Recently somebody checking out my garden over the fence asked if I was a “prepper.” My first response was “No, of course not,” because I don’t care to be associated in any way with the mindset that not-so-secretly longs for the end of civilization. I love civilization.
I do think, though, that a functioning urban homestead is in a good position to survive emergencies. And here’s the thing about emergencies: they happen. My own home state had a potent reminder of this some years back, when Hurricane Katrina broke the levee and New Orleans was flooded. Evacuees poured out of New Orleans and filled surrounding areas, and food and water supples were strained while roads were bumper-to-bumper and accommodations were scarce to nonexistent. All of this came under control with passage of time, but there were some grim weeks for all concerned. It can happen anywhere. Drought, epidemic, loss of power, you name the emergency and a well-supplied urban homestead is well on the way to getting through it and being able to help others. Nobody’s survival is guaranteed, ever. But we can improve the odds.
Urban homesteading is a mindset of reasonable self-sufficiency. I have no ambition to be a nation or a law unto myself. But reasonable forethought about emergency power, medical, water, and food strategies is, in my view, the responsibility of every citizen who has the luxury of a future to look forward to.
With that in mind, I’m keeping some plants around that I have no real desire to eat, and sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes is another name) are a good example. They are perennial and, as far as I can tell, indestructible. The tubers taste good either raw or cooked. They are loaded with inulin, a prebiotic nondigestible sugar that keeps them from raising blood sugar. The inulin also accounts for their GI effects, including gas for many people and uncomfortable cramping for me. If food were scarce, though, a little cramping would be the least of my worries. More important, if my supply of commercial feed for my livestock were interrupted, they could last a while on weeds and sunchokes, which could be cooked in my solar oven to make them more available to the chickens. The goat could eat the stems and leaves as well as the tubers.
Besides their uses in disasters, they make a nice healthy green patch that I don’t have to fool with very much. In my desert area they need some supplemental water but not a lot. They are healthy and vigorous, by which I mean that you can’t kill them, and I confine them to one patch that can be mowed around to foil their plans for world domination. They don’t play nicely in mixed plantings. The flowers are cheerful and have nectar for bees late in the season. They need to be dug and thinned in the fall. Don’t make any special effort to replant. Plenty will grow from the little bits that you missed. There are a number of different kinds that you can find with some trouble, but I planted a few tubers from the grocery store and they serve well enough.
Here’s an interesting post from Purdue with more details: