A food-producing tree is a must for any garden.
Food trees offer so many advantages, from sustainability by reducing food miles, to self-sufficiency and food security in times of hardship or supply chain breakdown.
But, with all the options available to you, which are the food-bearing trees you should consider adding to your garden today?
To help us answer this question, we reached out to 26 Homesteaders and Preppers and asked them:
“If you could only plant one food-producing tree, which would it be and why?”
Some chose trees that were fast growing and therefore more likely to produce food quickly, others made recommendations based on versatility or nutritional value.
After counting all of their recommendations, there was an obvious favorite…
Here is what their votes revealed to be the best food-producing trees:
- Apple Tree – 9 votes
- Peach Tree – 2 votes
- Pecan Tree – 1 vote
- Plantain Tree – 1 vote
- Nectarine Tree – 1 vote
- Almond Tree – 1 vote
- Walnuts & Hazelnut Tree – 1 vote
- Chestnut Tree – 1 vote
- Pomegranate Tree – 1 vote
- Maple Tree – 1 vote
- Mulberry Tree – 1 vote
- Banana Tree – 1 vote
- Pear Tree – 1 vote
- Fig Tree – 1 vote
- Avocado Tree – 1 vote
- Citrus Tree – 1 vote
- Coconut Palm Tree – 1 vote
Keep reading below to learn why the apple is the most recommended food tree by our group of Homesteaders and Preppers.
Plus, discover the advantages of the other 16 trees that were picked.
But before you make your final decision please check your hardiness zone and ensure you pick a variety that will thrive in your climate.
Rusty Collins – True Prepper
If I was forced to pick only one food-bearing tree, it would have to be the humble apple tree.
Fruit trees are an excellent sustainable source of food for preppers and survivalists, but they also require some forethought.
They require a lot of land, planning, and attention to harvest. They also take years before they fruit.
Apple trees are relatively easy compared to others and can grow in a wide range of USDA Zones in the US.
Many types of apple trees require a pollinator, so you may need more than one (preferably a whole grove).
Apples themselves are versatile, nutritious, preservable, and relatively large.
It was tempting to pick a nut tree, like pecan or walnut since they can help with protein in a sustainable food plan, but the volume of nuts and labor to access the meat make them slightly less practical if you are stuck choosing only one tree.
Kaya Harwood – Simply Self Sufficient
I would pick the apple tree as the number one food-producing tree of my choice. This is mainly for survival purposes – there’s a lot you can do with an apple tree.
You’d have to pick a variety that doesn’t require much care or watering, works in your climate zone, is disease and pest-resistant, grows fast, tastes alright, and withstands the weather. An example is the zestar.
Apples are high in fiber, nutrition, and antioxidants, and can help when you’re sick. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, as they say.
Apples are also used as medicine, for diarrhea and constipation, due to the high amount of pectin.
You can make lots of foods like apple pie and jellies, and drinks like apple juice and cider. Apples can also be canned or dehydrated for long-term storage.
All these factors: hardiness, storage, nutrition, and variety of foods is why I think the apple tree wins.
Kathi Rodgers – Oak Hill Homestead
It’s important to choose wisely when you have limited space. My choice would be an apple tree for its many culinary uses.
While many apple varieties require a pollinator which would mean planting two trees, there are several varieties that are self-pollinating such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Braeburn.
Apples are extremely nutritious – high in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants -and can be eaten in so many different ways.
Delicious when eaten fresh, apples can also be stored over the winter in the right conditions. The fruit can be preserved by canning, dehydrating, or freezing.
Cook them into applesauce for a delicious side dish, bake them into desserts such as pies and cobblers, or add them to savory main dishes.
Apple jelly and apple cider are two more ways to put the fruit to use.
When the tree blossoms in the spring it provides beauty as well as a sweet fragrance, and attracts bees and butterflies.
Surprisingly, apple trees aren’t limited to northern climates. There are many varieties that will grow and produce farther south as well.
Apple trees come in several sizes, from dwarf to standard. Dwarf trees produce earlier, but a standard-size tree will produce longer.
Claude Davis – Ask a Prepper
If I had to choose only one food-producing tree to plant in my backyard, I would choose the apple tree.
Apple trees offer a large supply of one of the highest-calorie fruits. In an emergency situation, when grocery stores wouldn’t be available at every street corner, apples could even save your life.
Apple trees are easy to grow and can give an overwhelming amount of fruit, producing between 400-800 pounds of apples year after year, for decades.
