Potato Survival Food

Potato Survival Food

There are about 100 calories in one normal size potato. The potato has more calories than most other vegetables. This makes the potato a pretty good survival food. They are fairly easy to grow, and fairly easy to preserve.

The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop, which most people know…grows underground. It came out of South America (the Andes) 400 years ago. It has since become the world’s fourth largest food crop (following rice, wheat and corn).

If the SHTF, and you’re supplementing your food storage with whatever you can grow yourself, you might seriously consider the potato. And as commonly advised, it’s best to start learning how to grow your own food BEFORE it should become increasingly ‘necessary’.

Potato Survival Food Calories

A typical medium size potato (2 – 3 inch diameter) may have almost 100 calories. While a large potato (~ 4+ inches diameter) may have nearly 200 calories.

On average (your results may vary), each potato plant might produce 3 to 5 pounds. That translates to approximately 1,200 to 2,000 calories yield for each potato planting. You might call that one survival day? Anyway, that provides some perspective.

Here are some more attributes of the potato:

The potato has even more potassium than a banana… 40-percent more. That’s good for lowering blood pressure too.

The potato can provide almost half your requirements for vitamin C. That’s in just one potato! Prevent scurvy. Note that most of Vitamin C is apparently close to the peel.

A potato provides a-lot of fiber in their skins. So be sure to eat the skins too…

There have been many people throughout history who have relied on, and survived on, the potato. As preppers, let’s learn from history and remember that fact – when it comes planting time. Potato survival food!

Potato Farm Production

Potato farms in the United States are producing on average about 40 tonnes per hectare (~2.5 acres). That translates to 32,000 pounds per acre. And that works out to be about 3/4 of a pound per square foot (which includes distance between rows, etc.).

So with that said, you might presume that a potato garden that’s 20 x 40 feet (800 square feet, just as an example), might yield almost 600 pounds. And that equates to about 235,000 calories, or about 117 survival days.

Again, this is simply approximate, and your growing methods may vary. I’m just trying to provide some relativity between the potato as a survival food, and how it may relate to calories and garden size.

Potato survival food. A great choice for the survival garden.

Here is one resource (Wikipedia-Potato) to get you started.

Okay, not that I’m recommending eating potatoes 24/7 (diversify!!), but the following is interesting…

He Ate Potatoes For 60 Days Straight?

After the USDA had proposed eliminating the potato or restricting its consumption in various federal feeding and nutrition programs, Chris Voigt (Executive Director of the Washington State Potato Commission) decided to protest these proposals and ate nothing but potatoes for 60 days. His health improved and he lost weight. His potato-only diet attracted a lot of media attention, which helped Congress to intervene and save the potato.

It should go without saying, but all I’m simply suggesting here is that the potato be added to your gardening, so as to provide a calorie-dense supplement to everything else you may be growing. It’s all about balance (and calories when it comes to survival).

Can I Grow Potatoes From The Grocery Store?

Yes. I’ve done it. However, these potatoes are treated and/or cultivated to reduce sprouts. Why? Because consumers don’t want to see that in the grocery store. This will not completely prevent said sprouting, but, it will reduce your yields.

Instead, I recommend finding “seed potatoes” at a local supplier. That’s what I do. They’re readily available every spring in my area. Even at hardware stores ;)

Tips:

First, some store potatoes are treated so they will not sprout. Not good if you want to grow them.

Next, you have to rotate your crops. Never plant potatoes in the same bed two years in a row. That will help prevent blight.

Also, sprinkle bone meal in with your seed ‘taters for the minerals tubers need.

Never add nitrogen to spurs as you will get very healthy leaves/stems but few potatoes.

Soil needs to be more on the acidic side for them than other veggies.

Add some sulfur to the soil which also helps prevent “scab”.

Hope it helps. I love growing taters. But hey, I DO live in Idaho!! :-)

~ Randy on Modern Survival Blog

Potato Varieties

Just like most other home grown veggies, you can get many more varieties of seed potatoes than you can at the store. Some have better attributes for long term storage, such as Kenebec. This fast-growing variety has high yields. And it maintains good quality in storage. That’s what I’ve grown most often. Do your own research and discover what’s best for you. Last time I grew Yukon Gold potatoes. They tasted great. A bit smaller though.

