Top 10 Highest Calorie Vegetables for Your Survival Garden

When disaster strikes stores shelves empty fast and you can only stockpile so much! So if you want to survive long term then these are the top ten vegetables with the highest calorie count that will grow in most places in the US

In hard times you need to be sure you are planting vegetables with the highest calorie count to keep your family well fed. For example chickpeas have a calorific value of 1651 per pound whereas to get the same amount of calories you would have to chomp through over 25 pounds of iceberg lettuce at 64 calories per pound!

Stock up on seed now and get your survival garden growing as you never know when a SHTF situation will occur. Plus you’ll benefit from healthy food and be a pro at planting when you really need to survive off your garden.

All percentages of Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) quoted are worked on a 2000-calorie per day diet and will obviously vary should your calorie intake be higher or lower.

corn plants

1. Corn

Calories per pound: 1657

Corn, a staple of the Native Americans, and for millions across Africa and South America, provides what you need to survive: 21% of a 100g serving is made up of carbs and 3.4 % of protein, with 2.4% fiber and 4.5 % sugar, and it has 1.5% fat.

What soil does corn need?

Corn needs a neutral soil with a pH of around 6.5 Soil should drain well but be loamy as the roots are shallow and will dry out quickly if not kept moist during the growing period.

When to plant

The soil temperature should have reached 60 degrees Fahrenheit before planting and seed should be planted directly in the ground around two weeks after the last frost of the season. Try to plant at two-week intervals so you’ll be obtaining fresh corn for a long as possible. Your aim should be to harvest all corn before the first winter frosts occur.

How to plant

Corn is wind pollinated so plant in a square for effective pollination. The seed should be planted 1 ½ to 2 inches deep, 4 to 6 inches apart and in rows between 30 to 36 inches from each other.

How many should I plant?

Grow 80 plants to feed a family of four. This allows for extra to store over the winter.

Yield

If you are lucky you will get two ears of corn per plant, usually only one.

chickpea plant

2. Chickpeas

Calories per pound: 1651

Neither actual pea nor bean, chickpeas (cicer arietinum) are worth cultivating despite their rather long growing period of 100 or so days. They provide 68% of the RDA of dietary fiber in a 3.52-ounce (100g) serving, 38% protein, and are rich in iron – 34%, vitamin B6 -25% and magnesium 28%.

Chickpeas are wonderful for adding to casserole and stews or as extenders to salads. Greek hummus, a dip made from chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, and tahini paste is delicious.

Most kids won’t object to chickpeas blended into soups, stews, or vegetarian burger patties and some even enjoy them freshly boiled, straight from a bowl sprinkled with salt, something like popcorn.

What soil do they need?

Moist well-drained soil suits them best. Like other legumes chickpeas work with microorganisms in the soil to get the nitrogen compounds they need for successful growth, so do not add nitrogen fertilizers to the soil.

When to plant

They need to be planted after the last frost in spring. It’s preferable to get a head start by growing the seedlings indoors in peat pots or paper ones and then planting them out when the danger of frost is past, pot and all, so the roots aren’t disturbed.

How to plant

Plant between 1 ½ to 2 inches deep around 6 inches from each other and in rows about 18 inches apart. They grow from 10 to 22 inches high.

How many should I plant?

If you are growing for family use you will need around 12 plants for a family of four, to provide fresh chickpeas that can be eaten straight from the pod, or dried out and stored – they last for up to a year if well dried out. The pods will bear one or two seeds and the plant will continue flowering and producing pods as long as conditions are right.

Yield

If picked when green expect ½ to 1-½ pounds per plant. If you allow the chickpeas to dry on the plant naturally you’ll be harvesting ¼ to ½ pound per plant if you are lucky.

kidney beans

3. Kidney/ Lima beans

Calories per pound: 1520

Growing your own kidney beans is a great way to supplement your stocks. You can try them in a really sheltered position or in a glass house in cooler zones. A 3.52-ounce (100g) serving of kidney beans will contain 48% of your RDA of protein, making them an alternative to animal protein. They provide 100% of the RDA of dietary fiber, and are rich in iron – 45%, vitamin B6 -20% and magnesium 35%.

