Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Edible Plants for Preppers: Growing, using and eating plants (Chpt 4)


 Plants for Preppers by Amanda Rofe. £2.50 Amazon Kindle.

In light of the uncertainty facing the world these days, we have decided to publish a series of chapters from Edible Plants for Preppers. Available from Amazon Kindle for £2.50, it provides a lot of useful information for UK preppers on a vegan or plant-based diet. Please note, while it encourages food to be eaten uncooked, and in its natural state, it is not a raw food book.


Links to other chapters


CHAPTER 4: 

Growing, using & eating plants



Example of a basic food garden



The following are a list of basic plants which can be relatively easily grown in the British Isles. Check out seed catalogues and nurseries for the best varieties. If this is all a bit overwhelming, or the worst comes to the worst, just grow potatoes or parsnips. They make a good basis for a filling meal, provide much needed energy, and are easy to grow and store. n.b. parsnips can be left in the ground until required, even if the ground is frozen or covered in snow.


Fruit
Apple
Pear
Plum

Beans & peas
Broad Bean
Runner Beans

Green leaves
Cabbage
Kale
Lettuce
Spinach

Root vegetables
Carrots
Parsnips
Potatoes
Swede
Turnips

Salad vegetables
Courgettes
Cucumber
Tomatoes

Squash
Butternut squash
Marrow
Pumpkin

Bulbs
Garlic
Onions

Nuts and seeds
Flax
Hazel
Pumpkin (seed from the pumpkin vegetable)

Growing methods

Traditionally gardeners in the British Isles have grown fruit and vegetables in the ground in back gardens and allotments. Those without gardens often use pots and containers. Growing methods are many and varied, the difference often being between those using chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and those growing organically without any artificial chemical inputs. Organic growers often use techniques such as permaculture, forest gardening, stockfree organic growing, agroforestry, raised beds and deep bed cultivation.

It is not necessary to use human manure, animal manure or chemical fertilisers to produce healthy plants. Stockfree (vegan organic) methods of cultivation are proven ways of growing food and are already used to feed people commercially in the UK. Soil fertility originates from plants and can be maintained and even increased by using certain methods of plant-based cultivation such as crop rotation, mulching, composting, by applying green manures and seaweed meal.

Tolhurst Organic is one of the longest running organic vegetable farms in England. It has held the Soil Association symbol since 1976 and the Stockfree Organic symbol since 2004. There are no grazing animals and no animal inputs, such as fish, blood and bonemeal, on any part of the farm. By removing animal inputs there are fewer pathways for pathogens which are an increasing concern with regard to diseases such as E. coli. Tolhurst Organic currently supplies food to 400 families.

Those living in inner city environments will have more of a challenge to grow food since land will be at a premium. There are very successful urban food production projects in the UK largely centered around allotments, community gardens, school gardens and city farms. However, just about anywhere with space can be used to grow food in a city such as back yards, windowsills, conservatories, roofs, balconies, walls, abandoned yards and buildings. If using containers, be prepared to acquire a large amount of growing media e.g. bags of compost.

An estimated 15-20 per cent of total global food production is produced by and for people living in city areas (van Veenhuizen, 2006). The positive side to urban agriculture include health and social benefits for residents as well as a greener food production system which includes a short supply chain. The challenges include access to land and water as well as the problems of soil contamination from urban industry and traffic.

There are specialised systems of growing food if space is at a premium. Biointensive growing is an organic closed system, based on deep soil cultivation producing large amount of food using far less land, water and energy than conventional growing systems.

Hydroponics is a soil-less growing system where food is grown indoors, in small spaces, all year round and using a liquid feed. A ready-made hydroponics system can be expensive to set up but secondhand systems are available and even cheaper diy systems can be devised. The Babylonians and Aztecs were thought to use an early form of hydroponics.

There are also a variety of vertical planters that can be purchased which allows plants to be grown up walls. They are often seen in cities as green screens, green walls or living louvres. These can be expensive but as with hydroponics, hand made systems are feasible.

Of course, a cheap and easy way to grow fresh food is to sprout seeds in jars and other containers indoors. Sprouting is a good way of obtaining fresh food within days and during any season of the year. Although this is good in the short term, it isn't a sustainable way of growing food because the plants never grow to maturity and will not produce seed stock for the following year.
 