Many disease resistant potato varieties exist, and there are even different species with different flavors and nutrient profiles. There are blight resistant potatoes such as Sarpo Mira and Tollocan, and ones that can withstand some frost such as Alaskan frostless.

Regarding Ireland and the Irish potato famine… The main issue in Ireland was that they literally grew one variety that lacked any disease resistance instead of several varieties. It was a disaster waiting to happen. It was the type of potatoes that were grown at the time. The government had been pushing farmers to switch to a version of potato that was a prolific producer. After several years when most of the country was using this same potato was when the blight hit and continued for several years. Even though the potato was a prolific producer it was also susceptible to blight which people didn’t know at the time. 

Potato Storage

Regarding potato storage (cool / dark place)…

On home grown, don’t wash or clean the dug tubers. Just knock off the major dirt and call it good.

Make an insulated box that will hold humidity along with temp and darkness. And don’t just dump in a huge pile of potatoes – because you need to be able to inspect them on a monthly basis to cull the ones going bad.

A tray system works well. I have a home made tray box with 4 drawers 60″ long by 24″ deep that works great for what we use. Maybe an old set of salvaged dresser drawers that you can wrap in foam. That way you can manage your tuber supply, and there wont be ones on the bottom that will get missed and rot and wreck the whole lot.

We always have potatoes last thru April/May and most times have enough of at least a few long keepers to replant.

~ Glacialhills on Modern Survival Blog

Potato French Fry Cutter

A number of years ago I bought the following potato french fry cutter. Love it. We make french fries in a Air Fryer, rather than a vat of oil. All you have to do is lightly coat the fries with oil. Or, spray them with oil. Yummy.

Commercial Grade French Fry Cutter
(New Star Foodservice on amzn)

[ Read:

Gardening Calories List of Vegetables From A Survival Context

How To Preserve Potatoes

Food Storage List For 1 Year

22 Comments

  1. Based on where you live I think that sweet potatoes are a good follow up to Irish potatoes. Depending on whose numbers you look at, the Sweets may produce even more calories per acre. Irish potatoes are done around here in NE GA in late Spring

    If you live in an area with at least 90 frost free days, there are varieties of SPs that you can grow. I generally plant SPs about May 1 and harvest in August.

    I think SPs also have a nutritional edge on Irish potatoes as well, and both can store well.

    <bb

    1. bb, I did also grow some sweet potato as an experiment awhile back, and it worked out well too. Another great choice.

    2. Since we don’t eat sweet potatoes (I know, blasphemy) I use them as a soil conditioner. Harvest just enough to start over again the following spring, and let the rest rot in the ground. Digging deep into our sandy soil and leaving behind all that nice organic stuff. I’ll be trying them in play soil in a few months…

      1. CLAY soil, although trying them in play soil might be interesting. Would that be fake soil, or like play dough?

  2. Don’t forget Sunchokes aka Jerusalem artichokes as a potato alternative. They grow in the wild….learn to spot them. I planted some on my property once and have not had to re-plant for 8 years now and get a good harvest every year.. It is almost impossible to harvest all of those little treasures as they spread like covid….so be careful where you plant them. Good…gooood food source.

    1. P.S…..Tip…. To spot Sunchokes in the wild from a distance, go out in late summer and look for the very tall sunflower (yellow pedals) looking plants. Almost nobody knows that they are good food. Just mark the spot on your area map and you will know where to go if you need them.

    2. The sunchokes thrive in my dry garden, and because they don’t get watered they don’t spread much. In the last five years a single root has grown to a patch maybe 2 feet across.

  3. bb_in_GA
    Here in USDA zone 1b, we can’t grow sweet potatoes. However, we can grow SP slips. Which we then plant. The SP vines are very nutritious in and of themselves. They have medicinal properties as well. The larger older leaves are just as good (as tender and tasty) as the smaller younger leaves.

