Backyard gardening is a great way to either supplement your grocery store runs, or to provide a huge percentage of the food you eat. Growing fruits, vegetables, herbs and grains not only provides you with healthy alternatives to genetically modified, non-organic foods that you may buy in large chain grocery stores, it is also a great way to connect with nature.
There’s nothing quite like kicking your feet up in a comfy lawn chair at the end of a long day of gardening and sipping a nice adult beverage as you survey your work… but did you know you can grow most of the ingredients to make the alcohol in that beverage?
Isn’t Making Alcohol Illegal?
Before we go further, let me remind you that by and far, distilling hard spirits is illegal in most countries without a federal license — New Zealand being one of the exceptions to that rule (you lucky devils). You could go through the governmental red tape to obtain a license, but who really wants to go through all that trouble, right?
In most places, however, it is perfectly legal to produce beer and wine for your own personal consumption — you just can’t sell it (again, without proper licensing).
What Can I Grow to Make Alcohol?
Before we get to the list, let’s talk about what to grow in general. I would recommend you only grow crops that you will eat. Making alcohol may be a good idea in a grid-down SHTF situation, but if you’re growing something for the sole purpose of making alcohol, you’re missing out. Grow what you and your family enjoy eating so the crop is multi-purposed.
Potatoes – One of David’s Top Ten Survival Foods You Should Grow is the potato — which can be used to make vodka and schnapps. The starches in potatoes will be converted to sugar (using added enzymes), which will then be converted to alcohol. Unlike most root crops where you plant them and wait, potatoes may need to have dirt mounded over them periodically — especially if you’re growing them in containers.
Beets – Yes, the humble beet can be grown to make alcohol. The high sugar content deems beets as a great vegetable source to make some high-quality hooch! Beets are fairly easy root crops to grow, and you can eat the greens, too. Liquor and a salad from the same plant? I would definitely call that a win/win.
Berries – You can make wine and brandy from different berries — raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries. The high sugar content in berries will lend to a sweeter flavor, or if left to ferment longer, could mean a higher proof alcohol. Blackberries and raspberries, once established, require little to no tending for them to flourish from season to season. If you’ve ever seen them growing wild, you will understand. Blueberries, on the other hand, require a little more attention.
Apples – Apples are generally used to make hard cider or brandy, but if they are left to ferment too long, they will turn to apple cider vinegar (which isn’t all bad, either). You can also add pears to the apples, or just use pears alone. Depending on the species of apple you get, it may be necessary for you to have two or more trees (at least one male and one female) for them to bear fruit.
Grapes – Obviously, grapes (including muscadines) are used in the production of wine. This is probably the most common legal alcohol produced for home consumption. The thing about grapes is they require lots of work. This is not a crop to grow if you’re a lazy gardener. You’ll need to tend the grapevines constantly.
Rice – Sake is a traditional Japanese alcohol made from fermented rice, and has been traced as far back as the 8th century! While not a common crop for most home gardeners or small-scale farmers, rice is relatively simple to grow, so long as the plants stay wet.
Corn – Who doesn’t like a fresh ear of corn grilled up at a barbecue? You can also use that corn to make whiskey — also known as “moonshine”, “mountain dew”, and “white lightning” amongst other nicknames. Corn is the traditional grain that had been used to produce distilled spirits in the United States since the Revolutionary war!
Other Things to Grow
Dandelion – I know what you’re thinking — “the dandelion weed”?! The answer is YES, dandelions can even be made into wine. Their flower heads are used in conjunction with citrus fruits, ginger and sugar… and yes, people are actually cultivating dandelions intentionally nowadays.
Sugar – If you know anything at all about the production of alcohol, you will know that sugar is the catalyst from which the alcohol is actually made. Some spirits do not need added sugar, some do. The ones that don’t can actually have sugar added to increase the production and the proof of the alcohol. If you grow your own sugar cane, you will be light years ahead of those folks that have to buy sugar in 50 lb bags.
Prickly Pear Cactus – This is one I wasn’t aware of for a long time, but you can make wine from the prickly pear cactus! It is one of the most easily identifiable cacti with its paddle shaped pads.
Hops – Most everyone knows hops are used in the beer brewing process. Most people do not, however, know how easy they are to grow at home! You can plant hops rhizomes (part of the root system that closely resembles a grape vine) in an area that gets full sun, and where you have ample vertical growing space — hops are easy to train to grow up trellises.
There are probably a lot more foods you can grow to make alcohol at home, but these are some of the most common and easiest ones to work with. They are all warm weather crops, so if you’re in a cold climate, you may not have as much luck as someone in, say, the Appalachian region. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge!)
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for entertainment purposes, only. Distilling your own alcohol is illegal in most countries. The author, editors, and owners of The Prepper Project do not condone the illegal production of distilled alcohol. As far as homebrewing and winemaking are concerned, please check your local and state laws before proceeding. We would hate for you to have to read our articles from prison.