Author Topic: GETTING FOOD AFTER A NUCLEAR WAR  (Read 922 times)


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« on: February 12, 2017, 11:37:18 pm »
Copyright (C) 1989 by Duncan Long.  All rights reserved.


By Duncan Long

No  matter  how much freeze-dried food or grain you may have stored away in
your survival stores, if a nuclear war comes to pass, sooner or later  your
food will run out. Then what will you do for food?

If  you're  in  an area with few survivors, traveling to your local grocery
stores MIGHT be of help. Food in sealed containers would be safe to eat  if
you  were  careful  to  wipe  off  any fallout dust on the container before
opening it. Radiation doesn't make food dangerous and only slightly  alters
it so that it loses little of its food value.

But  chances  are  good  that  any  store will be stripped during a pre-war
panic. Even if it were full at the time of the attack, time is against you.
Foods have a finite life during which  their  nutritional  content  remains
high.  Once  this  time  is  exceeded,  the  nutritional  value of the food
gradually drops off. Food will remain eatable for some time but it will not
necessarily supply all your nutritional needs.

Nutritional shelf lives  of  stored  foods  are  short.  Most  canned  food
(whether  in  cans  or  jars), has a life of only 6 months (though the food
will be eatable for longer). Canned meats and non-citrus fruits last a  bit
longer;  they  have some food value for up to a year. Evaporated milk has a
nutritional life of 6 months; bouillon, instant cream, nuts,  cereals,  and
hydrogenated  (or  anti-  oxidant  treated)  fats/vegetable  oil  all  have
nutritional shelf lives of a year. About the only things worth eating after
a year are coffee, tea, cocoa, candy (that isn't  nearly  100%  sugar),  or
spices  like  sugar, salt, pepper, etc. So even IF you have a grocery store
to use for supplies, the nutritional value of the food will be nearly  nill
after a year.

Foraging?  Maybe.  But  if you're in an area where the plants are producing
enough food to support you, chances are good that there'll be a large human
population as well. If you have  to  compete  with  others  for  wild  food
sources,  chances  are  there won't be enough to support you. Foraging also
takes a lot of energy for the caloric return to  carry  out;  you  burn  up
nearly  as  much  energy  as  you  gain.  So  don't plan on doing more than
supplementing your larder through foraging unless you're living in  a  very
remote  area  with  a  lot  of food just waiting for you to pick it off the

Hunting? Again, much the same argument can be made against it  as  is  with
foraging.  If  the  animals  survive,  a  large  population  of humans will
probably  be  competing  with  you  for  the  food.  Hunting  could  supply
supplemental  meat for your diet but probably won't be a main source unless
you're really out in the wilds.

So most of us who are planning on surviving a nuclear war for more  than  a
few  years  need  to  be  able  to  raise  our  food  or have a skill (like
dentistry, medical work, etc.) which can be bartered for food.

Is gardening or farming possible  in  a  radioactive  fallout  contaminated
environment?   Yes.

Fallout  from  a  nuclear  weapon  is  different  from  that  of commercial
radioactive waste. While the waste from a  nuclear  reactor  may  last  for
thousands  or  even  tens  of  thousands of years, radiation from a nuclear
weapon decays very quickly to a safe level. (The flip side of this is  that
fallout is initially more dangerous than radioactive waste since the levels
of  radiation  it gives off are higher.) Even in the shadow of a very dirty
ground blast, the levels of  radiation  will  sink  to  safe  levels  in  a
relatively  short  time.  This  means that you could be gardening in a very
contaminated area within a year's time if  you  had  to.  Though  long-term
dangers  from  such  activities  may remain to show up in 20 or 30 years in
such an area, if the choice is between starving in a few  months  or  MAYBE
having  a  radiation-related  disease like leukemia or cancer 30 years down
the road, it shouldn't be too hard to decide.

Too, fallout is like sand or dust. It isn't a liquid  that  runs  into  the
earth.  With  care,  even  in areas of maximum fallout, the top soil--along
with the fallout--could be removed and the land used for gardening. If  you
had  access  to heavy earth-moving equipment, even full-scale farming could
be carried out after removing several inches of top soil.

If removing the soil is not possible, it's also possible  to  plow  fallout
under so that it's below ground. This allows plants to obtain nutrient from
the  soil  while the earth acts as density shielding to lower the radiation
to levels that will not harm either the plants or the person growing  them.
While  this  isn't  as ideal as actually removing the contaminated soil, it
is an easier alternative. The produce produced on such  land  will  not  be
quite  as  safe to eat from a long-term health point of view but, again, it
beats starving.

More dangerous to plants than radiation will be the  ultraviolet  radiation
created  by  damage  to  the  ozone  by  nuclear weapons. This damage, like
fallout, is fairly short-lived, however. The ozone layer will renew  itself
so  that,  by a year after the worst of a nuclear war is over, a less harsh
environment for growing plants  will  again  be  available.  Since  it  now
appears  that  the  problems of a nuclear winter have been exaggerated and,
even if they should occur, will be over  after  the  first  year  as  well,
things would be fairly decent for gardening within a year's time. (Fallout,
ozone  damage,  and nuclear winter are three good reasons to have stores of
food to get through that first year.)

If it were necessary to grow plants in the open during the first year, some
plants are more resistant than others to ultraviolet  radiation.  The  best
are  wheat,  soybeans,  rye,  barley,  alfalfa,  and corn (all of which are
excellent sources of nutrients). Though high levels  of  ultraviolet  light
may stunt these plants' growth somewhat, they'd still produce food.

Best  bet would be a greenhouse created with sheets of plastic or the like.
The plastic would cut down on ultraviolet light and the enclosed area would
help you to control pests and maintain a warm temperature if that should be
a problem. Provided you've had the foresight to purchase non-hybrid  seeds,
you  could  produce  crops  for  your  family  for years to come in such an
environ- ment. (Hybrid seed would be great the first year,  but  the  seeds
you get from the hybrid plants may not grow to create a second crop.)

Seeds.  Some  good  sources of seeds are: Cross Seed Company, RR #1, Bunker
Hill, KS 67626; M & M Enterprises, Box 64, Island Lake, IL 69942; Seeds  of
Survival,  228  W. North St., Whitewater, WI 53190; and Vegetable Seed, Box
192, Madison, GA 30650. Check the stores in your area as well since they'll
have a selection of seeds tailored to grow well in your area (again,  avoid

Despite  tales of scientists growing wheat from seeds encased with Egyptian
mummies, seeds have a finite shelf life in the real world. Each  additional
year  that  seed  is stored, a higher percentage of it loses its ability to
germinate. Therefore,  seed  should  be  replaced  every  year  if  at  all
possible.  Actually,  this is good news; it forces you to practice planting
and growing the seeds you've been storing.

If you grow plants in a contaminated environment or forage  for  plants  to
eat in areas of fallout, you can process them so that they are safe. Again,
remember  that  fallout  is  like  dust,  not  a  liquid that can penetrate
material. If you carefully peel and clean the plants, most of  the  fallout
will be removed with the outer layers of plant material so that you can eat
them  without fear of ingesting radioactive materials. Fruits or vegetables
with smooth skins (like tomatoes  or  green  peppers)  can  be  cleaned  by
washing (though peeling is probably safer). Plants whose eatable parts come
from the ground can be more thoroughly cleansed if you first remove the top
layer  of  soil  around their base (which may have some fallout dust in it)
before digging up the plant.  Eatable  tubers  and  roots  should  be  very
thoroughly washed.

A  vegetarian  diet  with everything your body needs to stay healthy is not
too easy  to  maintain  in  the  best  of  times.  In  a  post-nuclear  war
environment,  it would be nearly impossible. Meat will be all but essential
for survival. (Ideally, you'll have a diet  mix  of  somewhere  around  15%
protein, 52% carbohy- drates, and 33% fat.)

How  do you get the meat processed (whether you're hunting, discover "wild"
domestic animals, or are raising farm animals) so that it is safe to eat?

First, you need to study the way the  animal  is  behaving.  Does  it  look
healthy or sick?

If  animals have ingested fallout (on grass or other food sources) but have
NOT become sick from radiation exposure, they're safe to eat if you  follow
a  few  precautions. (Such animals will also probably remain healthy enough
to live as long as non-exposed  animals  so  that  they  can  be  used  for
breeding stock; don't kill what you don't need.)

When  radioactive  contamination  is  ingested  by animals, it is stored in
certain locations in their bodies. The habit for post-nuclear war survivors
to learn is that of avoiding eating  parts  of  the  animal  that  will  be
collecting  the  radioactive  materials.  If  you avoid the parts with high
concentrations of contamination, you will be able to remain  healthy  while
still being able to take advantage of the available meat.

Parts  to avoid: thyroid glands, kidneys, liver, and meat next to the bones
as well as the marrow in the bones. Avoid eating these and eat only  muscle
meat,  you'll  be  in  good  shape.  Another  important  precaution  is  to
thoroughly cook the meat so that ALL bacteria are killed in the meat; since
radiation lowers resistance to disease, the animal  may  have  higher  than
normal  concentrations of bacteria in it and you will be less able to fight
such bacteria off. AVOID EATING RED MEAT; always cook it thoroughly.

Remember that the waste parts of the carcass and parts  you  shouldn't  eat
are  probably  contaminated.  Bury  the parts in an area where they can not
contaminate your water or crops.

If an animal is sick, don't kill it. Though the meat may  not  contaminated
with  radiation, the animal is sick because of some sort of disease-causing
virus or bacteria  (radiation  causes  a  lowered  resistance  to  disease,
remember).  Meat  from these animals can cause food poisoning since cooking
the meat will only kill bacteria or viruses in the meat but won't rid it of
the toxins the micro-organisms have produced. The meat will be poisoned and
no amount of cooking will rid it of the poison.

You may be able to nurse the animal back to health, too. If so,  you  could
eat  it  later or use it for breeding stock. If the animal dies, dispose of
the carcass carefully since it will be contaminated and dangerous  to  your

If  the sick animal is in a herd or flock, immediately separate it from the
others so that the disease can't spread (lowered resistance again). Keep  a
herd's area extra clean so that diseases can't get started, too.

Food  will  be  hard  to  come  by following a nuclear war. But radioactive
fallout doesn't penetrate or contaminate as  much  as  many  people  think.
Provided  you  have a little know-how and the foresight to plant some fruit
trees, save some seed, or take other survival  precautions,  you  and  your
family can produce food and survive long after a nuclear war has come to an

The  author  of  this  article, Duncan Long, is well-known as the writer of
many gun, self-sufficiency, and survival  books.  His  firearms  books  are
available  from  Paladin  Press,  P.  O.  Box 1307, Boulder, CO 80306 (303)
443-7250 (call for free catalog). Long's NUCLEAR WAR SURVIVAL is  available
for  $14  from  Long  Survival  Publications, 115 Riverview Dr., Wamego, KS
66547. Long's sci-fi book, ANTI-GRAV UNLIMITED  released  from  Avon  Books
(available from local book stores or from Avon Books, 105 Madison Ave., NY,
NY  10016;  for  autographed  copy, send $4 to: Long Survival Publications,
AND  C/B  WARFARE  is  available  from Loompanics Unlimited, Box 1197, Port
Townsend, WA 98368 for $15.