Carbohydrates and Companion Planting

Carbohydrates – we really love them, don’t we? We just don’t like what they do to us, especially when they’re consumed with abandon. 

However, if food were hard to come by, we’d love eating carbs and love what they do for us. 

In Ohio, tomatoes grow practically like weeds – but have you ever thought how difficult it would be to stay alive eating tomatoes, dandelions, and cucumbers?

Carbs provide calories and fill us up. Which is more satisfying, a salad or a sandwich? Bread, rice, corn, potatoes, beans, grains – these are what give that feeling of satiation. 

An adult requires about 300 pounds of carbohydrates per year to maintain a stable weight. That’s a lot of corn! In Ohio corn grows nearly as well as tomatoes (not quite as fast as weeds, however). This year I decided to try my hand at corn-growing and learned a thing or two. 

Unusual strains of maize are collected to incr...

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First, I decided to try companion-planting, like Native Americans have done, using squash, corn, and beans in a Three Sisters Garden. The beans use the corn for support, and the squash provides ground cover. Not liking squash so much, I just went with my two favorite sisters, corn and beans. It worked out pretty well for the beans, not so well for the corn. Can you spot the beans dangling from the corn in the picture above? As it turns out, it’s a race between the beans and corn, and depends where and when you plant them.   

 Here we see a case where the beans won.  They grew much faster than the corn and caused it to collapse. This defeated the goal of avoiding artifical props for the pole beans.In the next picture, below, you may be able to see a tapering of the height of the corn from front to back. When I planted the corn, it was a sunny day, with the sun high in the southern sky. However, after the summer solstice, the days grew shorter and the shadows grew longer, and some of my corn received less sunlight than I had planned. The tallest plants in the foreground were actually planted last but received the most sun. 

 I also learned a lesson from the squirrels. My neighbor sets out corn cobs for the squirrels, who carry them all over and drop kernels and cobs all over my yard. All summer I’ve been plucking and mowing the cornstalks that crop up randomly.

I bought a rototiller and tilled up the lawn to plant my corn, developing a bit of arthritis in a finger joint in the process. Toward the end of the corn-planting, when I was sick of the whole project, I decided to try it like the squirrels and just planted the corn in the grass, and voila, it grew just as well as in the tilled soil I had so carefully prepared. I’ve learned my lesson and next year, I’m doing it the squirrel-y way.

 If planting’s too much work (and I’m thinking it may be), better stock up now on half a ton of grains and other carbs to see your family through a year.

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About Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

CYNTHIA J KOELKER , MD is a board-certified family physician with over twenty years of clinical experience. A member of American Mensa, Dr. Koelker holds degrees in biology, humanities, medicine, and music from M.I.T., Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the University of Akron. She served in the National Health Service Corps to finance her medical education.
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5 Responses to Carbohydrates and Companion Planting

  1. GoneWithTheWind says:

    Genetics also determine that some people will, as they age, gain a lot of weight while others do not. Sure the availability of food allows us to “be all we can be,” but if it were simply the ready availability of food that created obesity, then everyone in the U.S. Canada, Europe, and Australia would be obese and everyone in Africa would be skinny. Have you seen Africans lately??? Obesity is genetic, it may occur at age 12 or age 30 or age 60, but your genes drive it. Within that genetic predisposition there is certainly some ability to modify your weight by diet. But it is almost impossible for a skinny person to become obese and equally difficult for an obese person to become skinny. I can fairly easily gain or lose a few pounds, but I simply cannot gain enough weight to become obese.

  2. GoneWithTheWind says:

    I agree that anyone on a starvation diet will lose weight. If you took a person who was obese and put them in a concentration camp and feed them 500 calories a day, they would become as skinny as anyone else. But where genes play into this is if you take someone, say an 18 year old male 5’8″ 130 lbs and gave them as much as they wanted to eat and even paid them to eat, I doubt you could increase their weight by 5 lbs. But that same obese person in a concentration camp will be obese again within a year of being released. It is genetic. Of course they must eat to gain the wieght, but even that urge to overeat is genetic. Sure there is a the ability to lose a few pounds or gain a few pounds, we all can do that. But a obese person is obese because their genes force them to be obese and it takes a starvation diet to reverse it.

    • Chris MD says:

      GWTW, I have to disagree with you. The rate of obesity in this country has skyrocketed far faster than any genetic cause could possibly explain. Pure and simple, replacing an energy consuming, active lifestyle with a sedentary, couch-potato one without comensurate decrease in caloric intake will cause one to gain weight. I was an All-American swimmer in college who could not hold onto weight no matter what. Then came med school, no excercise and I proceded to gain in excess of 50 lbs. My genetics did not change, only my activity. Do genetics play a role? Absolutely. But they are not the defining variable. Anyone can become more lean by increasing their excercise level.

  3. GoneWithTheWind says:

    What do carbohydrates do to us? I believe you have been caught up in the hype. Your genes predict your body weight not your food. Your genes predict a weight range for you that will vary throughout your life and it takes a herculean effort to fend off this genetic propensity. Anyone who struggles with obesity can vouch for this simple fact of life. Have you ever noticed the perennial skinny person who eats whatever they want and often in large quantities? How could that be possible if the carbs “made you fat”? The simple answer is your genes make you fat, average or skinny and it takes a constant effort to change what your genes predict for you.

    • I agree with almost everything you say, except for the end of the third sentence, “not your food.”

      I am not saying that carbohydrates make a person fat, although excess calories in any form contribute to weight gain. Genes certainly play a large role in determining body weight, but it would be the rare person who would gain weight on a diet of tomatoes, celery, and lettuce. If you need calories for energy production, you’ll want a renewable source of carbohydrates, such as corn, beans, or potatoes (which are easier to grow and harvest than rice or other grains).

      An uncle of mine has laid in a supply of wheat, to plant or eat at TEOTWAWKI – BUT he has never sewn wheat, nor baked a loaf of bread from scratch. Learning a little farming now seems like a good idea, especially those crops that are easy to prepare and provide a supply of energy-rich high-carbohydrates.

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