Fortunately, apples can be preserved in various ways for later use, so nothing is wasted.
Apples can be canned, turned into apple sauce or jelly, or even dehydrated. You can make apple cider vinegar or apple butter, so there is no shortage of methods when it comes to preserving them.
Some varieties start producing fruit even before they are fully grown, so you don’t have to wait too long before your first harvest.
Apple trees are also amongst the easiest fruit-producing trees to take care of. They are low maintenance and even those who have a black thumb can grow them.
I hope this is your sign to plant your first apple tree in your backyard if you haven’t already.
Shelby DeVore – Farminence
If I could only plant one food-producing tree, it would be an apple tree. Apples are incredibly diverse. Apple trees are also easy to care for and produce a large amount of fruit each year.
Apples can be preserved in ways that will feed your family all year long. You can dehydrate them into apple chips, can apple pie filling or applesauce, turn them into fruit leather, and of course, eat them fresh.
Apple scraps that aren’t used can be fermented to make apple cider vinegar, an incredibly useful pantry staple that improves gut health.
Not only will apples produce a lot of fruit, but they’re also a great way to bring wildlife to your property.
Hunters will enjoy the fact that apple trees can attract deer and bird watchers will enjoy watching the diverse birds that apple trees bring.
The wood from apple trees is also wonderful to use when smoking meat as it brings a delicate flavor to the meat.
Amber Brandsrud – 1898 Mama
If I could only plant one food-producing tree, I would plant apple trees.
The reason I pick apple trees is that there are a number of different ways to use apples. They can be stored, dehydrated, and canned into many different products.
Products such as applesauce, apple cider vinegar, and apple cider. These are products you can sell. The wood can be used for smoking meats.
Plus, if times get really bad, they are a great livestock food as well.
Another great thing about apple trees is that you can always count on an abundant harvest. Unlike other fruit trees, your apple tree will give you plenty of fruit to work with every single year.
Unfortunately, it does take some time to start producing apple trees, so buying an apple tree that is a few years old can speed up the waiting process.
Just make sure to buy two so they will be sure to pollinate.
Vera Kutsenko – Neverland
If I could only plant one food-producing tree, I would choose apples. The main reason for this choice is that apple trees produce all year round.
Unlike other crops that have unpredictable harvests, apple trees keep on yielding their fruit every year.
Once the tree has fully grown, it will provide you with four to five bushels of apples each year.
Another reason to plant an apple tree is that it can grow anywhere. You do not need any special kind of soil or land for them. You can cultivate them in your backyard without any hassle.
Apple trees are also low maintenance. When newly planted, they might need some upkeep, but as it becomes established, it doesn’t need much nurturing. But would still bear delicious fruit.
Apple trees also start bearing fruit from a young age. So you do not have to wait for a longer period of time for the crop to start yielding its results.
It only takes a few months before it will begin to offer you juicy apples.
Jill Taylor – Happy Farmyard
If I could only plant one food-producing tree, it would have to be the apple tree. Apples are versatile, nutritious, and easy to grow, making them ideal for survival situations.
The tree is also relatively hardy and can tolerate a wide range of climates. Furthermore, apple trees are relatively disease-resistant, meaning they are less likely to succumb to pests and diseases.
In addition, you can use apples in various ways, both as food and as a health supplement.
Plus, apples are a pretty popular fruit, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find a buyer for your surplus.
With so many different uses, the apple tree would be a valuable asset in any survival situation.
When choosing an apple tree, it is important to select a variety that is suited to your climate; in general, however, the golden delicious apple is a good all-purpose variety.
With proper care and attention, an apple tree can provide you with an abundance of fresh, delicious apples for years to come.
Katie Krejci – The Homesteading RD
If I could only plant one food-producing tree on our homestead for survival, I would pick an apple tree for several reasons.
Apple trees are hardy and easy to grow, even in my harsh climate of Minnesota (zone 4).
I grow several different types of fruit trees on my homestead and my apple trees are always a clear winner in terms of production.
Apples are also very diverse in their uses. I love to make and can apple butter, apple pie filling, and applesauce. Making apple cider is a tasty treat as well! Apples also dry well for crispy snacks or fruit leather.
Apples also hold well in storage, which is a blessing if you have a large harvest and can only process some of it at a time. Any produce that stores well is a winner in my book!
Lastly, the apple cores and peels can be used to make apple cider vinegar.
There are so many uses and applications for the simple apple, so there’s no doubt in my mind that an apple tree is what I would pick!
