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Value Crops

Thursday, 04 April 2013 22:08 Written by 

The Allied prisoners of World War II tell of the four most valuable possessions a POW could have, nicotine (tobacco), ethanol (alcohol), caffeine (tea), and sugar. Any POW who possessed or could get his hands on any of these four items could thrive during captivity. There are stories of some POWs who died from hunger and malnutrition because they traded away their meager rations of food for tobacco and alcohol. Here the statements, “I am dying for a smoke” and “I am dying for a drink” are literally true. A survival garden full of delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables will help you and your family to survive. But, if you want to thrive there are a few plants you need to add to your survival garden, no matter its size.

Using the lesson from the POWs you should grow tobacco plants, tea plants, and sugarcane/sugar beets. All of these valuable “cash” crops are hardy, easy to grow almost anywhere, and are well suited for propagation in portable containers. Additionally, these cash crops have multiple uses. These three plants can be extremely precious possessions for trade and barter. Maybe, pound for pound and space for space, tobacco, tea, and sugarcane/sugar beets are the most prized of all legally grown plants.

Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum)

Tobacco has uses beyond the obvious value of bartering for smoking or chewing. The ill-effects of tobacco are well established with cardiovascular disease and lung disease. But, tobacco can be used as an insecticide, a pest and rodent repellent.  Tobacco leaf dust or tobacco water, produced by boiling tobacco leaves in water, when cooled,  can be applied as a spray, or 'painted' on to the leaves of garden plants, where it kills insects. A topical tobacco paste is sometimes used as a treatment for wasp, hornet, fire ant, scorpion, and bee stings. To create a topical tobacco paste, take an amount equivalent to the contents of a cigarette, and mash into one teaspoon of water. Apply the  paste to the affected area. Tobacco can also be processed to produce an oil lubricant.

Tea (Camellia sinensis)

Tea has more than 40 common uses. Tea plants prefer a rich and moist growing location in full to part sun, and can be grown in USDA climate zones 7 - 9. However, tea plants are commercially cultivated from the equator to as far north as Cornwall, U.K. The Sochi Tea Plant will grow in regions where temperatures don't fall below 0 F.

Beyond drinking tea made from tea leaves, there is twig tea using twigs and stems rather than leaves. The seeds of Camellia sinensis and Camellia oleifera can be pressed to yield tea oil, a sweetish seasoning and cooking oil. With its high smoke point (252°C, 485°F) tea oil resembles olive oil and grape seed oil in its excellent storage qualities and low content of saturated fat.  It is high in vitamin E and other antioxidants and contains no natural trans-fats. Tea seed oil is used in salad dressings, dips, marinades and sauces, for sautéing, and stir frying and frying. Tea seed oil should not be confused with tea tree oil (melaleuca oil), an inedible essential oil extracted from the leaves of the paperbark, Melaleuca alternifolia. Tea leaves soaked in water, can be used to help control dental bleeding.


Sugarcane can be propagated by cuttings or from seed. Sugarcane seeds will germinate in just a few days. Once they become established and mature the plants will give you loads of new seeds and in the south a new crop will sprout-up from the roots in the spring.  And, there are some canes that aren't just for sugar, they have other uses. For instance there is the Tarahumara Popping Sorghum, you harvest the seeds and pop them like miniature popcorn, and the Sugar Drip Cane has tasty and nutritious seeds when cooked. The White Broom Corn makes a great broom, as its name implies. The young unexpanded inflorescence of tebu telor is eaten raw, steamed or toasted, and prepared in various ways.  Sugar cane is a good forage crop for many farm animals. Sugar cane plants are great for attracting wildlife, particularly quail, which enjoy the cover. In northern climates the Mennonite and Red's Red Sweet varieties are a preferred choice, in the south the Tunisian and Black Amber do best.

Sugarcane and sugar beets have been a valued commodity for thousands of years. Sweet cane, as it was called, is mentioned three times in the Bible as a revered burnt offering. Sugarcane and sugar beets can be used to make crystallized sugar with all of its usefulness, but the other priceless article of trade from sugarcane and sugar beet juice is the production of high proof alcohol. Sugarcane juice is great for the production of Ethyl alcohol...For medicinal purposes and as a fuel of course, because making moonshine is illegal. Ethyl alcohol has many uses beyond drinking, such as a fuel source, a disinfectant, a preservative and an anesthetic, to name just a few. Sugar Beets can be processed into sugar as well as food.


Now, I come to the final and arguably the most valuable plant in the Survival Garden. Most people call it a scourge and a curse, it is Kudzu. Kudzu is the bane and blight of the south eastern states but, I call it "The Dooms Day Plant". It is a plant that has helped our ancestral survivors thrive in the most difficult of times. Kudzu is one of the fastest growing, hardiest, pest and disease resistant plants on Earth, and can be propagated in almost every state, including Alaska. It can be grown in portable containers filled with poor quality soil and needs little water and little or no fertilizer. Once kudzu is established, it is actually difficult if not impossible to kill.

WARNING: Growing Kudzu is only for the direst of all survival situations and cultivating it is outlawed in most states. Kudzu is one of the most invasive species of all plants. If left unchecked and not controlled it will grow like a mindless monster, covering anything and everything that doesn’t move. One single seed can create a nightmare. To contain Kudzu it must be handled diligently. Grow Kudzu only in a container whose drain holes are screened or covered in such a way that the roots cannot escape into the surrounding ground and as added insurance, place the container on a slab of cement or other ground barrier. You must also cut off the seeds before they mature. If you want to save the seeds, trap the immature seeds inside a secured plastic bag and carefully cut off the mature seed stem to safely remove them.

Kudzu will feed you and your family breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is highly nutritious and is one of only a few plants that are high in protein. It is sold in health food stores as a dietary supplement. You can grind and dry the root and seeds into a flour to make pancakes, bread, pastries, and other baked goods. Use the leaves in place of lettuce for salads and sandwiches.

  • Boil the young leaves and eat them like spinach and use them as an ingredient in soups and stews.
  • Fry the large older leaves in oil and snack on them, just like potato chips.
  • The flowers can be made into jelly, preserves and an ingredient for candy.

The kudzu vine can be made into strong rope and string; it can be used to make animal snares, woven in to baskets, hats and even be made into furniture and for kindling and firewood. You can turn kudzu into Bio-Fuel, both ethyl and grain alcohol. It will feed goats, cattle, horses, rabbits and most other grazing animals and chickens.

Kudzu seeds are by their very nature, self-preserving. They can be stored in a cool, dry and dark place for many years. So, consider either collecting wild Kudzu seeds or buy them on-line and store them until needed. Don't plant kudzu until after an emergency; it will grow very, very fast. There is no need to cultivate it until it becomes necessary.


So, I recommend that you grow a few containerized tobacco, tea, sugarcane/sugar beets, and to keep a store of kudzu seeds. If you are forced to flee from your survival garden, you can trade some of your cash crop for food and other items.There are of course, other value crops, olives, grapes, and many more plants that have value beyond that of food.  But, none are as versatile and so easily cultivated in containers as tobacco, sugarcane/sugar beets, tea, and kudzu.

Last modified on Friday, 05 April 2013 23:56
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