When Venezuela Starved, Fruit Helped Keep Us Alive.

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Venezuela has already made it through a time of food scarcity. In a way, we know what to expect with what is coming next. Just how did we survive? What did we do? While there weren’t any secrets, one of the things that did help us out a lot was fruit.

We live in very verdant territory, where trees can grow without too much effort. We all increased our fruit consumption exponentially as a result. One of the most abundant fruits in Venezuela is the mango, which played a crucial role. The mango helped to keep us from starvation.

fruit

In countries where fair weather allows for a lusty growing of plantains and bananas, people consume them almost daily. For example, dinner is prepared by slicing a ripe plantain, frying it (yes, in a pan, with oil, like a potato), and adding ground white cheese.

If the plantain is quite ripe, it will be sweet, and with the cheese on top, it will be a good contrast. Kids love them. Slice a few plantains, not ripe but green, into small round pieces ¼ inch thick. Deep fry them, and add some garlic salt. They could easily replace any pre-packaged junk food you are accustomed to consuming. I am sure you will even find them next to those large pillow-sized bags. Be careful: they are very filling.

If you live in the tropics, fruit is essential during times of starvation.

I like to think of plantain, tapioca, maize, and mango, as essentials that will not fail to grow in a tropical plot. They fed the Amazonian tribes for countless generations. They provided food to my fellow citizens in the horrendous 2016-mid 2021 period. And they will keep feeding us for many more generations to come.

The naked truth is that, unless we can produce enough proteins, like beef, pork, chicken, and similar, we will have to increase our fruit consumption to meet our caloric needs.

Eating baskets of fruit is a way of life down here.

I grew up eating tons of fruits. Citrus, bananas, pineapple, mangoes – they were just a part of life. I can only remember having actual vitamin pills as a child a few times. I suppose our parents figured we got enough from our diet?

I could eat 5 or 6 mangoes in a row, day after day, during the rainy season. I could drink liters of juice. Guava, papaya, cantaloupe…oranges! I love orange juice. I prefer to take my knife off my boot and cut fresh fruit for my breakfast. You can have the packaged fruit shipped from far away. I’ll get it from my backyard.

(Don’t starve! Read our free QUICKSTART Guide to what to eat when the power goes out.)

Saved by the Spaniards

As an interesting note, the Spaniards who brought mangoes in the 17th century are responsible for spreading this fruit in the country. After three centuries, enough trees allow for the fruit to be almost free in the season. During our starving time, it was the offspring of these initial trees that provided many of us with our main source of food.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that mango saved plenty of people from malnutrition. You can read more about how vital that fruit was to our people here.

Are mangoes actually healthy?

Let us take a look at the mango nutritional profile:

We find in an 80g serving of fresh mango all this: 

  • 48 kcal
  • 0.7g protein
  • 0.3g fat
  • 11.2g carbohydrate
  • 1.3g fiber
  • 134mg potassium
  • and 29mg vitamin C.

Not bad.

How has my family utilized fruit trees?

We collected, from barely three or four small trees, like 50 or 60 kilos of mandarins each season. This was done with nothing other than commercial fertilizer (over 30 years ago. When it was abundant and cheap.) and almost without pesticides. Our form of pesticide was just a spray made with tobacco leaves, soap, and some other stuff to keep the citrus trees healthy.

We had grapefruit trees, too. They gave giant fruits – incredibly juicy – not so sweet. Grapefruit helped us to beat the heat. A few fruit trees still survive, but sadly, there is no citrus.

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Fruit helped to keep us alive.

In the worst of the 2000-2001 oil strike, when it was not easy to get groceries, mangoes were part of our diet, too. Not for too long, but I do remember eating a small arepa for breakfast to make cornmeal last longer and half a dozen mangoes to complete a full stomach. Eggs from our neighbor’s hens completed the breakfast.