Erinn Witz – Seeds And Spades
If I had to choose one food-producing tree, it would be a peach tree. Peaches are one of my favorite summertime treats, and they’re not only delicious but also highly nutritious.
A single peach contains about 15% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C, as well as Vitamin A, fiber, and potassium.
Not to mention, peaches are a low-calorie food, so you can enjoy them without guilt. And, they’re perfect for summertime recipes like cobblers, pies, and smoothies.
Here’s why you should consider growing a peach tree:
- They are easy to care for and maintain.
- They are adaptable to different climates.
- They produce an abundance of fruit.
- The fruit is nutritious and delicious.
- They have a long life span, with some trees bearing fruit for 20 years!
Peach trees are pretty easy to care for. They grow best in full sun with well-drained soil and regular irrigation during the growing season.
Plan to fertilize your tree a few times a year, and prune out any dead or diseased branches annually, as well as any crossed or rubbing branches.
That’s it, and you’ll be rewarded with fruit for many years!
Micaela James – Mama In The Wild
If I could only plant one food-producing tree, I would plant a peach tree. Peach trees are self-pollinating which means that you don’t need two trees for the tree to bear fruit.
Peach trees are fairly easy to grow and dwarf varieties don’t take up too much space, so they are perfect for those that are low on space. Peaches are delicious to eat fresh and preserve.
We love to can peaches. You can also freeze them. Preserved peaches taste just as good as fresh.
One mature tree will produce plenty of fruit for a family with extra to share.
Peaches are delicious, self-pollinating, and productive, making them a great fruit tree to grow for the home gardener.
Brian Duff – Mind 4 Survival
If I could only plant one food-producing tree, it would be a pecan tree. I choose a pecan tree because it yields a great-tasting, high-energy food that is perfect for any survival situation.
People often think of pecans as nuts. However, pecans and nuts like them are, in fact, fruit. In the case of Pecans, they are dry, single-seed fruits with high oil content and tough exteriors.
Pecans are a great survival food, with one ounce providing almost 200 calories, 20 grams of fat, and 19 vitamins and minerals.
What makes pecans even better are their low effort and calorie cost to harvest them. While other fruit trees require active picking to harvest your feast, pecans fall from the tree when ripe.
Therefore, all you have to do is wait until the time is right and your power-packed meal falls to the ground.
When it comes to a survival fruit tree, I’ll put my money and future with the pecan!
Max Weber – American Patriot Survivalist
If I had to choose one tree to grow it would be a plantain tree. Given the right environment (perfect for Zones 8-11), plantain trees grow year-round and require very little care.
They grow fast, producing fruit after 18 months (compare that to any other tree), and reproduce by themselves.
Plantains are packed with calories and can be eaten green (you can swap out potatoes for plantains in most recipes) or yellow for a sweeter flavor.
They’re also a great source of Vitamin K, A, Copper, Iron, and the resistant starch is great for gut bacteria.
On my homestead, I started with one plantain tree and it propagated itself into 15 trees and now I have plantains all year round.
Max Shak – Survival Gear Shack
The old-fashioned nectarine. One of these grew next to my house when I was a child, and I must admit that I stole some of its fruit every year.
Although they were small and distinctly ugly, they were responsible for coining the word “ambrosial.”
Today’s nectarines are not so much, but let’s be honest, they’re almost completely tasteless – beautiful to look at but tasteless as well.
Bringing back the real fruit, not childhood diseases is a good idea.
Katy Willis – Real Self-Sufficiency
If I had to choose just one tree, I’d choose an almond.
Almonds are packed full of protein, along with vitamin E, healthy fats, fiber, biotin, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and copper.
Plus, of course, they’re rich in phytonutrients and are a particularly good source of flavonoids, plant sterols, and phenolic acids.
Aside from their clear nutritional value, they’re easy to preserve, which makes them brilliant for long-term food storage, even without refrigeration, freezing, or canning.
If you know what you’re doing, you can forage fresh produce year-round for some of the missing vitamins and minerals, but protein isn’t always easy to come by.
Neither are healthy fats. Hence if I had to just choose one tree to grow, it’d be almonds.
They grow rapidly and, with little care, the trees are really productive.
The nuts are also easy to turn into milk, and the hard shells have all kinds of uses, including making an excellent soil conditioner once ground up and when used as a top dressing, they inhibit weed growth.
Jane Windham – Cottage At The Crossroads
I’d highly recommend adding a variety of tree nuts as a food-producing tree to your farm or homestead. There are varieties of walnuts and hazelnuts that can grow across most of the US.