What soil do they need?

Like other legumes beans like a well drained soil and work with microorganisms in the soil to get the nitrogen compounds they need, so do not add nitrogen fertilizers to the soil, otherwise you will get lots of leafy growth and no beans!

When to plant

They need to be planted after the last frost in spring in a position that gets full sun. The soil temperature for them to germinate successfully is 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

They must be planted where they are to grow, as they don’t take to being transplanted. Decide on whether you are planting bush or vining types as the vining types will need a sturdy trellis to support their growth.

How to plant

You can soak kidney/lima bean seeds in lukewarm water for up to 4 hours before planting to encourage quicker germination, or you can simply plant them without soaking.

Plant between 1 to 1 ½ inches deep, 4 inches from each other for the vining type and 8 inches or so for the bush types. Rows should be about 30 inches apart, and the young plants should emerge 10 to 18 days after planting.

How many should I plant?

For a family of four allow for 30 plants.

Yield

You can expect around 100 beans per plant. When the pods start going yellow leave them to dry out on the plant before harvesting.

If you are in a humid area and rain is likely at this time then rather pull out the whole plant once it is a straw color, bean pods and all, then tie the plants upside down in a dry sheltered spot with plenty of air circulation between the plants to allow them to finish drying out completely.

cherry tomatoes growing on a plant

4. Cherry Tomatoes

Calories per pound: 454

The cowboys used to carry tomatoes with them to eat for the water content, but they also contain fiber and sugar and loads of healthy vitamins, forming an integral part of summer salads, pizza, and pasta bases.

What soil do tomatoes need?

Tomatoes need a well-drained composted loam and they may need weekly fertilizing for peak production.

When to plant

Transfer seedlings to their outdoor position after all danger of frost is past, on a cloudy day and water well so they don’t wilt. They will start to flower around 30 days after germinating and will continue to produce tomatoes for the whole season. Germination will occur when the soil temperature is around 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to plant

Plant seed from fresh cherry tomatoes ¼ inch deep in containers or compostable peat pots, or use seed from your seed merchant. They need 8 hours of sun per day and can also be grown in containers. Most types will need a frame they can climb on to support the plant if in a container, or if outside they can be staked.

How many should I plant?

Plant 16 bushes for a family of four so you have plenty for salads all through the summer and can freeze some for stews and casseroles in winter.

Yield

Expect around 100 or more little cherry tomatoes from each plant. Some varieties like the Roma will give more.

sweet potatoes

5. Sweet Potatoes

Calories per pound: 390

With an 89% carbohydrate content and 8% protein these tasty vegetables will keep you full – especially roasted in olive oil with some rosemary and garlic and a sprinkle of Himalayan salt.

What soil do sweet potatoes need?

A well-drained sandy loam allows the tubers can expand underground. If you plant in clay soil the roots will be misshapen as they struggle against the stiff soil.

When to plant

Plant in full sun after all danger of frost is past – in fact 3 to 4 weeks afterwards when the soil temperature is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Because they have a long growing period of 90 to 170 days it is advisable to start your sweet potato runners early in the season indoors in jars. The other option in warmer areas is to plant tubers straight into the ground.

How to plant

Plant in holes 6 inches deep 12 inches apart if you are planting tubers. If planting slips make sure to bury all the roots right up to where the first set of leaves appears. Tamp the soil gently and water thoroughly to get them started. Leave enough room between rows – 24 inches so that the runners can set down roots –giving you more tubers.

How many should I plant?

Plant 20 sweet potato plants for a family of four.

Yield

In warmer areas expect around 8 sweet potatoes per plant. Harvest when the tips and leaves start to turn yellowish. They can also be left in the ground to continue growing until just before the first fall frost.

pea plant

6. Peas

Calories per pound: 368

With 51% protein, 11% fat and 38% carbs in a 100g helping, peas are healthy and filling.

What soil do peas need?

Peas need a rich well-drained soil that was treated with compost the year before Like all legumes, they are nitrogen fixers so do not add nitrogen to the soil.