Seed and equipment



Purchase seed for planting now and include extra packets to place in storage. Put in place plants, shrubs and trees. Get an edible garden established and get a feel for the best growing techniques for the soil and surroundings. For those who don't have much time, and even less inclination, put in place a selection of perennial plants, shrubs and trees. Grow the big fruits e.g. apples, pears and plums. Add some hazelnut bushes as they are really easy to grow and can just be left to their own devices. Allow an area at the bottom of the garden to go wild and where native plants like brambles, chickweed, dandelion and nettles can grow. Areas of lawn, preferably in a sunny position, can be left ready to be dug over to grow basics like root vegetables and greens should a crisis strike.



Stock up on organic open pollinated or heirloom seeds and practice seed saving. Unlike some of the genetically modified hybrids of today, these will flower and produce seed that can be saved and used to produce next year's crop. Also keep a stock of professionally collected seed from a reliable company. This seed is less likely to have been cross pollinated or carry any diseases. Keep these seeds in an airtight container such as Timebags or Mylar bags in the fridge or freezer and replace every few years. Freezing seeds won't damage them and will extend their lifespan and is better than refridgeration. Ensure seeds are completely dry before saving. The enemy of the seed saver is moisture and a fluctuation in temperature. At the time of writing only American companies sell special packs of 'survival seeds'. Some are guaranteed to germinate after 20 years in storage.



Buy tools and equipment. Useful items include a hand trowel and fork, long handled fork and spade, hand hoe, long handled hoe, rake, secateurs, pruning shears, saw, hose, watering can, wheelbarrow, gloves, netting/fleece, potting soil water butt, compost bin and a coldframe, greenhouse or polytunnel. Most vegetation can be composted and fed back to the soil to feed it but it takes time. To make a fine seed compost choose a separate container for the task and add seed-free vegetation chopped into small pieces. Include layers of leaves and grass cuttings. Those with larger areas of land, such as allotments or smallholdings, may require machinery.

Purchase gardening books on growing, pruning, composting, pests, diseases and food preservation ahead of time. Make use of books which work within an organic system rather than with hybrid seeds and chemical fertilisers, products which may be hard to get hold of further down the line.

Using and storing plants

Try to leave plants in situ until needed where they will retain their nutrients and beneficial properties. Pick green leaves a few minutes before they are eaten or cooked. Otherwise keep produce whole and place in appropriate storage.

Generally food should be stored whole rather than processed since food deteriorates more rapidly after processing. Store whole nuts not ground or chopped and whole grain rather than flour. Having said this any food dried and stored to very a high quality, such as freeze-drying, will last for years.

There are many ways of storing food: cold storage, drying, freezing, bottling (canning: USA), salting, smoking, fermenting (sauerkraut or kimchi), pickling and making jelly, jam, preserves, sauces and chutney. Some methods are better for good health than others.

If food cannot be eaten immediately or stored whole in cold storage then one of the best ways of preserving food for the prepper is drying. Dried food preserves more of the nutrients, is light to carry, stores in a smaller space and is flavour intensive. Drying doesn't require salt, sugar, vinegar, oil, alcohol or water, all of which may be scarce or non-existent.
 

Drying food using an electric dehydrator is certainly one of the quickest and safest ways of preserving food. Other ways of drying food include the using the sun on hot days, a warm dry airy place or an oven on a low heat with the door slightly open. Food needs to be dried as quickly as possible to retain nutrients and avoid spoiling. Once the moisture has been removed, food can be stored in airtight containers or bags.
 

Solar driers can be made but they need to be designed with a long shute to direct hot air into the main drying box to help things along in the unreliable climate of the British Isles. During periods of really hot dry weather, food can be dried in the open air or under a sheet of glass in the sun. Keep flies, birds and other animals away from the food wth a fly screen. Do not attempt 'open air' drying in the British Isles unless scorching hot sun and low humidity are absolutely guaranteed for several days. This particularly applies to drying food with a high water content, such as fruit, that might take several days to dry properly.



General recommendations suggest using dried foods within a year. If keeping dried food longer it should be vacuum sealed, which removes the oxygen, and stored in good quality containers such as Timebags or Mylar bags with little sachets of oxygen absorber. Foods dried and stored under high quality conditions can often be stored indefinitely. Most commercial companies producing camping and survival foods use freeze drying techniques for this. Freeze drying can be carried out at home using a freezer, a freezer and dehydrator, or dry ice.