I even watched videos of stray dogs fighting over a mango falling from a tree. Starving dogs eat mangoes too. I’ve seen it. I doubt anyone ever thought that someday, the abundant mango trees thriving in our country would provide the needed calories to sustain starving people.

fruit

Things have changed now. Rice production is recovering, locally produced carbs are found more or less easily, and many people have started to sow whatever they can. Spices, herbs, and even sugarcane are now growing in some places.

For some reason, there are some things you eat that end up being repetitive. But I have been eating mango since before the start of the season (green mango works to prepare a delicious compote!), and I find it somewhat addictive. For some reason, I find it so easy not to get tired of it. This, I think, is part of the reason it helped us so much. Eating a mango is an enjoyable experience, and so, people were not as prone to despair as they would have been if we grew only yicama.

Things here are far from perfect.

There are now only 25 million survivors, with a small gang toting assault rifles and guarding the ammo…as well as the missile launchers.

All of this has made me appreciate my homeland even more. I have seen the homeless and poor collecting mangoes to eat. They do not look as malnourished now as other unfortunate fellows I have seen in other cities.

Even better, tropical fruits and some vegetables like tapioca, that I have seen dense gardens where it is difficult to walk. Banana trees, papaya trees, tapioca (or cassava), guava, avocado, coffee plants, and citrus all of them densely packaged in small plots.

The initiative to share this knowledge was, as always, based on the facts and my personal experience. It happens that consuming fruits in a much higher percentage than usual while lowering the consumption of other elements is possible if carbs and proteins are scarce, and saved a lot of people from starvation: El Mango: la fruta que salvó la patria

While this is not health advice, the Venezuelan experience should be an eye-opener for those stocking up on rice/beans/cornmeal/wheat.

Forgetting about how important it is to have a fertilizer-producing system (like a biogas digestor or a composting bin), a worm’s bed, a composting toilet, and some other crucial elements to become productive could make a big difference at the end of the day. The same could be said for those who think they do not need too many fruits.

Trust me on this, you will need even the last ultra-ripe strawberry when things start to get ugly and food starts to become more and more expensive. I regret not taking good care of the citrus trees when I could, back in 2012-2014. I’m grateful we have fair weather, and that cantaloupes can be grown without too many problems.

So, can say, yes, the fruit must be an important item for preppers.

Not just because it is a good source of nutritional elements. It is also affordable, easy to store, and we can produce it without too much hassle.

You may want to check this article: How to Add Fruits and Vegetables to Your Prepper Stockpile

 In summarizing, the action plan would be something as follows:

  • Research what fruits are the most adequate for your local climate, and list those you can eat until exhaustion.
  • Determine what diseases could affect them and the status of such plagues in the area you are in with some local authority.
  • Research how to combat these diseases, preferably without any chemicals that could not be available afterward or may be too pricey.
  • Make a list and sort of a “maintenance” plan to keep your plot producing your fruits for as long as naturally possible. This includes long-term storage seeds or the methods to get them yourself, the fertilizing means, tools, and everything you or your loved ones that stay behind could need.

The Years of the Mangoes existed.

It was not a fantasy, and they were through years. My own family acknowledges this. The only coffee they had in 2018-2019 was the few grains they could get from our plants.

Knowing how they love their morning coffee and thinking about them going through their day without this simple pleasure broke my heart.

In the poorest barrios and neighborhoods all over the country, the most vulnerable class was very affected, and a diet high in fruit, out of necessity, contributed to their survival.

Their suffering left us an invaluable lesson.

What are your thoughts on fruit as a survival food? Is there anything growing abundantly in your area? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

About Jose

Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has an old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t  go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible. But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.

 Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on PatreonDonations: paypal.me/JoseM151

J.G. Martinez D

J.G. Martinez D

About Jose Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151

Leave a Reply

  • Kind of surprised the political elites of your country haven’t instituted a policy of cutting down all the mango trees due to them being introduced by foreign imperial colonialists and labeling them as an invasive species detrimental to the environment.

    • Dear ~jim,
      Me too. Maybe that´s what people needs to realize this gang wants to obliterate as much people as they can, as fast as they can.

