I get asked a lot of strange questions here at Summer Tomato, but last week the folks over at Fact or Fictional took the healthy eating questions to a whole new level by asking me to help them stay nourished in a post-apocalyptic world.
Fact or Fictional is a show hosted by Veronica Belmont in which she consults experts to prove or debunk myths from movies, TV and video games. In this episode she wanted to know if the apocalypse would leave us doomed to a life of Twinkies and malnutrition, and asked if I’d help her cook an apocalypse survival meal.
To start our meal planning we needed to make a few assumptions. First, we reasoned that there would be little fresh food available, since there would be no electricity and therefore no refrigeration. We also assumed we’d have only minimal cookware, and just a fire on which to cook anything.
Our most likely sources for ingredients would be abandoned pantries and grocery stores, where dried and maybe some canned goods could have survived. We also assumed that we could forage for some sturdier plants and weeds, and even potentially a few robust critters.
One of my primary concerns was making sure we got enough protein from our meal. I also wanted to ensure we’d get some trace vitamins and minerals that would be present in fresh plants.
The first things I grabbed were some lentils and quinoa, which together provide a decent source of complementary amino acids. Quinoa also thrives in barren environments, so the seeds could potentially be replanted as a renewable source of nutrition (both the seeds and leaves can be eaten).
I also looked for vegetables where the entire plant could be used. I chose radishes and turnips, since both the roots and the leaves are edible (and delicious).
One benefit of choosing root vegetables is that they are a more discrete food source. Since the main edible component grows underground they aren’t as immediately recognizable as food, like a strawberry might be. This could help if other apocalypse survivors raid your camp looking for food––they’d have to be garden savvy enough to recognize the plants from their leaves alone.
Edible weeds like dandelions, miner’s lettuce and purslane can be used as a source of viable nutrition as well, and are also likely to be overlooked by potential raiders.
Finally, insects are incredibly robust and are as likely to survive the apocalypse as you are––probably more so. They are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals, so collect as many as you can. For this dish I sourced some crickets and wax moth larvae. Huge thanks to Don Bugito for making this possible.
If you’re lucky enough to encounter any pigeons or squirrels, these would be a wonderful delicacy as well.
Keep in mind that you’re unlikely to have the luxury of measuring utensils and other fancy kitchen wares, so this is meant more as a template than a rigid recipe. Use whatever you can find, especially your imagination.
- 1 c. lentils
- 1/2 c. quinoa
- 3 radishes, roots and leaves
- 2 salad turnips, roots and leaves
- 1 large handful of purslane or other weed
- 1 small spring onion
- 20 crickets
- 20 wax moth larvae
- 2 tbsp salad oil (olive oil is perfect)
- 1 tbsp vinegar (red wine vinegar if you can find it)
- Salt to taste
Boil lentils in salted water until tender, approximately 25 minutes. If you do not have a fine mesh strainer, use the pot lid to keep the lentils in the pot while straining off the water.
If you have another pot, boil the quinoa until soft and drain similarly, approximately 15 minutes.
While your lentils and grains are cooking, clean your root vegetables and separate the leaves from the roots. Cut the radishes and turnips in half, then slice thinly and place in a large bowl. Pull the leaves apart with your hands into smaller, bite-sized pieces and add to the bowl.
Rinse the purslane, shake dry and tear into bite-sized chunks. Both the leaves and stems are edible, so nothing needs to be discarded.
Thinly slice entire onion and add to the bowl.
Toast the crickets and moth larvae in an un-oiled pan for approximately 1-2 minutes, then lightly salt.
When the lentils and quinoa are finished cooking, add them to the vegetables and mix well. Dress with the oil and vinegar and stir again. Gently fold in the salted insects, serve and enjoy.