Freezing food should never be relied upon unless a reliable energy source is available. The main grid may or may not be working and if it is may only provide intermittent electricity. Frozen food is only as good as the energy source which supplies the freezer.



Getting the best out of food

It is crucially important to remain as fit and healthy as possible. The wrong food will make people sick and vulnerable. Healthy food is that which has retained all its nutrients and is as natural as possible. Food which is considered uncooked, raw or living, contains the most nutrients and is highly beneficial to health. However, there are times when cooking is essential no more so than during times of crisis.

Cooked food will be a comfort for people who are used to eating mostly cooked food. Many of us have been brought up on cooked foods. It is not always a good thing. Cooking can reduce the amount of protein, enzymes, vitamins, phytonutrients, minerals, and insoluble fibre which is important for the excretion of carcinogens from the body. Cooking some common foodstuffs such as bread and meat may produce many potentially hazardous chemicals, some of which can damage the human genetic material or cause cancer (The Heatox Project, 2007).

Food is also cooked to tenderise it and make it easier to eat. While cooking can sometimes improve the digestibility of some food, so does blending (using a high quality blender), soaking, germinating and fermenting. Germination actually reduces phytic acid more effectively than cooking and improves the quality of the protein.
 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Edible Plants for Preppers: Quick plant guides (Chpt 3)


 Plants for Preppers by Amanda Rofe. £2.50 Amazon Kindle.

In light of the uncertainty facing the world these days, we have decided to publish a series of chapters from Edible Plants for Preppers. Available from Amazon Kindle for £2.50, it provides a lot of useful information for UK preppers on a vegan or plant-based diet. Please note, while it encourages food to be eaten uncooked, and in its natural state, it is not a raw food book.


Links to other chapters

   
CHAPTER 3: Quick plant guides



Here we have a list of some plants and their uses. There are many more to choose from. Recipes and instructions can be found in chapter 18.



Plants for milk and cream



Almond

Flax

Hazelnut

Hemp

Oats

Soya beans (soy: USA)



Plants for black tea



Tea shrub

Blackberry

Raspberry

Strawberry



Plants for herbal tea



Chamomile

Chickweed

Elderflower

Fennel

Mint

Nettle



Plants for 'coffee'



Carrot

Chicory

Dandelion

Jerusalem artichoke

Parsnip

Rye



Culinary and medicinal plants



Chamomile (German or Roman)

Common thyme

Garlic

Mint

Oregano

Parsley

Rosemary

Sage

Valerian

Yarrow



Plants for flavour & scent



Sweet dried fruit, ripe fresh fruit, stevia and the syrup of Jerusalem artichoke, sugar beet or tree sap e.g. pine, silver birch, sycamore, walnut

Salt/savoury celery, green purslane, lovage, salt bush, sea salt (home-made), seaweed and plants grown on the sea shore or by estuaries e.g. marsh samphire and rock samphire

Pepper alexanders, nasturtium, rocket, shepherd's purse

Chilli/hot/mustard chilli pepper, garlic mustard, horseradish, nasturtium

Garlic garlic, garlic mustard, ramsons

Bitter cat's ear, dandelion, hawkweed, plantain

Sour gooseberry, grape, plum, green tomatoes, ground cherry, iron cross plant

Aroma common thyme, lavender, mint, pine, rose, rosemary, sage, violets



Wild plants



Chickweed

Clover

Common sorrel

Daisy

Dandelion

Fat hen

Grass (most species including lawn)

Hawthorn

Nettle

Primrose

Sow thistle



Ornamental shrubs



These shrubs produce edible fruit. They are often sold in garden centres in the UK and can be found in many cultivated gardens in the British Isles.



Amelanchier (all species)

Creeping dogwood

Elaeagnus (some, probably all, species)

Fuchsia (all species)

Mahonia (some, probably all, species)

Pyracantha coccinea (the fruit not the seed)

Rosa (all species)

Sea Buckthorn



Annual vegetables



Annual vegetables have to be sown every year from seed.



