition: High in calcium, folate
               , lutein, zeaxanthin, B6, sulforaphane.
               Eaten raw is a good source of B1 and B6.
               Eat raw if thyroid is healthy. 
               Cook to de-activate goitrogenic compounds.
    Preparation: Harvest when the leaves are young and not 
                 too spicy.
                 Eat greens raw, cook root.
    Advantages: very insect resistant
                Will suppress weeds when planted as a bed.
    Ectomycorrhizal fungi relationship
    Disadvantage: 
           Members of this Brassica family will cross
           Stager by years to save seed
    Varieties: Seven Top (Brassica septiceps) - for greens only, 
               root is small and cold hardy.
    Sources: Territorial, Siegers, Seeds of Change, Bountiful Gardens

******
Kale (Brassica oleracea Acephala group): 
(Point of origin: Eastern Mediterranean / Asia Minor)
    Nutrition: High in calcium, lutein, zeaxanthin, B6
               , sulforaphane.
               Eaten raw is a good source of B1 nd B6.
               Eat raw if thyroid is healthy. 
               Cook to de-activate goitrogenic compounds.
    Advantages:
               Parboil and dry for late winter use.
               Will tolerate hard freeze
    Disadvantage: 
               Members of this Brassica family will cross
               Stager by years to save seed
    Ratings:
               Cornell
    Varieties: 
               Vates - cold hardy, blue/green, 
                       not as frilled
                       Vates
               Scotch - cold hardy, good flavor
                        very frilled
                        Scotch
               Lacinato - very dark green and tasty.
                          not as frost tolerant.
                          Seeds of Change
                          High Mowing Seeds
               Winterbor F1 - very cold hardy, good flavor, 
                              hybrid, Scotch type
               Ripbor F1 - very cold hardy, dark green, hybrid
                           Scotch type 
    Propagation: 
               Plant in late summer and harvest until heavy freeze

******
Rape (Brassica napus): 
(Point of origin: Eastern Mediterranean / Asia Minor)
    Nutrition: 
               Similar to kale.
    Advantages:
               Ultra cold hearty.
               Will only cross with other napus.
    Disadvantage: 
               Smaller leaves than kales.
    Information: 
               Biology of Rape
    Propagation: Plant in late summer and harvest all winter.

*******
Malvaceae family:
Okra (Abelmoshcus esculentus): 
(Point of origin: North Africa)
    Nutrition: high in calcium, magnesium, folate,
               lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene
               Eaten raw is a good source of B1 and B6.
               The cooking water of okra is very soothing 
               to the throat and digestive system
               since it is mucilaginous.
               The seed and pod is good to eat raw.
               The more red, the greater chance of lycopene.
               Rich in glutathione.
    Animal Feed: save the seed from over mature pods for animal feed
                 Extremely large amounts can be toxic
    Preparation: eat raw when in season
               Young pods can be deseeded, parboiled, and dried for winter greens.
               Mature seeds are high in quality protein with a slightly off taste,
               but good in small amounts as curd to supplement other foods during 
               famines.
               Extremely large amounts of seed can be toxic.
               Lost Crops of Africa
    Varieties: Red Burgundy - red pods
                         1988 AAS winner
               Emerald - developed by Cambell Soup Co.
                         early producer
               Clemson Spineless - 1939 AAS winner
                                   heat tolerant
    Propagation: Soil must be >70 F consistently
                 or the plants will be stunted.
                 Once stunted, it never recovers.
                 Direct seed because of tap root.
    Cultivation: Rhizobium meliloti, Rhizobium sp., and Bradyrhizobium sp. 
                 will inhibit harmful fungi on okra
    Sources: Bountiful Gardens, Seeds of Change

*************
Daisy (Compositae) family:

Chicory (Cichorium intybus): 
(Point of origin: Europe)
    Nutrition: High in calcium / magnesium, folate.
          Eat raw for a good source of B1 and B6.
          High in tannin like bitter compounds.
    Preparation: Eat raw
        or boil lightly and drain water to remove bitters. 
    Varieties: Giant Catalogna, wild
    Propagation: Will cross with endives and wild chicory.
    Sources: Siegers, Italian Seed and Tool, Seeds of Change, Bountiful Gardens


***********************************************
Greens not listed due to a lack of advantages:


See Remaining Crops for more greens

Tendergreens (mustard spinach cross) were not included, 
even though they are very high in calcium, because they are 
also in the Brassica family and they do not dry well. 
They are also a hybrid, so seed saving will not work. 
But they are very cold hardy (-12 C) and might be ideal for 
cold climates.

