How to Store your Garden Seeds
Storing your emergency seeds for your survival garden seed bank requires conditions opposite of germination. Seed storage must be cold (warmth promotes growth, cold keeps the seeds dormant). Seed storage must be dark, ensuring no sunlight (artificial included) is present. And the storage location must be dry, as moisture will deteriorate seed shelf life.
Begin by drying the seeds out. They can be dried in an over using extremely low oven temperatures. Or by using the sunlight (spreading them out on a napkin in the sun will work). Generally it is best to give them about 5-6 hours of 100 degree temperature (can still be attained in direct sunlight even when the temperature outside is not 100 degrees). The drier the seeds are, the longer they will last. When the seeds are dry enough, they become brittle and shatter or snap easily; now they are ready to be stored in an airtight, vacuum sealed container. Vacuum sealed canisters made to keep coffee fresh use a special valve pressed with the thumb while the cap is pressed onto the body of the canister, allowing the air to be pushed out of the canister while the cap is fully engaged. These containers are great for storing seed banks and are affordable and sold in a variety of sizes. Many people use a label maker or permanent marker to write the date and seed bank contents on the canister. Store the seed bank in the refrigerator or freezer. Seed banks can last years if properly stored, however, it is a wise idea to replace the seed bank each year with fresh seeds in order to ensure the healthiest, best plants and yield. Using them within 1-2 years will greatly reduce the likelihood of planting duds.
Survivalist Tip: If you are in an emergency situation and need to plant a garden, do not use all of your seeds at once. If conditions change or something unfavorable and unexpected occurs, you will be happy to have more seeds to try again!
Best Foods to Dry & Store Survival Food from a Garden
Almost everything that you grow in your survival garden (before an emergency or after an emergency), can be properly stored to last much longer…however, some can be successfully stored for up to a decade! These foods include:
The reason most stored food attempts fail and wind up spoiled is due to the growth of mold, bacteria or other microorganisms. These microorganisms require air (oxygen specifically) and also water in order to replicate and grow. Microorganisms will thrive in any packaging which contains moisture and is left unsealed (exposing the moisture to oxygen). Additionally there is the issue of smaller pests (bugs, rats and roaches) and larger pests alike (birds, cats, raccoons and squirrels), if the food is left accessible.
How to Properly Store Survival Food
In order to properly store foods, the container must be able to fully seal, removing all oxygen. Moisture can exist in the container as long as the meat and food inside is sterile from any bacteria spores or other microorganisms; in fact, canned goods are often wet, which prevents the taste of the food from drying out. If the food inside were completely dry (i.e. cereal, oats, dried fruit), it has a chance of lasting much longer, since the moisture used to preserve the taste of other foods can cause the goods to expire more quickly. There are two very easy ways to successfully seal food.
Canning is one of the primary processes major food manufacturers use to increase their product’s shelf life. Canning includes sterilization, which is used to demolish any bacteria and spores. The process involves extreme heat (in pressure cookers usually) to reduce the bacterial contamination, including the more heat-resistant bacteria (Bacillus and Clostridium). The temperatures in this process are above 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The cans are filled with the meats and foods before being heated. The cans must be the correct size and material in order to work with the sterilization process. If they are too thick or too wide in diameter, the sterilization process will fail at the center of the can (known as the cold point). This process is usually reserved for commercial manufacturers, as the sterilization equipment is expensive and used for mass production, rather than a single emergency food supply.
Fortunately there is a more reasonable method which is just as good as canning food, which every day people can use to prep and store emergency survival food. Dried food can be stored in airtight mylar storage bags. These bags are usually marked food grade and are specifically intended to store food for long durations. They come in all types of sizes and often come with oxygen absorbers which are packed into the bag with the food to help remove the air. Before the food is placed inside the bag, all the moisture must be removed (if the food is not already dried). To dry the food, place it in the oven at a low temperature until the food is void of any moisture. If food grade mylar bags were purchased, the bags are easily sealed with a hot iron.
The air must also be removed from the bags to complete the preservation process. A lot of the food grade Mylar bags include oxygen absorbers, which will adequately remove the air from the food’s space if placed into the bag before sealing it with the iron. They can be purchased separately if the manufacturer of your mylar bags do not include them.
After the mylar bags are sealed, they still require a puncture-resistant storage container (5 gallon buckets with an airtight lid make a great container for this). An even better container choice, to hold your sealed Mylar food grade bags, is a 5 gallon bucket that vacuum seals (there are a number of different models and versions which will further protect the food’s preservation.).
The air needs to be removed from the 5 gallon bucket if a vacuum sealing bucket was not selected. The best way to remove the oxygen from the bucket is by replacing it (the air) with carbon dioxide. Some people suggest using dry ice to do this. Place roughly 40-60 grams of dry ice at the top of the bucket, above the food (in their sealed mylar bags). Now place the lid onto the bucket (but do not press it completely shut, allowing air to escape still). Since carbon dioxide is heavier than oxygen, the oxygen will be pushed out of the bucket as the dry ice releases carbon dioxide. Do not overly disturb the lid, and instead, check back in 5 minute intervals by just gently peeking through the crack of the lid, and as the ice has completely dissipated, seal the lid (inside will remain mostly carbon dioxide, rather than oxygen).
It is important to kill all of the bacteria and bacteria spores, otherwise they will be able to replicate as soon as the temperatures lower and conditions encourage growth again; thus spoiling the food through re-bacterial contamination (which technically was never eliminated to begin with), or food poisoning from the toxins the spores and bacteria create. Many people think that frozen food means sterilized food, but this is not the case. Frozen food means preserved food, however, microorganisms which have already contaminated the food before it was frozen are preserved as well. The refrigerator can store food longer than if it were left out because it slows down the metabolism of bacteria. When the metabolism of bacteria is slowed down, it slows the reproduction process. Freezers do allow food to last much longer, however, it is important to remember that frozen food does not mean it is sterile of bacteria.
Additional Survival Food You Should Stock
There are some foods which can be prepared for storage, which will last forever (they have an extremely long shelf life). These long lasting foods include:
Garden Seeds (should still be stored in airtight containers)
Whole Wheat Berries
Did you know? Honey and molasses have special composition which prevents the growth of bacteria and therefore are especially valuable for long-term storage.
Survivalist Tip: Invest in a good food hand grinder, this will help you create powdered flour out of your dried foods (wheat berries for example), which is much easier to store and preserve.
Even with all of the preparation in the world for your emergency food supply, it is still very wise to store at least a year’s supply of a super supplement or vitamin. It is so hard for humans to get all of their required nutrients and as mentioned, most of the world is undernourished. Americans especially are not exposed to the correct diet to get all of the required vitamins and minerals. A super vitamin, however, can correct this problem as long as it is taken religiously. Since sustenance is much harder to attain and create in an emergency, disaster or survival situation, having a year’s supply of vitamins in form of a daily regiment is increasingly important.
Some people prefer to purchase already-made seed banks for a survival garden.
Here are two really great seed banks we recommend on amazon:
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