  • My father (now deceased) lived during the depression. He once told me in a very serious manner (I think he had a gut feeling I would need the information) to remember one quart of bottled fruit each day would keep you alive. Me and my grown children have planted a lot of fruit trees in our yards. Most people I know (especially older ones like me) have all quit home canning fruit years ago (if they ever did it). Canning is a lot of work and they can easily buy it so they have gotten rid of their canning jars and equipment. Now they don’t have a way to preserve fruit since we don’t have a tropical climate.

    • Any fresh vegetables are good to keep you healthy, not just fruit. It’s true that there are less fresh vegetables available in the winter. But you can always grow sprouts, and keeping seeds that can be sprouted for food is a lot easier than canning.

    • Bottled (canned) fruit is wonderful. Freeze-dried is even better, and I keep nagging about it on this site. Couple decades ago, I read about a freeze-dried powdered greens supplement. After years in storage, when they added water, it would PHOTOSYNTHESIZE!! Like alive. The difference in quality is not to be trivialized. But a Harvest Right freeze dryer is still over $2000. Worth it for middle class and up. But I am “poor” very low income, food stamps. I know the components of home freeze drying can be bought separately, the vacuum pump, the drying chamber, and you can use your home freezer. A key word: desiccator. Please research this people and let’s come up with something practical.

      • Dear LadyLifeGrows,
        At least you have the food stamps. I´d love to build something like you mention. My engineering skills are being tested these days with a biodigestor built. If you feel you need a DIY freeze drying device I will love to research about it, but I would believe that actually building it and uploading a video would be much more valuable. I will do my best OK? That feedback is worth gold.
        Keep tuned!

    • With a few trays, some research and those modern LED-UV lights you could have greenies in winter; sure, canning is a lot of work, but it will be worthy at the end of the day. How about putting to work to those grandchildren? 😀

  • Beauty berries are a wild bush . The berries in rainy years can be as 15% protein. They are ripe when they turn purple. They are not tasty to me but I can eat or swallow. They are small like a BB. The leaves can be used to keep mosquitos away . This wild plant grows without care in most of our southern states. They are actually an attractive plant with the long stems of dark purple berries . Also the leaves makes jelly and as you add sugar turns red just in time for Christmas. A bush I keep in my yard just in case.

  • According to International observers [including President Jimmy Carter] the elections in Venezuela were more legitimate than those in the US. So I don’t understand the statement .
    As far as the Venezuelan economy goes, the primary reason for it’s rapid decline was/is the US’s highly illegal and immoral economic sanctions on that Country! As a matter of fact, the US’s sanctions on Venezuela, Russia, and Iran [three of the World’s biggest oil producers being prevented by the US to export their oil] are the very cause of the present economic woes the World over.

    • These brutal dictatorships by mismanage and learn from the worse of Chinese or Soviet style socialism. Keep the screws on the socialist countries that force their people to leave by boats or walking to the freest country in the World.

      • You’re absolutely right. People is terrified to speak openly against those thugs.
        I’m convinced most of my countrymen are not exactly the great-great-greatgrandchildren of those ancient liberators that fought the Spaniards and kick them out…

    • Good morning from Caracas. As an internationalist & expat living abroad in LatinAmerica, and in Venezuela, with 40+ years coming and going from there, with a first-hand front row seat to the situation as well as having legit business operations here over the years, (among them adventure urban reality tours for foreigners) coupled with an insider’s perspective on the mess here with friendly access to figures on both extremes of the political spectrum, the reality is quite different, my friend, to what some media sources or political pundits would have you believe…

    • Mr. Reinhold,
      You’re deeply mistaken. The sanctions are not the reasons of our crisis, as they are in place because of them gangster stealing OUR money. Please don’t spread misinformation about these things. Our economy was doomed since Hugo sat in the chair. And it was bad before, too.
      I would appreciate that very much.

  • Good article! I can corroborate Jose’s latest entry on this website …here in Caracas i personally witnessed the poor’s plight at the height of the country’s hyperinflation & scarcity woes from 2016 till the C-pandemic lockdowns, with them arriving at our Los Palos Grandes neighborhood to pick mangoes from trees that lined the streets…sometimes entire families came around carrying sacks and hook-end long poles on a mango collection mission….and yet others fought over for this bounty on some trees….in addition, gangs of hungry young men would pick thru garbage bags set out on the curb on collection day (or following the garbage truck as passed by on its route) searching for scraps of discarded food or something of value to sell. The levels of hunger have eased quite a bit for the majority due to the government’s relaxing of restrictions on foreign currency and importation redtape, but poverty continues at shocking levels.

    • Thanks for sharing that experience in Venezuela. I am in Kenya and I keep worrying about food shortages. At least now I appreciate the value of fruit trees and I am encouraged to grow an orchard. Here they dry bananas and make flour which we add to our local ugali flour from corn meal. The corn meal lasts longer then!

    • Thanks Peter.
      It’s great to see someone else who was there as a witness, and knows what you’re talking about.

      I believe this is one of the most complete lessons our saga can teach.

  • Oh man… fried plantains! I love those 🙂 There’s a Guatamalan restaurant nearby that serves them as an appetizer.

  • Mangoes also have a decent amount of calcium! The dried ones I have say 20% DV in 40 grams. There are no additives beyond some cane sugar with a bit of sodium metabisulfite for preservative.

  • I have been blessed to find some old books in my area that mention unconventional foods available to anyone able and willing to forage. I long ago figured out that a lavish garden was not only more work than I could manage and too expensive but would get instantly picked over and destroyed in a real SHTF situation. There is one plant I think many Americans might want to consider: Dandelions. Most areas have dandelions. I don’t remove them from my yard as they are super nutritious and very useful. Though I have eaten a few leaves from time to time, incorporating them into salads or cooking a few, I also think the root may be a coffee substitute. They should help a lot of people cleanse their liver, too 🙂

    • According to the videos I’ve watched, all of the dandelion is edible. The roots roasted for a hot (coffee-like) drink, the leaves for salad greens, and the flowers for jelly and tempura, among other things. Besides, they’re cheerful and free. I love them and would never poison my yard to get rid of them.

      • That’s great. Too bad we don’t have dandelions so deep into the South. Or maybe we do?…I remember having seen them somewhere, but too long ago.

  • We are in a drought. I have not seen any cactus flowers or yucca plants blooming. Even the rabbits are coming up to my water buckets to drink along with the quail. I won’t mention the number of uninvited birds that come here to steal food and drink.

    Cactus pads can be cooked and eaten after removing the spines, but many are dying due to the lack of water or eaten by the deer. Yesterday we were suppose to only get to 100 for the high. When I checked the weather site, we were at 105 F.

    My fruit trees and grape vines lost all their fruit earlier this year. I am looking at alternatives for growing different due to the drought.

    • Dear Mette,
      Try to find a product called Solid Rain. It’s a polymer developed by Mexican scientists that will absorb a lot of water and won’t degrade chemically nor affect your plants. I’m not linked to them, and not even tried the product, but it has been tried in Mexico a lot, it seems. Just do some research, ask for a one pound jar (maybe 40$? I couldn’t say) and see what happens. You use just 20 grams for a single plant.
      Good luck with that! 😀

  • Here in the barrens we live with wild raspberries and hazelnuts all around. They usually get picked over by the wildlife before we get at them. That’s OK, we’ll eat the berry eaters next fall…

  • Enjoyed your article! Another option is to grow Hosta plants. The leaves and flowers are edible when young. Since they are toxic to cats and dogs, spray a lemon juice solution on the leaves. Few people know they’re edible so hopefully they won’t disappear from your yard in the middle of the night.