Mustard greens were not included, because the other members of the same
family have more calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients.
It is very nutritious, but there are only so many greens in the same 
family that can be grown in rotation.
Seed is high in omega-3.
Mustard is superior for fumigating the soil if you have a weak 
crop rotation.

Broccoli was not listed because it is too inefficient.
It is moderately nutritious, but it requires a large plant to 
produce a small head. And it has twice the nitrogen requirement 
of Collards but does not even produce half the nutrition. 
It is a good candidate for cloning. 

Lacinato was not listed because it is the least cold hardy
of all the kale. It is very rich in chlorophyll, but will 
cross with other kale.

Pak choi was not listed because it is not especially high in
magnesium. 

Cabbage was not listed, because the other members of the same
family have so much more calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients.
Some of the exceptions are Pak Choi, which does not store well
as a dry green. 
And red cabbage does have some lycopene and anthocyanidins.
It is a good candidate for cloning. 
Red Express, Red Acre, and Red Rock are all good varieties.

Lettuce was not listed because it contains very little nutrition:
No fiber, no calcium, and no magnesium. 
Only a few varieties have vitamin K, zeaxanthin, or lutein.

Spinach, beet greens, chard, rhubarb, lambs quarters, purslane, 
parsley, sorrel, endive, amaranth, and cactus were excluded 
because they are high in potentially harmful oxalates which 
can bind calcium and exacerbate osteoporosis.

Cilantro and horseradish were excluded because they are high 
in alkaloids.

Lovage was excluded because it is hard on the kidneys.

***********************************************
Root Crops: 
Root crops are very important because they are one of the better 
sources of potassium that can be grown in a temperate climate.

Carrot(Umbelliferae Daucus carota var. Sativus):
(point of origin: Afghanistan)
    varieties:
         Atomic red - open pollinated red carrot
                      contains some lycopene
         Nutri red - open pollinated red carrot
                     contains some lycopene
         Samurai - deep red carrot, hybrid
                   contains some lycopene
         Thumbalina - stores in soil well
                   tolerates waterlogged soil
                   since most of root is above ground
         Autumn King - stores well in the ground
         James Scarlet Intermediate - 
                    stores well in the ground
         Saint Valery - stores well in the ground
         F1 Merida - plant in fall and harvest in spring in warm climates
    propagation: biennial, 
                 will cross with queen ann's lace
                , white root indicates wild cross
    Sources: Reimers, Jung, Territorial, Hume, Bountiful Gardens, Johnny's
    Information:
        Carrot Museum - colors indicate nutrients
        Carrot Museum - purple carrots
        AAS Winner - Purple Haze F1
        Carrot Museum - red carrot, lycopene
        
*********
Goosefoot or Chenopodiaceae family:
Beet (Beta vulgaris):
(Point of origin: Germany)
      Nutrition: High in folate, so root eat raw.
               uridine monophosphate 
               Cook the leaves and discard water twice 
                   to reduce oxalate levels.
               Root is high in bitters, so peel the skin
                   and do not eat too much.
               Soak whole root in water to reduce bitterness.
               Very medicinally rich; eat small amounts at each meal
                   since the body can process only so much pigment 
                   and geosmin.
      Properties: Pollinates by wind up to 5 miles away. 
               Soak whole root in water to sweeten.
               Tolerates waterlogged soil fairly well
               since most of the root is above ground.
      Variety: Detroit dark red - low geosmin
      Source: Stokes, Burpee, Seeds of Change

Geosmin

********
Sweet Potato (Convolvulaceae ipomoea batatas):
(Point of origin: the Americas)
    Nutrition: Converts to sugar at a moderate pace,
               so a good source of carbohydrates.
               High in magnesium and potassium.
               High in vitamin E.
               Skin is high in B6.
               Contains a moderate amount of oxalate, 
               so do not eat too much.
    Preparation: Cook and eat root with the skin.
    Properties: Very drought and disease resistant.
                Requires warm weather.
    Varieties: Centennial
               Georgia Jet
    Information:
               Stokes Purple Sweet Potato - harder to digest
               University of Washington - sweet potato is very reponsive to endophytes