Hazelnut and walnut trees will produce for 50+ years once established (sometimes over 100 years) and produce food with an incredibly long shelf life that is also high in protein.
While you’ll work to harvest the nut meat, this is a food that could be stored to sustain you through the depths of winter– when most other foods are scarce!
Mike Guerin – Survival Manual
If I could plant only one tree it would be a Chestnut Tree. Specifically an American Chestnut from the American Chestnut foundation’s backcross program.
The American Chestnut is probably the most amazing and versatile tree in the world. However, let’s focus on the question at hand, food production.
The American Chestnut fits the bill here. The American Chestnut tree is fast growing and produces nuts at a younger age than most mast-producing trees.
Production is every year instead of in cycles, which is important if you want to be the ‘best’!
This isn’t a crop that gives you a short time frame to utilize the crop. Simply allowing them to dry and then storing them in a dry cool place will allow you to enjoy the harvest for many months.
With just slightly more drying effort you can feast on the nuts year-round.
The harvest is also large! Before the blight killed off most of the mature trees, Chestnuts were a huge crop that had a significant economic impact.
By planting one you not only get the best food producer, but you also get the satisfaction of helping to restore the American Chestnut to its former glory.
It also produces chestnuts every year instead of in cycles.
Paddy – Survival Surge
If I had to plant a tree for survival, It would be a pomegranate tree.
The reason I would choose pomegranates is that they are loaded with all the essential vitamins, which is exactly what you need in times of crisis.
I’m a strong believer that the food you consume is either fueling or destroying your body.
Vitamin C (50% RDA), Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Fibre, and vitamin B9 are some of the nutrients pomegranates provide.
But what’s even more interesting is that a large-sized pomegranate yields a whopping 52 grams of carbohydrates, providing a great energy boost in survival situations.
If the conditions were not right for pomegranates, a plum tree would be my next choice. Plum trees are one of the fastest-growing fruit trees, which is vital when the going gets tough.
Matthew Osborn – Legionary
If I could only grow one food-producing tree, I would choose the maple tree – as maple syrup is an incredible food for survival, is a natural source of strong sugar, and is incredibly calorie-dense.
In addition to their edible sap syrup, you can also eat seeds – similar to roasted pumpkin seeds, if a little more bitter. These seeds can also be ground into flour.
Though not as tasty, the inner bark and young shoots can both be eaten – so this is a great all-rounder food-producing tree, providing things that are difficult to grow in a typical kitchen gardener survivalist garden.
Jim Kurczodyna – From Scratch Farmstead
If I could plant one tree on my land it would be the mulberry tree.
Mulberries thrive everywhere from the frigid north to the hot and humid deep south in a wide array of soil types. They are claimed to be one of the most versatile and adaptable trees on the planet.
Everbearing varieties can produce abundant, ripe berries daily for 2-4 months. The fruit is mildly sweet and delicious.
Mulberries are easy to harvest. Spread a tarp under your tree, shake the branches, watch it rain down mulberries, and collect them all up in the tarp afterward.
They pair perfectly with grazing livestock too, providing both shade and excellent fodder.
Mulberry tree leaves:
- Contain a protein content similar to alfalfa.
- Are easy for livestock to digest.
- Are rich in nutrients due to their deep root systems.
Our cows often go after mulberry leaves first when they enter a fresh pasture. Mulberry trees can also provide fodder for chickens, pigs, goats, and sheep.
Amy Andrychowicz – Get Busy Gardening
Though apples, peaches, pears, and oranges are likely some of the more popular choices, if I could only plant one food-producing tree, it would be a banana tree.
The reason for this is that I eat bananas the most, more than any other fruit, so I know they won’t go to waste.
Some types of fruit trees can produce hundreds of pounds in a short time, making it difficult to make use of the large bounty before it spoils.
On the other hand, banana trees aren’t as prolific as other types, which might sound like a bad thing. But to me, it means I would be able to easily use up all the fresh produce without any waste.
Plus bananas last a long time, and can be enjoyed at different stages of ripeness, so there’s plenty of time to eat them up before they go bad.
They also freeze nicely and can be used in many different types of recipes, even once they are overripe.
Deborah Niemann – Thrifty Homesteader
Pear trees are my favorite food-producing tree because pears last for months in the refrigerator. This is why you see pears featured in so many old-fashioned Christmas paintings.
In fact, Keiffer pears are best after they’ve been in an unheated basement or the refrigerator for at least two weeks.