    • Dear Kathleen,
      Thanks!
      I think it is one of the most useful I’ve ever written.
      That is a problem I expect to have the needed support to overcome.
      Once our orchard/garden is producing as I’m sure it is going to do it, we could face some unwanted attention…
      Good thing is, Venezuelans are incredibly superstitious, and I love messing with disrespectful people to teach a few lessons…A lot of fun seems to be in our way… 😀

  • About the only kinds of “fruit” that are suitable to the climate in our part of Texas are cactus, pecan trees, wild grapes and sand plums. I don’t know if we could survive on them.

  • Where I live in Georgia we are blessed with a long growing season and lots of fruit varieties. I grow peaches, pears, figs, crab apples, blue berries, muscadines, and pecans. I forage for from two to four gallons of blackberries each June. I also get some huckleberries from time to time. Apples and plums grow in North Georgia, but only sour green ones grow in our area of West Central Georgia. I try to get some for canning when they are in season. I try to can between 40 and 50 pint jars of fruit each year and make six kinds of jelly or preserves, in addition to my vegetable garden canning. I also dehydrate fruit. I make a six to eight fruit mixture (fruit salad) weekly using fresh fruit and/or home preserved fruit, and we eat on it for breakfast nearly every day. Unfortunately, I have to buy oranges, mangos, and bananas as our winters are too cold for those fruits, but I do use them as much as possible. I mix dandylion leaves in with my lettuce, kale, and salad greens and also cook some with my turnip greens and collard greens. For emergency use, I grow a large patch of wild Jerusalem Artichokes, and have lots of acorns (that need to be processed before using), and we also have a lot of wild lambsquarter. We are truly blessed with such abundant produce, but most of the residents don’t have a clue about foraging and most don’t plant sustainable fruit trees. There are relatively few people who can and preserve food like I and some of my friends do.

  • MY wife and daughter are Venezuelan. They grew up in north Venezuela, by the Atlantic Ocean. This article nails it, and in addition the family she still has there enjoys plenty of fish and other seafood. We send them things like shoes and soccer balls but they do not want for food. I would suggest people also learn to fish when the upcoming shortages hit.

    • Dear Jerome,
      Thanks for that. I have a feeling where they can be located. And yes, they seafood in the North is great! Enjoyed the time spent working there, indeed.
      Thanks for your feedback!

  • Hey Jose! Good to see you here. :o) It just so happens that I have a mango tree growing in my tiny backyard. I actually planted it from a seed, so wish me luck. Did you know that the seeds from cantaloupes can be roasted and eaten?

    I did find a coffee tree at the local garden center, but unfortunately, it is not Columbian. I also found them on Amazon of all places. I’d love it if you could share the pesticide formula. I come from a farming family that actually grows tobacco, so that information may be useful in the future. All the best!

    • Hey Corrine! great to see you here.
      Yep, I´ve tried them, and I prefer them to sunflower seeds. Yum. Please keep tuned and in my next article I will share it OK? Have to look for it in the vast extension of my files. I´m sure your mango tree is going to grown perfectly. 🙂
      Make sure to grab a few green ones to prepare some compote. It´s a great source of vitamin C with a different flavor to oranges, berries, and some others you may be used to.

  • My DH and I have lived on a northern Arizona cattle ranch for 28 years. All the pastures are irrigated by two
    Different water sources. After building our home, we planted a variety of fruit trees. They have always produced well, but I have had to share the fruit with wildlife and June bugs. This spring, the first time since living here showed me that all the years I spent canning were invaluable since we had a late freeze. All fruit except apples were lost. The apple trees were soaked with sulfur spray against apple maggot but the man I hired to do it apparently missed a few avenues on the trunks. All the trees are filled with wormy fruit. Hard times have not hit yet but because of this poor harvest, I will be using the jars that I canned in the past few years and stored in a cool room. So, no mulberries, blackberries, peaches, plums, or crabapples. My garden of Eden became just a pretty place to live.
    Fortunately I can still buy at local farms. But that could get more difficult in the future.

    • That is No Bueno…Sorry to hear that. Hopefully maybe the snows will wipe that plague the next year? Good thing you had something canned. That feedback is invaluable, too: a man-made disaster that you couldn’t predict.
      Great lesson.

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