********
Amaryllidaceae family - from Asia, will cross with wild onion.
      Extremely micorrhizal dependent.
Garlic (Allium sativum): 
(Point of origin: Asia)
    Nutrition: 
          Allicin helps keep arteries healthy.
          In animal tests at MDAnderson, garlic defended against
               radiation poisoning in mice.
          Some people cannot tolerate garlic.
          Rich in glutathione.
          Garlic increases thiamine absorbption
          SAC, DADS, DATS, cooking, fermenting
          Oregon State - cooking garlic
          Mercola
          Cooking garlic
    Properties: Deer resistant.
          Can cause nightmares for some people.
          Fermenting solves that problem.
    Sources: Territorial, Seeds of Change
    Preparation:
            Press garlic and expose to the air
                 for at least 10 minutes and
                 serve garlic without cooking for
                 maximum effect.
                 Cooking will destroy some of 
                 the compounds but not all 
                 if allowed to breath before cooking.
    Information:
        Garlic in Canada
    Garlic, Radiation, and DNA repair links: 
        M.D. Anderson - garlic radiation experiments
        Life Extension
        Live Strong
        Gaia Research
        National Cancer Institute

Onion (Allium cepa):
(Point of origin: Asia)
    Nutrition: 
          Good source of B6, anthocyanin (red), and quercetin (yellow).
          The dry outer most peeling has the most nutrients.
          Blend to microscopic particle size.
          Some people cannot tolerate onions.
          Nutrient levels by type
    Properties: 
                For bulbs in the north, plant under cover in early winter 
                and transplant in the very early spring.
                Or if in ideal conditions, direct seed in the very early 
                spring.
                For bulbs in the south, direct seed no later than mid fall.
                Onions are hard to grow organically since fusarium
                is hosted by so many plants. 
                Choose fusarium resistant varieties and 
                practice good rotation.
    Sources: 
        Sustainable Seed - Onions categorized by region
        Fedco
        Bountiful Gardens
    Information:
        When and what to plant
        Texas A&M - Onion
        Cornell - disease resistant varieties
        North Carolina State - onion varieties

Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum (L.)):
(Point of origin: central Asia)
    Nutrition: Root bulb and lower stalk are extremely high in folates
               slice very thin and only cook lightly
               to preserve folates
    Properties: Plant a winter variety that will continue
                to feed the mycorrhizal fungus all winter.
    Varieties: Giant Musselburgh Leek 
    Sources: Territorial

    LEEK VARIETIES 

*****************************************************  
Legumes: 
Soak all legumes for 8-24 hours depending on seed hardness and temperature. 
Do not sprout any further since will breakdown the more desirable complex proteins. 
Instead, ferment in order to breakdown anti-nutrients. 
Cook with low heat.
Making tempeh will also reduce the anti-nutrients.
Most legumes contain out of balance proteins and are best when 
consumed as a complement to grains.
Source for all legumes:
USDA Legumes


Peanut (Arachis hypogaea):