Butternut squash

Celery

Courgette

Cress

Cucumber

Lettuce

Marrow

Pumpkin

Radish

Spring onions

Sweetcorn

Sweet pepper

Tomato



Perennial vegetables



Perennial vegetables do not need to be sown every year and will live for 2 years or more. Many will last indefinitely.



Asparagus

Chicory

Comfrey

Common sorrel

Jerusalem artichoke

Nettle

Nine star perennial broccoli

Perennial kale

Sea kale

Tree collards

Wild cabbage



Vegetables for the winter



These plants are very hardy and can be left growing until required even if the ground is frozen or covered in snow.



Brussels sprouts

Collards

Kale

Leek

Parsnip

Sea kale

Spinach

Swede

Turnip

Wild cabbage

Winter cabbage



Root vegetables



Beetroot

Carrot

Celeriac

Jerusalem artichoke

Parsnip

Potato

Radish

Salsify

Scorzonera

Skirret

Swede

Sweet potato

Turnip



Green leafy vegetables



Cabbage

Collards

Corn salad

Cress

Green purslane

Kale

Leaf beet

Lettuce

Mustard

Oriental vegetables

Sea vegetables

Spinach



Nuts and seeds



Almond

Beech

Flax

Hazel

Hemp

Pumpkin

Sweet chestnut

Walnut



Grain (cereals)



Barley

Oat

Quinoa

Rye

Wheat



Cultivated fruit



Apple

Blackberry

Cherry

Currant (black, red, white)

Dessert grape

Gojiberry

Gooseberry

Pear

Plum

Raspberry

Strawberry



Wild fruit



Blackberry

Bilberry

Crab apple

Dewberry

Rosehip (dog rose)

Elderberry

Haw (hawthorn)

Rowanberry (mountain ash)

Sea buckthorn

Service tree

Wild raspberry

Wild strawberry



Edible evergreen shrubs



Bamboo

Bilberry

Common thyme

Elaeagnus species

Holm oak

Olive

Rosemary

Sage

Salt bush

Strawberry tree

Yucca



Plants that can't be grown in the British Isles



Here are a list of some popular foods that cannot be grown in the British Isles or are difficult to grow taking up too much time and energy. They can, however, be purchased, properly prepared and placed in storage ahead of a crisis.



Bananas

Brazil nuts

Cacao (cocoa)

Carob

Cashew nuts

Chia seed (the leaf can easily be grown)

Coconut

Coffee

Durian

Grapefruit

Lemon

Lime

Lychee

Macadamia

Mango

Orange

Paw paw

Peanut

Pineapple

Pistachio

Rice

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Edible Plants for Preppers: Four places to find food (Chpt 2)

Plants for Preppers by Amanda Rofe. £2.50 Amazon Kindle.

In light of the uncertainty facing the world these days, we have decided to publish a series of chapters from Edible Plants for Preppers. Available from Amazon Kindle for £2.50, it provides a lot of useful information for UK preppers on a vegan or plant-based diet. Please note, while it encourages food to be eaten uncooked, and in its natural state, it is not a raw food book.


Links to other chapters
Edible Plants for Preppers - Chapter 4
Edible Plants for Preppers - Chapter 15

 
CHAPTER 2: Four places to find food

Four main food sources during a crisis include:

1. Own food stocks (prepared before the crisis)
2. Home grown food
3. Wild food foraging
4. Other ways to find food

1. Own food stocks

Stocking up on supplies of food will need to be done now and not after a crisis has begun. It is recommended to keep a deep larder (long term food stores). This means ensuring a supply of food for a minimum of three months to one year or more. Important items include grain, pulses, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables, oil, sugar/syrup, salt, vinegar, yeast, baking powder, yeast extract, stock powder/cubes, herbs, spices, longlife or powdered milk, protein or smoothie mixes, dried fruit, tea, coffee, seeds for sprouting and sowing, bottled water and a means of making water safe, supplements, plus other favourite or familiar items e.g. breakfast cereal, peanut butter, jam, biscuits, chocolate, soft drinks or alcohol. Many will want to stock up on food for special diets such as diabetics or babies as well as food for dogs, cats and other companion animals.

