Book Review: Grow a Sustainable Diet

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vetch among the weeds

At the bookstore, I was flipping through the garden books and noticed Grow a Sustainable Diet: planning and growing to feed ourselves and the earth by Cindy Conner referred to the Biosphere 2 experiment from the early 90’s, which is the primary reason I bought it.

This book gives clear instructions on putting together a plan to feed a group from your land. I think the planning aspect is this book’s strength. The author points out that feeding yourself entirely from your own land changes what should be planted. Getting adequate calories, protein and calcium become issues that need to be through through. She recommends multiple worksheets and maps to aid developing the plan.

In her own words: β€œIn developing your plan for a sustainable diet, you will want to consider crops that will grow the most food in the least space.” It turns out potatoes produce the most calories per square foot (I assume this is out of the ordinary garden crops). She also mentions garlic as a good calorie producer, which confused me. I see no problem growing lots of garlic, however, I’ve only ever used it as a flavoring. Consuming more might keep vampires at bay, and probably my friends too.

I’ve now realized the straw I’m using as mulch is a big external input into my garden, plus I’m depleting the soil where the straw was harvested from. Her recommendation is to grow your own mulch. I do grow some and scavenge what I can from my own lot, but I don’t have enough space to grow the amount of mulch I would need. I’ll try growing more.

Grow a Sustainable Diet contains a lot of good information. I would recommend this book for anyone that is attempting to grow most of their own food. My main complaint about the book is it frequently provides general information then refers to other books to get the details – books I don’t have at hand.

On a final note, she has changed how I think about honey. It turns out 1 teaspoon of honey is the life work of 12 bees – put that way honey seems more precious.