(Point of origin: South America, West Africa) Nutrition: High in resveratrol, biotin, niacin, and protein. Best use may be to sprout for the increased resveratrol. Boiling removes inhibitors more evenly and thoroughly than roasting. As long as you are not allergic and it is stored and cooked properly, it is one of the easiest to digest legumes. Many times peanuts are boiled in the shell for additional flavor and phenols. Sprouting Increases Resveratrol Resveratrol - Sensitive to heat, light & oxygen Resveratrol research Roasting decreases disgestability Alabama A&M - boiling makes more digestible. Aflatoxin: World Oilseeds - Cooking peanut reduces lectins and aflatoxin. FAO - cooking peanut only partially reduces aflatoxin. Aflatoxin dangers and bio-controls. Holistic bio-controls: Journal of Plant Pathology - no-till preserves bio-control agents Include animals, good crop rotation, mulch, PH Commercial bio-controls: Although most research on commercial bio-controls is designed to prop up monocultures, this research can be instructive for those who want to take a more holistic approach: Use of nematodes Arizona - Non-toxic competitive strains Research Gate - Non-toxic competitive strains Academia - bio-control review. IJCEPR - bio-control review Cultivation: Harvest directly to a drying barn instead of a windrow to reduce aflatoxin risk. A few varieties will grow in cool weather climates. Peanut types Advantages: Grows well in loose sandy soils. Only requires moderate amounts of water. Has below ground protection from high wind, hail, etc. Survived the breakup of Pangea. Disadvantages: Unless properly harvested, processed, and stored, it will harbor toxic aflatoxin from fungus. Requires cold storage. Can cause severe allergy symptoms. Not tolerant of wet soggy soil. Performs best in dry areas. Varieties: These varieties can be grown in cool weather regions. Soak for about 8 hours. Then boil for 2-4 hours. Taste is more like a bean than a nut. Nutty varieties require a warmer climate. Unfortunately, the Virginia and runner types that require a long season are also the easiest to digest. Carolina Black - 110 days Tennessee Red - 110 days Spanish, Valencia - 120 days Southern Exposure - peanut Iowa State - peanut Peanuts in cold climates Pea (Pisum sativum) (Point of origin: eastern Mediteranean) Preparation: Enzyme inhibitors have not formed yet while still green. Will sprout while still green. Sugars will start to convert to starch about 2 hours after picking and enzyme inhibitors start to form. Advantage: Good crop for cold wet weather. Can regrow after being frozen to the ground. The only legume that will sprout without drying. Green never dried peas are the easiest legume to digest. But some people are too sensitive even for green peas. Nutrition: High in folate. Only the most sensitive cannot tolerate fresh green peas, since they have no enzyme inhibitors until they have been picked. Dried peas are extremely high in enzyme inhibitors. Planting: Use pea inoculant. (Rhizobium leguminosarum var. Viceae) The earlier you plant peas and the quicker they mature, the better chance you have of harvesting before spring hail and warm weather diseases set in. Varieties: Plant bush peas in the very early spring to avoid hail and disease. Cold tolerant, quick maturing, bush peas that freeze well are ideal, such as Knight, FP2269, Alaska, Dakota, Little Marvel, Maestro, Laxton's Progress Number 9, Spring, Early Freezer, Northwind, Frosty, etc. Indeterminate varieties tend to recover more quickly from hail or severe late frost than the determinate bush varieties. They also make better use of limited space. Cold tolerant, quick maturing, tall vine peas that freeze well are ideal, such as Mr. Big, Freezonian, Ice Breaker, etc. Sources: Veseys, Rohrer Seeds, Siegers, Gallatin Valley Seeds, Debruyn Seed, Thompson Morgan, Reimers Seeds, Victory Seed Information: USDA - pea allelopathy Monatana State - cold region legumes ************* Green Beans (Fabaceae Phaseolus vulgaris): (Point of origin: Central America) Nutrition: Moderate in lutein and zeaxanthin. Properties: Fast early varieties are the most reliable. Golden has better flavor. Requires warm soil to sprout. Pole indeterminate varieties tend to recover more quickly from hail. Bush determinate varieties often mature faster. Pole vs Bush Varieties: Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder, Kentucky Blue, Romano types Sources: Territorial, Stokes, Vermont Bean, Burpee Scarlet Runner Beans (Phaseolus coccineus): (Point of origin: Central America) Nutrition: Extremely high in lycopene. Properties: Indeterminate, requires a trellis. Contains phytohaemagglutinin - must be thoroughly cooked before eating Sources: Territorial, Stokes *************** Lentil (Lens culinaris): (Point of origin: Near East) Advantages: Easier to digest than most other legumes. Brown or red are slightly easier to digest than green. Prefers cool semi-arid