There are companies who specialise in long life food for emergencies, expeditions, travelling, backpacking and camping such as MREs (meals ready to eat). These types of food are often expensive but a small stock kept alongside main supplies or in a bug out bag can be useful. Similar, but rather more cheaper, foods are available from supermarkets such as cereal bars, snack bars and meals in a packet or pot which only require the addition of hot water. These types of foods may not have a long shelf life but are, nevertheless, very useful. Ensure there are plenty of supplies of food that can be eaten straight out of a jar, tin or packet without needing to be heated.

It is wise to stock food that is normally eaten. Morale will plummet if the family has to eat food they are not familiar with or dislike. A really precise list of food to store for each household is difficult as each family has different tastes and requirements. Be sensible, look at what the household currently consumes each week and estimate on the generous side. Other family members, friends and strangers may unexpectedly turn up requiring nourishment. Stock up on a variety of different foods to avoid food fatigue. A body may physically reject a food that has been eaten repeatedly and in quantity over a long period of time.

Try using one of the prepping calculators available online. They provide good general guidelines regarding what quantities to buy. The Americans have been doing long term food storage for many years and are very good at it so check out American food storage and preppers websites. The Mormans (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), for example, encourage the members to store food for emergencies and also supply useful information on this subject.

If it is too expensive to buy stock in one go, buy in extra food when doing a regular shop. Set this aside. It will soon mount up. Store in a cool dark place and rotate it in date order using up the oldest food items first. This way food remains fresh and any changes in diet can easily be accommodated e.g. baby grows up so baby food is no longer required. In reality of course anyone can eat baby food but this is just an example. It is particularly important to rotate fats and oils as they can go rancid quickly.

Long term storage items such as long life emergency foods packed to a high standard and other foods such as whole wheat grain, can be omitted from the short term rotation and simply left in storage.

Don’t spend a lot of time calculating precise calorific or nutritional content of every item thereby delaying or preventing any purchase of stock. It is far better to have something than nothing at all.

2. Home grown food

Family food supplies can be supplemented or, given enough space, energy and time, completely supplanted by home grown food. Even growing small amounts of fruit and vegetables is preferable to being 100 per cent reliant on Government agencies, supermarkets, etc during, or outside of, a crisis.#

Those living in rural areas will usually have no problem finding land to grow food on. Those in urban areas have more of a challenge but urban agriculture does exist and the interest in it increasing. It is already used to successfully feed people in other areas of the world.

Any food that can be home grown is going to be beneficial. What people choose to grow is a personal decision but some fruit and vegetables are better than others. It is particularly important to concentrate on reliable easy-to-grow filling food that will store well.

3.    Wild food foraging

Edible wild plants colonise urban and rural areas alike. Instead of spending valuable time searching the counryside for edible wild plants just leave a flowerbed unweeded or lawn unmown and see what comes up. Those near the coast can forage for sea vegetables.

Some of the most common plants found in the British Isles are blackberries, cleavers, hawthorn and the very important nettle. They are all edible. Try out some recipes using wild plants so that they become familiar to use. Make nettle soup or use it in place of spinach. Add chickweed to green salads. Make dandelion coffee or plantain tea.

Wild plants are very important and may be the mainstay for food during times of crisis. They are the most nutritionally beneficial of all plant foods. Wild plant seeds can be purchased so if there is nothing to forage in the immediate vicinity, they can be home grown.

4.    Other ways to find food

In Europe during World War 2 bartering became a popular way of obtaining food and other essential items. People who have a surplus stock of one particular item may be willing to share or swap it for something else. Do not be afraid to stockpile or grow more food than required. Surplus food will always be useful.

Ask for food. It is probably a good idea to ask those you think have a plentiful supply. Those who have very little may not want to share. Some people may feel uncomfortable doing this but it is nothing to be ashamed of. People generally do not die of shame but they do die through lack of food.

Raid bins and skips behind cafes, restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and large institutions with their own catering departments. During a crisis these places will probably discard less or no food but something may still be available.
In an extreme crisis situation rationing may be introduced and Government and volunteer agencies may provide essential supplies either by setting up distribution points on the ground or by air drops.

A distribution system for emergency food supplies (called a foodbank) for people in need is already in place in the UK. The Trussell Trust is the largest of these networks. Over 913,138 adults and children in the UK received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbank in 2013-14. Rising food and fuel prices, static incomes, under-employment and sanctioning of benefits are some reasons why people turn to foodbanks.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Edible Plants for Preppers: Food during a crisis (Chpt 1)


Plants for Preppers by Amanda Rofe. £2.50 Amazon Kindle.

