Animal ProductsIdeally, we can convince chickens, bees, and other livestock to spend their copious free time eating food of low value to humans, then eat them and their eggs, meat, milk, and honey. In a well designed system, our critters self-harvest, according to their preferences: small seeds, bugs, grass & other leaves, and pollen & nectar. This maximizes our efficiency, and provides us with some of the healthiest human food possible.
Calories per pound: Eggs - 650, Meat - 525, Milk - 300, Honey - 1400
NutsNut trees can provide easy, reliable oil-rich seeds year after yaer. The fact that it takes a decade to start getting big yields just means we need to plant them *now*. And of course we can underplant developing nut trees with faster growing crops to use the space in the early years. Besides the usual nuts, oaks for acorns should get some attention. Oikos Tree Crops has some interesting naturally dwarfish seedlings which could fit much more easily into urban & suburban yards.
Possible nuts include walnut (black & english), butternut, filbert, chestnut, ginkgo, acorn, almond, pistachio, pecan, hickory, and pine. Many of these can be foraged easily.
Note that paleodiet circles warn against excess consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA); most oil-rich nuts have high levels of PUFAs. I'm still trying to sort through this issue for myself.
Calories per pound: About 900 for chestnuts, 1800 for ginkgo, and 2700-3300 for the more oily nuts.
|Good King Henry seed heads|
Small SeedsThough most of these work best as self-harvested livestock fodder, some may yield abundantly enough and process easily enough to be worth harvesting ourselves. Possible species include good king henry, fennel, Amaranthus sp, Chenepodium sp, perennial grains, dock, perennial flax, sunflower seeds, squash seeds, and various legumes including peas, favas, runner beans, and Carol Deppe's breeds adapted to the Willamette Valley. Not all will be palatable in large enough quantities to truly serve as staple crops: for example, fennel. But we should definitely explore those that do meet all three criteria of good yields, efficient harvest & process, and non-overwhelming flavor.
Calories per pound: around 1600
|Mulberries & Serviceberries|
Fruits & BerriesEveryone loves nature's candy, and the existing permaculture literature does a great job giving species options and describing how to grow them -- perhaps to an excessive extent, to the detriment of other important calorie crops. I found that I could eat about one pound of fruit per day, and half a pound of berries. Though I could probably push myself to eat more, Sébastien Noël of Paleodiet Lifestyle suggests limiting fructose intake to 50g/day, meaning no more than about 1 1/2 pounds of fruit and berries per day assuming no other sugars (including honey.)
Calories per pound: About 300 for fruits, 200 for berries
RootsPerennial, low maintenance root crops provide a moderately dense calorie crop. I found that I could eat about one pound per day, so they only provided a supplement to daily total calorie intake. Greatly increasing this intake may result in too many carbs for a healthy diet.
Root crops, of course, have the inherent ecological and labor drawback of requiring digging, but appropriate polycultures can mitigate some of the disadvantages.
My notes on perennial roots: part 1 and part 2
Calories per pound: around 300
Winter SquashThough annuals, these don't require much soil disturbance considering how much space they take up at maturity, and can self-seed themselves (though we may have undesirable results from uncontrolled crossing.) while summer squash have the calorie density and uses of other vegetables, winter squash occupies a gray zone between calorie crop and vegetable. I can eat a lot of it in one sitting, but it has fewer calories than roots or fruits (but more than most other vegetables). It has more nutrients than many staple crops. It yields abundantly when happy, and stores well into the winter without processing. Unfortunately, its season of availability coincides with the primary availability of the super easy perennial roots, somewhat diminishing its staple crop value. Still, it adds diversity to the winter meal options, and can definitely provide a substantial number of calories.
Calories per pound: around 200
Bonus Seed KernelsWe can eat the seeds from many fruits, giving us a small calorie-dense bonus. Species include all Prunus species (cherry, plum, peach, etc), Elaeagnus sp (goumi, autumn olive, silverberry), Cephalotaxus sp, and grapes. With the exception of almonds, a Prunus, no one grows any of these specifically for the seed kernels, but they're worth utilizing if we have them anyway! I used to eat some myself, and fed some to our chickens.
Calories per pound: guessing 1500-2500
Greens & Other VegetablesThough not calorie crops, these add important nutrients to the diet. I found it very easy to meet our needs of 4 oz/day/person from perennial greens, shoots, stalks, and flowers.
Calories per pound: about 100