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So, in my world, after WW3, a contingent of American government officials, military officials, scientists, and engineers hid out in a specially constructed bunker, where they'd remain for nearly 200 years, giving birth to successive generations of bunker dwellers. As of the time of my story, they have about 5,000 population.

One question I had was food. I planned on them using hydroponic methods to grow food, mainly vegetables and fruit, but I wanted to know: Which foods would be the best for the underground humans to grow?

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All kinds.

They grow an enormous array of different plants from all over the world. All the food plants the founders could get, and also loads of medicinal and culinary herbs. And flowers which are grown just because they are beautiful and the founders worried beauty would go out of the world.

Your bunkers are not some grimy burrow with people scraping by on starvation rations. These bunkers are amazing and roomy, which is why people are content to stay for generations. The endless, bright spaces are full of growing things. People sleep among the plants, singing and talking to them. The temperature never changes down there and so no-one needs clothes. They wear flowers and garlands.

Now I want to live there.

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  • $\begingroup$ You’re just describing the garden of eden $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Aug 14, 2020 at 3:19
  • $\begingroup$ @DT Cooper - except underground with hydroponics, and no animals, and no god and no devil and lots of people and free love. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Aug 14, 2020 at 11:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Wilik: I actually wanted them to be a fascist totalitarian bunker ironically $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Aug 16, 2020 at 1:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Dude you can totally do that! It is the same as the mormon Mafia I suggested for Vegas. If it is just nazis again that is so tired. If they look like the Eloi but it turns out they are organized as a fascist dictatorship that is great! There is no reason fascist would have to be mean and make people suffer. They just want to be in control and the other stuff was a byproduct of how they did it. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Aug 16, 2020 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ My idea was that they did the whole “paradise” thing to lure in Wastelanders (outsiders are valuable to them- Theyre a small gene pool, so new blood helps them). $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Aug 20, 2020 at 4:37
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You have limited space and energy to grow food. This means, in turn, that you need to choose for nutrition and total required space.

Based on this, your first stop should be looking at staple crops from real life. These are things that are grown as the primary means of feeding the population due to the combination of being relatively easy to grow on large scales and being rather nutritious. Wikipedia has a nice page about staple crops that includes nutritional info on the ten most widely grown staple crops. Out of those, I'd probably say a mix of quinoa and soybeans is your best bet as a set of staple crops. Both are not too hard to grow with hydroponics, and their nutritional values complement each other pretty well.

From there, you need to look at what crops will shore up your nutritional requirements. Provided you have people eat the quinoa raw (it makes a great snack, and it loses a lot of nutritional value if cooked), you've only got two big things you're missing out on significantly:

  • Carotenoids (vitamin A, β-carotene, and xanthophylls): Easily covered by adding carrots, sweet potato, kale, or spinach.
  • Sodium: Beetroot, celery, and carrot all help cover this well.

From there, it comes down to a bit of variety. Onions and garlic come to mind as they're both easy to grow, really versatile, and onions provide a natural source of fluoride, as do almonds (not as easy for hydroponics, but they're really nutritious and provide good variety. Fruit would be good too for variety, but you can probably pick this mostly for taste and presentation instead of nutritional value (brambles might be decent, they're so easy to grow that people have trouble getting rid of them), as would some spices. I'd probably also throw in a true cereal crop so you can do things like make bread and noodles (personally I'd probably go with wheat, but barley, rye, or millet would also work).

Now, you can get a reasonably balanced vegan diet this way if you pick carefully, but you are almost certainly going to be better off if you also grow some livestock. Chickens would be my choice for this, because they give you both meat and eggs (and eggs are insanely useful from a culinary perspective), don't need much space, and can be fed with the same crops that you're using for the humans.

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    $\begingroup$ I did a little research. What about fish? $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Aug 16, 2020 at 1:39
  • $\begingroup$ @DTCooper That's a good point I hadn't thought of. Some fish are pretty easy, others not so much. Herring comes to mind as a good option if you want to go that way, doesn't need much space and has very well characterized requirements for use in a fishery. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2020 at 1:48
  • $\begingroup$ Fish droppings can be pumped back into a hydro-game to be used as natural fertilizer. That’s why I asked. $\endgroup$
    – DT Cooper
    Aug 16, 2020 at 1:50
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    $\begingroup$ i'd add fungi into the mix too if the bottle neck is energy $\endgroup$
    – jk.
    Aug 18, 2020 at 9:26

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