In light of the uncertainty facing the world these days, we have decided to publish a series of chapters from Edible Plants for Preppers. Available from Amazon Kindle for £2.50, it provides a lot of useful information for UK preppers on a vegan or plant-based diet. Please note, while it encourages food to be eaten uncooked, and in its natural state, it is not a raw food book.


Links to other chapters



CHAPTER 1: Food during a crisis

Causes of a crisis 

A crisis may be a personal emergency affecting a single individual or family. It may be a catastrophe on a national or global scale affecting thousands or even millions of people.

The causes of disasters throughout the world are many and they usually adversely affect food supplies leading to 'food insecurity'. The following are some examples (in no particular order): weather (drought, floods, snow), climate change (rising sea levels, more frequent extremes of temperatures), terrorism, war, industrial or nuclear accident, disease, the reduction in oil supplies (peak oil), social unrest, population growth, the breakdown or interruption of global technology and communications (loss of mobile phone and internet connections) and the machinations of banks and governments.

The UK, self sufficiency and food security

Before 1750 the UK was 100 per cent self-sufficient in food (Rusource, 2007). The population was low at under 10 million and mainly worked the land, so selfsufficiency wasn't surprising. After the industrial revolution in the late 1700s the urban population rose dramatically and levels of self-sufficiency dropped. The UK population currently stands at around 64 million (ONS, 2014) and is around 62 per cent self-sufficient in food (DEFRA, 2012).

These self-sufficiency figures are based on market values. Figures are not easy to calculate and current statistics certainly do not take into account all the complex variables such as the way the UK depends on imports of fuel, fertiliser, machinery, animal feed and imbedded water and energy.

Being self-sufficient in food, particularly with home-grown produce, can increase food security for individuals as well as whole nations. Food security can also be achieved by a variety of other means such as trading with other countries.

The UK currently depends very much on international trade for food security. Unfortunately this does mean the UK is vunerable to all things international including the vagaries of global market forces, adverse global weather patterns and social unrest or war in other countries.

On a local level, and for most individual households in the UK, food security is heavily reliant upon continuing supplies from one of the large supermarket chains which brings in food from all over the world.

The four largest supermarkets in the UK are Tesco, Sainsbury's, ASDA and Morrisons. Coined the 'big four', they currently supply over 70 per cent of groceries to households in the UK. Supermarkets, along with fast food outlets who currently supply over half the meals eaten outside the home, rely very heavily on long supply chains. Any one of the links in these chains could break down preventing deliveries to individual stores. Supermarkets generally rely on a regular, often daily, supply of goods being delivered and often do not have more than a few days supplies in stock ready for an emergency situation.

It is unwise to rely on supermarkets for food supplies during a crisis. They can run out of food and other essentials very quickly. This means each individual household must rely upon itself to ensure that there is enough food and water to last a crisis of a few days, months or longer.

The last major food crisis

The last major food crisis affecting the British Isles occurred during World War 2 (1939-1945). Food rationing was introduced for butter, bacon and sugar and later extended to nearly all important foods. Some foods were supplied irregularly or were subject to seasonal fluctuations such as milk, eggs, oranges and potatoes. Imports of meat and bacon from the continent ceased entirely and production in the UK was drastically reduced. Britain concentrated on crops for direct human consumption such as cereals, potatoes, sugar beet, vegetables and milk rather than on meat production because of the excessive amount of grain and fodder that needed to be grown for animal feed.

Rationing continued for fourteen years in all and for some years after the end of the war. However, Britain succeeded in feeding itself. Supply ships still made it through to British shores and the British people rallied to produce a lot of their own food. The Dig for Victory campaign launched by the British Government was very successful in encouraging the production of fresh food. Promoted by Mr C.M. Middleton, the Alan Titchmarsh of the 1940s, fruit and vegetables were grown in lawns, flower beds, parks, school playgrounds, golf clubs, tennis courts and even the moat at the Tower of London. In 1944 British gardeners produced an estimated 2-3 million tons of food overall.

