The Resilient Gardener – book review


Lacinato Kale waiting to be harvested.

I just finished reading The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times by Carol Deppe a book off my Christmas list that I started right away (I tend to receive a nice pile of books to read over the holidays). This book is about adapting your garden towards self-sufficiency and efficiency so it will be ready to provide support when a disaster of some sort hits. This year I’m shifting towards growing more of my own staples, which is exactly what this book is about.

Carol’s writing is easy to understand but her explanations are not over simplified. For example, she included the clearest explanation I’ve ever read as to why combining grains and legumes creates the complete protein that our bodies need (plenty of books explain this is necessary when not eating meat, but I’ve never come across a clear, detailed description as to why).

After discussing general topics around creating a resilient garden including irrigation, labour saving ideas, soil fertility, she devotes a chapter each to discussing her choice of staples – eggs, beans, corn, potatoes and squash. Since, I am in the same biome as her (the author gardens in Oregon), her staples could be mine.

Potatoes are by far my favorite staple crop that I grow. In her chapter on potatoes, the author considers an all potato diet as a thought exercise. For the space they require, potatoes produce the most calories of all the temperate crops. Additionally, if my caloric needs were greater than 3000 calories a day, an all potato diet would provide all my protein. Unless disaster strikes in form of an apocalypse that forces me to spend my days hunting down zombies, I don’t need that many calories and, as she points out, eating nothing but potatoes for any length of time would create other deficiencies – never the less, I found it an interesting thought exercise.

Corn for flour and polenta is another of her staples. For some reason growing corn has been a disaster for me – I’m yet to eat an ear out of my own garden and I’m not even going to bother growing it this year (although her arguments for growing corn as a grain were compelling). As an alternative grain I’m going to try amaranth. Ironically, my favorite way to eat amaranth is to pop it like I would popcorn – but not in a hot air popper. I tried once and discovered amaranth is tiny enough to slip through the air vents into the motor. To be useable again, the machine had to be disassembled and cleaned out. Now, I pop amaranth in a pot.

As a bonus, she includes preparation techniques for her staples. Unfortunately, she relies heavily on her microwave – an appliance I don’t own. I do agree with her philosophy that if one is growing their own staples, one should know how to turn them into tasty food.

The Resilient Gardener contains more than just gardening instructions, it you are trying to grow some of your own food or even store and use locally grown staples, the book is worth reading.