Saving seeds can go a long way towards creating a sustainable lifestyle. Seeds have the power to grow an endless supply of food if they are continuously saved. Saving your own seeds will not only provide you with a sustainable food source but will also save you money in replenishing your seeds each year.
Saving your seeds is a great step towards self-sufficiency and when a world crisis happens, (hello 2020) the seed shelves are empty. People become more aware that they are relying on others to provide for them. Having your own seeds will mean you will have more resilience and can be more self-reliant.
Saving seeds from your best vegetables will help you develop your own SUPER plants! Selecting for pest resilience, size, strength, taste or timing, means you can grow more plants with those desired traits.
You will also get seeds and vegetables that are acclimatised to your exact growing conditions. They have adapted to their surroundings and will thrive! If you are already growing these vegetables you may as well save the seeds!
On a journey to grow your own food and live more sustainably, it is important to grow a selection of staple base crops to set yourself up for success. Base crops are ones that produce a large amount of food and will provide a great platform to build complete dishes. Just like we have staples in the pantry to create meals, it is important to have staples in the garden to carry us through each season. Base crops are easy to grow, harvest and store and will provide a good level of calorie-dense nutrition and carbohydrates. They also include things that can be grown in bulk and used throughout the year. Below are some of my favourite annual base crops.
Autumn / WinterCrops
Cabbage is a hearty winter vegetable to grow that provides a lot of food for one plant. A single cabbage can go a long way when creating meals for your family. Cabbage can be preserved to use throughout the year by fermenting it and making sauerkraut. This is a great way to use up lots of your cabbage and is also great for your gut health. Cabbage is a great way to bulk up salads, stirfries, or sauteed as a side dish of its own. Cabbage can also be used for bunless burgers and steaks. I can’t wait to showcase as many cabbage recipes as I can.
Cauliflower is another hearty winter crop that can be the base of many different meals. You can also use the leaves of the cauliflower as another form of leafy greens for vitamins and nutrients. Cauliflower can be pickled or frozen to use throughout the year. Cauliflower has so many uses and can be used to replace rice and flour in many dishes. Cauliflower can be blitzed to make pizza bases, bread, rice, pasta, or a substitute for mashed potato. Cauliflower can be roasted whole or the florets used in stirfries, curry, and soups. You can also slice it into steaks and oven-roast it. There are just so many ways to create wholesome dishes with the humble cauliflower. Cauliflower sushi is one of my favourites! Cauliflower also comes in many varieties and colours including purples and green!
Onions are the base of many dishes and are a staple flavour-enhancing vegetable. The great thing about onions is that they store well and can be dried and kept for many months after harvesting. Onions can also be dehydrated, pickled or frozen to use throughout the year. They are also easy vegetables to grow and grow well in many different conditions. Onions prefer the cooler weather of Autumn here in Western Australia and in colder climates, they can be sown in Spring. The onion family come in many shapes and sizes from spring onions, red onions, bunching onion, pickling onions, white onions and many more. They are a great staple vegetable to add flavour to many dishes.
Just like the onions, Garlic is another staple flavour enhancer. You can grow a large crop of garlic and use it throughout the year. Garlic is not only great for enhancing the flavour of your food but is also medicinal with antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is a great allrounder for your health, home and kitchen needs.
Rainbow chard or Swiss Chard are powerhouse greens for your edible garden. They are easy to grow and produce an abundance of nutrient-dense food. You can pickle or freeze your extra produce to eat throughout the year. I choose to grow the rainbow chard because I love the pop of colour in my winter garden and in the meals I produce with it. You can use chard in so many dishes from stirfries, curry, soup, omelette, pesto, salads and as a stand-alone side dish. Chard can also be used as an alternative to wraps.
Spring / SummerCrops
Pumpkins are a fantastic vegetable to grow as they produce a lot of food and can be easily stored to use throughout the year. Pumpkins are easy to grow and prefer warm dry weather. It is important to water pumpkins in the morning or under the leaves as they can be prone to mildew if their leaves remain moist for too long. Pumpkins can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes and a single pumpkin can go a long way to help provide garden-to-plate meals. Watch how to preserve pumpkins for storage in this linked video.
Growing Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) in your home garden is a great step towards self-sufficiency. Sweet Potatoes are my favourite permaculture plant and are an easy crop to grow for beginner gardeners. It is important to grow plants that support and encourage other plants and beneficial insects in your garden. Creating a cohesive ecosystem that promotes the growth and success of your garden’s health and supports abundant harvests. The leaves of the sweet potato are also edible which provides a great source of greens whilst your crop is growing. Sweet potato are very versatile in the kitchen and can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes.
Tomatoes are a plant that grows in abundance during summer and can easily be preserved to use throughout the year. You can grow a huge amount of tomatoes on just a few plants which makes them a great staple for self-sufficiency. You can preserve your tomatoes by canning, bottling, making sauce, chutney, relish, soup, dehydrating or simply freezing them whole. Whole frozen tomatoes can be used to make sauces or relish at a later date or added to soups and dishes throughout the year.
Beans are another vegetable that produces a huge abundance in a small time frame. You can grow a lot of beans in a small space by creating a vertical trellis to grow them up. Beans can be frozen, fermented, or bottled/canned to preserve for use throughout the year. Beans are an easy vegetable to throw into many meals such as stir-fries, curries, soups, salads, and as a side dish on their own.
Apple trees are a great staple fruit tree for a home garden because they can be used in so many ways. Apples are an extremely versatile fruit. You can preserve apples by freezing slices or puree, dehydrating or canning in juice or syrup. Apples can be used to form the base of many homemade sauce recipes, relish, chutney and jams. Apple sauce can even be added to baking in replace of eggs to retain moisture as well as to bulk up a fruit pie.
Lemon is another great staple tree to start with on your journey to self-sufficiency. Lemons can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes and are a great flavour enhancer. Lemons can also be used to aid health and wellness or in-home cleaning products. They are a staple all-round fruit. You can preserve lemons by dehydrating, juicing, freezing, preserving in salt, or making into lemon butter.
Choosing what vegetables to grow at home can be so hard! But this selection of staples will help you form a good base to work from. Having vegetables preserved will help you during the slower months or when your garden is transitioning between seasons.