What happens during a crisis

At the onset of a crisis certain things immediately become scarce. Those items that are available may become very expensive. Within hours supermarket shelves will empty of food, bottled water and other essentials such as toilet rolls, nappies, batteries, candles, matches, etc. Bread and milk are usually the first foods to disappear. Fuel will be in demand and petrol stations will quickly run out. It is very difficult to predict what will happen after that. It very much depends on what the disaster is, how bad it is and how those in charge respond to it.

There are legitimate concerns that those in charge will not come through for us. This was abundantly clear in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when 80 per cent of New Orleans in America was flooded displacing more than a million people in the Gulf Coast region (The Data Center, 2013). The hurricane was the most destructive natural disaster in American history. Its aftermath, including the inability of those in authority to respond adequately, has been widely reported.

There would be every reason to think a well equipped and highly organised country like America could respond quickly and efficiently to an internal crisis such as this. However, it didn't happen and it shocked the world. It was a stark reminder that America, and other similarly wealthy nations, can be just as vulnerable as people suffering from a disaster in the majority countries.

Humans can survive for many weeks without eating providing water is available. However, in reality people become very distressed in quite a short space of time. It is very tiring and extremely bad for morale to be without food.

In a crisis people suffer stress, lack of sleep, cold and may have to move around more doing a lot of physical work. Other people, such as family, friends and neighbours who are less able, may need support. More calories and high energy food will probably be required and may be essential. The NHS (National Health Service) say that an average man needs around 2,500 calories a day to maintain his weight and a woman 2,000 calories a day. But these figures will vary depending on age and levels of physical activity, among other factors.

Those who are smart will have already stored enough food to last through the initial days, weeks or months of the crisis. It is likely they will be eating a familiar diet with a wide range of nutrients. The type of food will vary from family to family. As time goes on there may be less familiar food available. As the crisis deepens, eating patterns may change significantly. At some point people may have to simply take what they can get.

Can the UK feed itself?

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in their document 'UK Food Security Assessment: Detailed Analysis' (DEFRA, 2010) explored whether the UK could feed itself during an extreme event. They concluded that:

"A radical and prolonged breakdown in European and international trade or shipping would not undermine the UK's fundamental ability to produce enough nutritious food for the population, albeit with much simpler diets."

and that:

" ... the use of crops for human consumption rather than animal feed suggests the UK will exceed the needs of the population."

They go on to say:

"Maximising calorie production would require a dramatic reduction in livestock production with all crop production used for human food where possible instead of animal feed."

Using plants instead of meat as a main part of the diet is a very reliable way to feed a population. Most staple foods are plants. A staple food is one that is eaten regularly and constitutes the dominant part of the diet supplying a major proportion of energy and nutrient needs.

Rice, wheat and maize are the top three staple foods throughout the world. Staples are usually well adapted to growing locally and may be tolerant of drought, pests or soils low in nutrients. Farmers often rely on staple crops to reduce risk and increase the resilience of their agricultural systems. Staple plant crops will feed more people and use less natural resources (land, water and fuel) than an agricultural system based on meat so are ideal for crisis situations.

Wheat is a very useful staple which has been widely grown in the British Isles for thousands of years. It is the most widely grown arable crop in the UK covering around 2 million hectares and producing about 16 million tonnes each year. The UK generally exports between 2-4 million tonnes of wheat for cheap feed for intensive livestock production (UK Agriculture, 2012).

An acre of grazing pasture could support enough animals to provide meat for around 1-2 people per year in the British Isles. That same acre could produce between two and three tonnes of wheat which could support around 20-30 people per year. This is based on each person using around 2kg of wholegrain flour each week of the year for 2 x 500g loaves of bread and an extra 1kg for cakes, biscuits, crackers or to put in storage.

Certainly there are places that wheat or other food crops cannot be grown easily or at all but even the most northerly areas of the British Isles grow fruit, nuts, vegetables and grain. On some of the islands off the north tip of Scotland bere has been grown for thousands of years. A landrace variety of barley, it is very well suited to the local region with long daylight hours and a short growing season. It has an excellent flavour and can be used instead of wheat in any recipe.

In the UK around 75 per cent of the land is farmed. Even taking into consideration areas where food cannot be grown, there is still more than enough land to produce food for a plant-based diet. In addition the British Isles is comprised of thousands of islands and is able to source food from the sea including sea vegetables (seaweed).