    Check with your grocer and ask them if their potatoes have been treated to reduce sprouting. The grocery store potatoes sold where we are, are not treated. We have been replanting Yukon Gold grocery store potatoes for some 5 or 6 years, so far.

    Then there is pressure canning potatoes. Quick and easy to just heat or to heat and mash. Or to fry, or to make into a potato salad.

  4. Try the organic taters from the grocery. They should have more sprouts at least the ones I forgot about in the pantry did.

  5. What a timely article, just canned a bunch of taters today! A welcome addition to the food storage.

  6. Thanksgiving Day ain’t “right” without some sweet Potatoe pie for dessert. Got our slips growing now.

  7. Timely article, indeed! Just picked up my Yukon Gold seed taters on St. Paddy’s day on the way to the feast. Still waiting for the ground to dry out a little to get the tractor moving in N. Ohio. It seems that we need to plant more of these YG’s as we keep running out. I guess they are the best for us.
    Don’t need any of the reds. They store well in the basement and by the time to start planting they are growing like crazy. Just chuck them back in the furrow and apply weed-block and old hay to keep the moisture up and weeds down. My back is cryin’ already just thinking about it. LOL

  8. I just read a great article on growing potatoes in a homemade open slatted crate, 3’x2’x1.5′. Put the crates in the garden and add the seed potatoes covering with good soil. As they grow, keep adding soil to about 1 inch below top leaves. The benefit to this is that at the end of the season you just lift the crates up and let everything fall out to the ground. This is easier to sift through and pull out the potatoes, rather than using a fork or something else to dig them up from the ground. Less chance of damaging or stabbing the spuds. That plus no weeding the rows. I suppose you could do the same with buckets, but if you have scrap pallets why not use. I’m also using some pallets and building a new Compost pile. Good stuff!

  9. I have been growing potatoes for years and I always find potatoes still In the ground from the previous year. These spuds are as good as the ones I dig up and store. Last year I left many in the ground on purpose just to see what happens. I found that they store in the ground just as well as the the ones I store away. I am going to keep them in the ground again this year.

    1. No joke,
      i have done that before with potatoes and peanuts, overwinter them and they were fine the next spring. i have never tried other root crops like carrots or onions.
      you always miss some when digging them up and i have had both potatoes and peanuts volunteer back up in the spring. zone 8b, and i do rotate my gardens out.
      also i plant them in rows on hills for good drainage to keep them from rotting.
      gonna try some containers this year and see how that works out with some veggie’s. it may be to hot here for container gardening but well see.
      good luck with everything

  10. Yes, ’tis time to plant taters in southern middle TN. Was going to do that today, but… It rained. I plant mine in raised beds. So easy on my poor back to harvest.

    Have sweet potato slips rooting in the kitchen window, soon to be potted. Couldn’t plant them yet as it’s way too cold for them to survive.

    Both are good high-calorie foods. Both can be canned. I like the quick and easy meal canned potatoes make. Sweet potatoes as well as butternut squash when canned make great casseroles.

  11. grandee,
    when i was younger i use to hear the old people talk about “curing” sweat potatoes to make them last longer.
    i wish i could remember or had been paying more attention as to how, but there is a way to do it.
    my MIL is 83 and she may remember, she grew up with mules and cotton sacks. if i find out i’ll post it.

    1. scout,
      After I dig my sweet potatoes I let them cure for about 14 days with the dirt on.( Never wash them if you plan to store them)
      I lay them out in my garage (dry and not in direct sunlight) on croker sacks and that way any scrapes or nicks will cure before storage and it allows the moisture from the dirt to dry completely. I then brush them lightly with a soft bristle brush to remove clumps of dirt but leave them dirty for storing in my basement. The thin layer of dirt greatly increases the storage time.

      1. Romeo Charlie ,
        sounds like the same plan as for irish potatoes. and that should work but i remember that they had a crib built into a hill on the side of the road for them. may have been just for storage, it can get blistering hot here in the summer, i not sure how they stored them, but i’ll find out. sweat potatoes are not something i have ever planted.
        it’s one thing to plant something but it’s another thing to keep it worked and picked. or dug out of the ground.
        i’m like Danny Glover-i’m getting to old for this.

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