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Sunday, April 30, 2023

When Venezuela Starved, Fruit Helped Keep Us Alive.

 Original Article


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.


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: 

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.


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.

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