The Cost Outer Limits

Here’s a fun game of horticultural “Truth or Dare”.

Growing sunflowers for snacking seed seems “out there” to me at least.  There would have to be an extremely delicious type that I’ve not heard of or grown yet.  The “freshness” of a nut’s taste is sometimes a result of its ripening after a few weeks or months.  The nutritional value changes little, unless the nuts are neglected for years or stored in moist conditions or a place that changes temperature.  A rich, “nutty” flavor in a nut comes as much with age as with genetics.  A “fresh” nut—right off the tree—can be a bit harsh.

But the costs of “growing your own” sunflowers are a bit staggering.  One pound, de-hulled, roasted and lightly salted, of premium quality seeds will run you about $10-12. However, acceptable quality de-hulled, roasted and salted sunflower seed sells for $3.00 to $4.00 per pound in the generic aisle.  In any case, that’s a heck of a lot of seed—a family of four can luxuriously snack off one pound for a week.  Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems to be a cost-savings that is, literally, for the birds.  Try ‘Super Snack Hybrid’; maybe you’ll make me a liar.

Another “no-brainer” is dried or shell beans, the nutritional value of which I’ve written about (please see Readers Respond!).  These are a fabulous deal at the supermarket.  Even at rare premium levels, dried beans are the world’s greatest bargain.  Also, the “freshness” issue pertains here as in the case of the sunflower.  Even more profoundly—you don’t eat them; you dry them first, then boil them, and then eat them.  So much for freshness.

But, get a load of the cost (and remember, dried beans—not fresh green beans):  one pound of any of the great types costs about $1.50 to $2.00, and the resulting large pot will feed a family for several days.  Again, unless the taste, or exoticism factor are so compelling that you absolutely must grow your own dry beans (‘Scarlet Runner’, ‘Italian Rose’, ‘Cannelino’—a rare white kidney—or a rare Corsican flageolet), “buy your own”.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 17th, 2008 at 10:49 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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5 Responses to “The Cost Outer Limits”

  1. julian said:

    True, but you can also grow your own organic stuff, and by growing at home you are avoiding the extra transport/energy needed to get those beans etc. from some far away low labour cost country.

  2. George said:

    Dear Julian – Thank you for responding. Certainly there are transportation costs, as you say. However, in the case of dried beans or sunflower seeds, they are small compared to fresh produce. Edible seeds and beans don’t weigh very much when one takes into account the high oil content of the seeds and the value of the bean when reconstituted with water. But, overall, I agree that, whenever possible, one should grow vegetables at home or in a nearby community garden. I was simply trying to prove the point, indirectly, by illustrating its outer limit. A sort of exercise. Thanks again.

    George Ball

  3. Ariel said:

    Thank you! You are such a clear thinker. I will just add this: I think that most people in the world rely on beans for their daily nutrition. In the Middle East, it’s the garbanzo. In So. America, it’s the black bean or one or two others. But beans are basically it for the majority of people in the world. Am I wrong here? I don’t mind being challenged. It’s just weird that somehow meat replaced beans here in the USA… Could it be the reason that we are so very unhealthy?

  4. George said:

    Dear Ariel,

    Thank you for writing, and you’re welcome. Indeed, most folks do rely on either grains or legumes. One of the major centers of dried pea, lentil and shell bean consumption is India. North Africans, including Egyptians favor the large broad bean or Vicia faba. They have it for breakfast. In Latin America the beans are mixed with rice in most areas. The Native Americans bred many types of shell beans, including many with unusualy high protein, such as the tepary. Growing them requires long sunny days, which is why they are a staple in the Southwestern US, Mexico and on down to the equatorial regions. Temperate zones tend to prefer fresh green beans.

    Regarding meat, it remains the top of the food chain, so to speak, especially for active people and children. Fish is perhaps the healthiest food in the world. We are unhealthy when we get insufficient exercise.

    Thanks again.

    George Ball

  5. Our friends grow the crowder peas (beans to some) and give me some to home can, which I happily do because they are delicious.

    One year we grew sunflowers to save the heads to feed the birds in the winter. It was a race with them at the end of summer. Me, waiting for the heads to be dry enough to cut off and the birds and squirels trying to beat me to them.

    Now we grow purple millet for the beautiful leaves and heads of seeds. The birds eat every seed if I let them. It’s a contest of perfect timing to get enough seeds to save for the following year.

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