weather. Requires some drought stress to set seed properly. Can regrow if frozen to the ground. Disadvantages: Small plant and seed - difficult to cultivate and harvest. Some people are too sensitive to tolerate even after sprouting and fermenting. Sources: Territorial, Bountiful Gardens Cook's Thesaurus - lentils *********************************************** Squash: Squash family (Cucurbitaceae): (Point of origin: the Americas) Nutrition: Converts to sugar quickly so do not eat too much. Good source of B6. Rich in glutathione. Insect control: Grow up on a wire fence to control the squash bug and reduce mold. Squash vine borer very seldom bothers large plantings of squash which are isolated in fields far from human dwellings. There is still a debate as to what attracts them ( lights, heat, carbon dioxide, ultraviolet, etc. ). Mold control: Grow on a trellis. Animal Feed: save the seed for animal feed. Seed Saving: Species will not cross, but varieties within species will cross. Grow only one of each species if you save your own seed. Properties: Deer resistant. Winter Squash: Butternut (Cucurbita moschata): Nutrition: Tan skin. Orange flesh. , high in calcium and carbohydrates. Preparation: Eat with the skin. Properties: Immune to vine borer. Varieties: Waltham, F1 Early Sources: Territorial, Seeds of Change Rouge Vif d' Etampes, Red Kuri, Golden Delicious, or Victor, etc. (C. maxima): properties: these are all red pumpkin squash the more red, the greater the possibility of lycopene Sources: Rare Seeds Catalog Hulless Seeded Pumpkin (C. pepo): Properties: The Styrian Hulless Pumpkin of Austria; grown for it's hulless seeds which are proven to help reduce DHT in men through a steriod called delta-7 stearine.? Sources: Seedman **************************************************** Seed: Sunflower (Compositae Helianthus annuus): (Point of origin: North America) Nutrition: astoundingly high in minerals, vitamin E, and B1 Eat raw sprouts for a great source of B1. High in copper, manganese, magnesium, selenium Advantages: heat and drought resistant shells are phytotoxic when used as mulch Sprouts are an ideal winter source of B1. Allelopathic. Disadvantage: Shelling is difficult C.S. Bell Co. - dehuller Lehman's - dehulling article Cultivation: Rhizobium meliloti, Rhizobium sp., and Bradyrhizobium sp. will inhibit harmful fungi on sunflower Varieties: Mammoth, Sunspot Sources: Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Local Harvest ************************************************ Grains: Rice (Oryza sativa): (Point of origin: Southeast Asia) Cultivation: Use the SRI method. Mulching is the most effective way ( least labor ) to control weeds and keep the soil aerated. Do not mulch with grass family or diseases may be transferred. Never intentionally flood paddies for more than a few hours. Steady moisture ( not saturation ) is required only during grain formation to maximize yield. In cool areas, direct seeding methods are not possible, but ARS has done good research for organic direct seeding methods in warm areas ( link provided below ). SRI does not adapt well to mechanical transplanting. In exceptionally cold areas, use double transplanting of non-photosensitive rice. (See 2010_crossroads_xuan_slides.pdf) Advantages: Commercial organic rice is only 1/3 as productive as conventional rice, so it is one of the few grains that still makes sense to grow manually for personal consumption. Manually mulched upland rice can be even more productive than commercial flooded rice. A small patch of rice would keep the knowledge and ability alive for times when limited rice availability could be overcome. Rice may be the only grain that the elderly can easily digest. Thrives in wet weather. Disadvantages: Labor intensive. Varieties: Japonica or Javanica type for temperate climates. Indica type for warm climates. Processing: Requires de hulling, but it can be done with a rubber roll paddy husker, or manually with an Engelberg type steel huller. Soaking the seed and cooking for 5-10 minutes first makes it easier. C.S. Bello - grain mills Saving Our Seeds - plans to modify grain mill into dehuller Preparation: Ferment for 1-7 days. Then cook with moderate heat to reduce anti-nutrients further. SRI: SRI - System of Rice Intensification SRI with ADRA SRI in Cambodia No-till: Masanobu Fukuoka - One Straw Revolution Dryland Rice: IRRI - Upland Rice Direct Seeding: USDA ARS - organic direct seeding Double transplanting: Bangladesh - Double Transplant West Bengal India - Double Transplant General Information: Facts and Details International Rice Research Institute Treehugger - warm soil with solar heated water irrigation Northern Grain Growers - rice Univ of Arkansas - rice growing Univ of Vermont - rice in cold climates Examples: Example of no-till rice with mulch grown in place. Growing Rice in Vermont Boundbrook Farm Growing Rice in the Northeast Kickstart Back to Garden for Nutrition Index