When to plant

Plant after the last frost. They are a cool season crop so get them in as soon as possible.

How to plant

Dig trenches around ½ inches deep and plant the peas 1 inch deep spaced 6 to 8 inches apart in rows 24 inches apart. Give them some staking so they can climb. Sew new peas every two weeks so you have a continuous supply of fresh green peas and snap peas or mangetout.

How many should I plant?

Around 25 plants per family member should give you enough for the season with a few frozen to add to winter casseroles.

Yield

Depending on how well your peas grow you should get around 50 – 80 individual peas per plant – that is why you need so many plants!

potato plants

7. Potatoes

Calories per pound: 349-358 (depending on variety)

There would probably be a riot in the household if there were no potatoes as there is so much you can do with them from fries, to mash, potato pancakes, baked potato, rosti, and lots more.

They provide 8% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of dietary fiber in a 3.52-ounce (100g) serving, 5% protein, and are rich in Vitamin C – 32%, vitamin B6 -15% and potassium – 12%.

What soil do they need?

Potatoes like loose well-drained, composted soil giving them plenty of room for expansion underground. They like an acidic soil – so if you do a test and the pH is higher than 5.2 your soil is too alkaline and the potatoes will not do well.

When to plant

They like cooler weather so in the warmer states plant as a winter crop. In colder states plant after danger of frost is past in the spring.

How to plant

Plant seed potatoes 2 inches deep around 12 inches from each other and in rows 3 feet apart, in an 8 inch deep trench that is about 6 inches wide and tapers to around 3 inches at the bottom.

The reason for planting in a trench is to allow for ‘hilling’ which means gathering up soil around the plant as it grows. Once they start sprouting gather up the soil around them, leaving the shoot exposed and repeat until they start blooming. This ensures the tubers stay cool – if they are exposed to the sun they go green.

How many should I plant?

If you are growing for family use you will need around 20 plants to provide fresh potatoes for the family. They are particularly popular with children and you will use a lot more potatoes than other vegetables.

Some people plant their potatoes in old car tires, adding soil and a tire as the plant grows, and eventually may get a whole pocket of potatoes from one plant.

Yield

On average you can expect around 3 to 5 pounds of potatoes from each plant, but if using the car tire method you may increase the yield.

red shallots

8. Shallots

Calories per pound: 327

While high in calories these cuties also supply 12% of the RDA of dietary fiber per 100g serving, as well as 13% of Vitamin C and 15% of Vitamin B-6 RDA.

What soil do shallots need?

Like most vegetables they prefer a loose well-drained loam that was well composted the year before. They prefer a pH of around 5 to 6.8.

When to plant

They are a cool weather crop but will only start germinating when the soil temperature is around 35 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to plant

You can plant from seed or from sets – that is the individual cloves picked off from a clump of shallots. Plant 6 to 8 inches apart in rows 12 inches apart and around ½ inch deep in full sun. They are good companion plants for beetroot, tomato and carrots, helping to keep pests at bay.

How many should I plant?

Plant 24 for a family of four. They can be used in soups stews and quiches and the young outer shoots can be cut and chopped like chives to add flavor to salads, omelets and other savory dishes. Just remember to chop the outer leaves, not the two most inner ones where the shallot is growing, otherwise you will damage your yield.

Yield

Unlike your ordinary onion these plump purplish alliums with a garlicky flavor produce 4 to 12 usable shallots per plant you put in at the beginning of the season. They grow about 8 inches tall and are ready for harvest between 60 to 120 days after planting.

carrots

9. Carrots

Calories per pound: 186

These vegetables supply carbs, sugar and fiber as well as various vitamins and minerals in a 100g serving.

What soil do carrots need?

Well-drained loose soil that has been doubly dug and given compost and manure will give carrots the chance to grow straight down.

When to plant

They are a cool weather crop so you can get the seed in around 3 weeks before the last frost is expected. They take 70 to 80 days to mature.

How to plant

Plant in rows with about 4 seeds every inch and cover with ¼ to ½ an inch of a compost and sand mix. They will take between 7 to 21 days to germinate depending on the warmth of the soil. Plant in rows 8 inches apart.