When first picked from the tree, they seem so hard that I’ve heard some people say that they are not edible because they don’t realize that they’ll soften as they age in a cool place.
Keiffer is also a great pear for canning and freezing. Since they start out firmer, they don’t wind up as soft as apples after canning.
If you do want something like applesauce, Spiced Pear Butter is so much tastier.
It’s delicious when added to a bowl of oatmeal or yogurt, spread on toast or a hot biscuit, or even used as an ice cream topping. I also use it in place of applesauce when making pork chops.
Kelly Martin – Urban Garden Gal
If I could only plant one food-producing tree it would be a fig tree.
Fig trees are hardy, easy to care for and they will tolerate a wide range of conditions.
They grow well in most soil types and they can even be planted in a container if you have limited space.
Mature fig trees are cold and frost tolerant but young trees need some frost protection for the first couple of years.
Fig trees can be pruned to keep them to a compact size so they won’t take up too much space in the garden.
Once fig trees reach maturity they will produce fruit once to twice each year and they’ll continue producing fruit for decades.
Figs don’t continue to ripen after they’re picked so you need to wait until they’re fully ripe before harvesting.
Figs are ready to eat when they’re plump, soft to the touch, and sweet smelling.
If you have too many figs to eat all at once you can freeze, dehydrate, can, or pickle them to use later.
Ken Johnson – SkyPerma
One food-producing tree that I would plant would be avocados. Not only are avocados rich in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals but they produce a number of fruits at a time.
It is possible for a mature avocado tree to produce up to 200 to 300 fruits in a season. Avocados are also useful in many dishes, salads, recipes, and cuisines.
The avocado is a climacteric fruit, meaning that it ripens after it has been picked. This makes them easier to transport and increases their shelf life.
Avocados can be grown in a variety of climates; they are native to tropical and Mediterranean regions but can also be grown in cooler climates (not below 30 F).
Avocado trees have a long lifespan; they can live for 200-400 years. They are also relatively easy to care for, requiring little water and fertilizer.
When planting an avocado tree, it is important to choose a location that has well-drained soil and gets plenty of sunlight.
Avocados are a rich source of nutrients, including fiber, which is important for gut health. They also contain cholesterol-lowering compounds and antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Avocados are a good source of healthy fats, folates, and anti-inflammatory compounds.
John Mason – ACS Distance Education
Citrus trees are incredibly adaptable plants that can be easily grown in most parts of Australia under the right conditions.
There are many to choose from – lemons, limes, oranges, mandarins, or others. Trees provide ornamental value and bear fruit for long periods.
Citrus can be grown in a temperate to semi-tropical climate and will tolerate moderate frost. They can be grown in the ground if spaced at 4 to 5 meters.
Where space is limited, they can be grown in large containers or trained as an espalier against a wall.
They just need a sunny spot with protection from wind, free-draining loamy soil, and organic mulch.
Trees don’t require much feeding. Feed young trees about 6 weeks after planting, and sparingly thereafter. Feed mature trees in early spring and summer.
Water well until established and the following feeding, and water during dry spells. Water containerised plants more frequently.
Mature plants can be pruned to remove bushy end-growth, and that’s pretty much it. Plants will start to bear copious fruits after two to three years.
Jen Stark – Happy DIY Home
If I could only plant one food-producing tree, I would plant plenty of Coconut Palm (Cocos Nucifera L.). Because of the benefits, it provides to people, the coconut palm is known as “The Tree of Life.”
It is the only tree in the world whose entire structure may be utilized. It provides almost everything you need, food (especially the young coconut), coconut juice, shade, oil, milk, cream, cooking, vinegar, shelter, clothing, fuel, furniture, ingredients for beauty products, and much more.
The tree is also an excellent choice for landscape on an island or even in a resort setting. It is not hard to maintain and can thrive in any type of environment but it grows better in tropical types of weather.
The coconut tree benefits not only humans but also other creatures, particularly livestock. The leftover fiber from coconut oil and coconut milk production, coconut meat, is used as livestock feed.
I think no other trees can beat the coconut tree. I can proudly say that “coconut tree is the total package”.
Thank you so much to all the experts that contributed to this expert roundup!
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Fern discovered her love of gardening later in life but has not wasted any time catching up on missed years. She has contributed to the planting and care of over 100 different fruit, nut, native and ornamental trees over the past 5 years on her property.
Fern has a special interest in biodynamic farming, food production and closed loop agriculture.
When not in the garden or exercising her dogs, you will find her preserving the harvest or with her nose buried in a novel.