Fresh produce is a critical part of healthy living, especially in a survival situation. The vitamins, minerals, and fiber content of these foods have more of an impact on overall health than you can imagine. Without them the human body will weaken, and rather quickly. Expect digestive issues to increase without the fiber, cardiovascular health to decline and blood pressure to rise, and your immune system will be weakened. Fighting off diseases will be tougher and healing will slow down dramatically. The feeling of always being hungry will gnaw at many since the bulk of produce makes people feel full and satisfied. Diseases related to Vitamin C deficiency like anemia or scurvy will become commonplace and noticeable by fatigue and heavy breathing. Many of the nutrients found in fresh produce can be found in pill form, but if things get really bad, that supply will quickly be exhausted.
In a crisis, grocery stores will be immediately stripped of everything inside. Even if you could grab all the spinach and blueberries available, the perishability factor would quickly take over. Some people will have dried and canned produce to get them through for some time. Good planning and a food storage that is diverse and hidden will be a treasure trove in dangerous times. If you are not one of those people who planned and you find yourself on the cusp of a chaotic event, my suggestion is to stock up on potatoes, and lots of them. It might seem like a strange thing to focus on. When you look at the overall nutritional value of potatoes combined with their natural characteristics to last a long time, you’ll see the benefits.
One Two Punch
There are two big reasons to hoard fresh potatoes. They are one of the most nutrient rich vegetables that you can eat and are seriously satisfying as part of a meal. You can eat them cooked or raw and the preparation possibilities are endless. Potatoes are gluten free (as if you’ll care when the SHTF), fat free, cholesterol free, and sodium free and that’s just the tip of the benefit iceberg. Unlike many other high nutrient foods, potatoes fill you up.
One medium potato provides 110 calories and 18% of the USRDA of Potassium, an often overlooked, but extremely important mineral and electrolyte. Potassium is important for proper function of cells, tissues, and organs. Potassium is also responsible for regulating fluid balance and controlling the electrical activity of the heart and other muscles. It’s an electrolyte that counteracts the effects of sodium, helping to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Without fresh produce, the sodium levels in the human body will climb, resulting in an entirely different but equally bad set of circumstances. Potatoes will be the best source of potassium you’ll be able to find in a survival situation.
Potatoes have naturally high levels of Vitamin C, providing 45% of daily needs, along with many other antioxidant compounds like phenols, carotenoids, flavonoids, and anthocyanin compounds. The potato also earns high marks for providing 25% of the RDA of Vitamin B-6, which is essential for immune system functionality and the production of red blood cells. Other vitamins found in potatoes are Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Pantothenic acid, and Thiamin. They also provide zinc, phosphorus, copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, selenium, and iron in measurable amounts and just for good measure the potato provides 3 grams of protein.
A potato also provides 8% of the daily needs of dietary fiber. Because potatoes contain both simple and complex carbohydrates, they provide the body with energy. Complex carbohydrates are also referred to as dietary starch, are very satisfying and help to reduce constipation. A medium sized potato contains 26 grams of total carbohydrates, only 9% of the USRDA. No one will mention or care about the USDA tables when the world is in chaos. But health is health and there’s no time like the present to invest in yourself. Keep the skin on and eat it as the total measurements listed above are for skin-on spuds.
Nutritional value aside, the other part of the equation is storability. If you have the right conditions, a potato can be stored for up to one year or longer. Yes, you read that right, a year. It’s the storage conditions that really determine how long they will last. Try to get potatoes from a farmer’s market if possible to store as they will last longer than washed potatoes. The reasoning behind this, is that the washing process also takes off some of the skin; often in bits too small to see. The wash water also opens up the pores of the potato (called lenticels,) adding un-needed moisture.
Three things are critical in the process. Potatoes must be kept in the dark – even a little bit of light will cause them to green which makes them inedible. They must be kept dry run the risk of decay. A pocket of decay in a potato storage will grow rather quickly and could easily wipe out all your hard work. The third key thing is temperature – potatoes that will be stored for a few months or less can be kept at 45-50 degrees, but if you want a longer store, keep them between 35-45 degrees.
Quality In, Quality Out
Quality going in means quality going out. Don’t put bruised or split potatoes into your storage, its an invitation to problems. Bushel baskets or boxes with ventilation holes are common containers used for home storage. Keep in mind that air flow is your friend as it keeps moisture issues at bay. A basement or root cellar is a great place to keep potatoes stored. It takes care of the light issue and the temperature is steady. Potatoes in longer term storage do need some humidity to keep them from cracking. Find that dark corner and put down a pallet to keep the boxes or baskets off the ground as moisture can build up. Stack your boxes so air can move between them. If you have access to burlap, cover the pallet as an added light barrier. Check on them periodically and remove any questionable potatoes. If you’ve been vigilant, you should have potatoes for a long time. If some do begin to sprout, keep them for possible planting in the spring. Hopefully things will have died down enough from the initial event that you’ll be able to start a garden and get back to living.
For fresh food storage ideas, here are some wonderful suggestions at Mother Earth News. Remember that all food storage ideas require work and sometimes experimentation, so start now. A setback when things are fine isn’t that bad. In a SHTF situation, a setback can cost you your life. Lastly, PRINT IT if you want to insure you have it. The internet will be gone just as quickly as the milk and eggs at your local store. Make a survival bible and then make another copy just for safety sake.