How many should I plant?

Plant 80 -100 carrots for the season, staggering planting times so you always have some fresh to pull. Remember carrot cake is a popular dessert so you’ll need to have some over for baking!

Yield

Plant 80 – 100 carrots for a family of four. Extras can be preserved or frozen for adding to winter dishes. In the spring and summer you’ll want them grated and fresh in your salads.

beetroots

10. Beetroot

Calories per pound: 186

Forget boiled beetroot or beet preserved in vinegar – chefs these days roast their beet with garlic and olive oil, sprinkled with some coarse sea salt for a really tasty treat. Beetroot has significant amount of potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B 6 as well as 11% of the RDA of dietary fiber in a 100g serving.

What soil do beetroot plants need?

They need a loose well-drained soil to allow those beets to grow big, with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. The soil temperature should be at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

When to plant

Wait until the weather warms up nicely then put them in. Stagger your planting times so you always have tender fresh beets. They like full sun.

How to plant

Soaking the seed in lukewarm water for around 30 minutes before planting will help speed up germination. When planting dig a groove along the row about 1 inch deep and place your beet seeds 4 inches apart, with the rows 12 inches apart.

Each seed you plant is really a little cluster of seeds and you will get 2 to 4 plants from each seed. If you want an early start you can plant in seed trays, at a depth of ½ inch. Within 7 to 14 days the plants will have germinated. You can then plant them outdoors 2 to 3 weeks after germination when they have their second set of leaves.

How many should I plant?

Sow about 60 beets for a family of four so you can enjoy fresh beet and preserve some for winter use.

Yield

One beet per plant.

Wrap-Up

So, did we miss any high-calorie plants? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to pin this to your favorite Pinterest board for later.

high calorie vegetables pinterest

About Jeanie Beales

Jeanie Beales
Traveler, photographer, writer. I'm eternally curious, in love with the natural world. How people can survive in harmony with nature has fueled my food safety and survival gardening practices. Over the years on numerous trips to wild places and cities I've learned all sorts of survival hacks, but there is always someone out there who can teach you a new trick so I remain an eternal student and forever humble.

7 comments

  1. Avatar

    Great article. I was shocked that potatoes were so far down the list as I’d always assumed their calorie count was much higher. That’ll teach me to assume. I’m also somewhat surprised that pumpkin or other squash plants didn’t make the top ten.

  2. Avatar

    Potatoes provide the most calories per area of anything and much easier to deal with than corn. Generally corn is subject much more to loss due to deer and raccoons. Feral hogs can annihilate a corn field in short order. To store corn it has to be dried out which if done on the stalk makes it more vulnerable to animals. Corn has to have a good amount of sunshine which is why it is difficult to grow in Ireland and why Irish whiskey is made from barley.

  3. Avatar

    The relevant figure is how many calories of food can be produced in a fixed amount of space (such as per square yard), NOT calories per pound of produce. Different vegetables are planted with vastly different spacing between plants, and have vastly different number and sizes of edible portions. Corn, which you list first, is not even close to being in the top ten. Anyone who has planted corn knows that you need a lot of space to get enough to make any difference on your dining room table. You generally get only a single ear, which is not even enough calories for a complete meal, out of a few square feet of garden space.

    The article is a valiant attempt, but misses the mark.

    An excellent reference on this subject is “Grow or Die The Good Guide to Survival Gardening” by David the Good.

    • Avatar
      Dan F. Sullivan

      Bill,

      There were no claims or promises in this article similar to what you suggested. Some people have enough space to cultivate corn, others do on. Suburban and urban prepper won’t find much value in this article, but your idea is good, I may ask Jeanie to write another top 10 as per your suggestion.

  4. Avatar

    Both criteria are valid
    The criterion of the article is great if we think about buying and storing, more calorie per unit is better to stock, it requires less space.
    The vision of BillH is better for those who will produce and has little space.
    Here in Brazil, growing maize is extremely easier than producing potato, which requires several fungicide applications. We have to adapt what is best for each situation.
    Excuse me for mistakes. English is not the mother tongue.
    Thanks for the text.

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