Local Food for Thanksgiving is Great for a Feast!
Originally, local food for Thanksgiving was eaten because it was a harvest celebration. These days we are far removed from how our food is harvested and can easily eat anything we want at any time.
Thanksgiving has become more about being grateful for other things in life. Yet traditional Thanksgiving foods are eaten precisely because they are seasonal, and part of the harvest.
Eating locally means you are a part of the seasons and the harvest in your community. What better way to celebrate friends and family than serve delicious local food for Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is a great time to make delicious, special dishes that you might not make at other times. It is a wonderful time to buy the best ingredients possible to make your meal great. Eating local food for Thanksgiving can make that possible.
Buying local meat, vegetables, and other trimmings is a great way to honor the spirit of a harvest meal!
History of Thanksgiving
The first Thanksgiving in the US dates back to 1621. Newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest celebration. That first Thanksgiving meal looked very different than what we eat today.
Though wild turkeys were likely eaten at that first celebration, it is just as likely they ate ducks, geese, and swan. Rather than bread based stuffing, they may have been flavored with herbs, onions, or nuts.
Those first guests brought deer to the celebration, and it is assumed they were roasted on a spit and then made into a venison stew.
Back in 1621, local food for Thanksgiving was all they could eat. They may have had onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots and maybe peas. Corn was plentiful, but as cornmeal, not fresh.
Local fruits would have included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries, and cranberries. Cranberries were not sweetened, so they would have been very tart.
Seafood, too, would have been a part of the feast. Mussels, lobster, bass, clams, and oysters could all have been on the menu.
Potatoes also were not available yet in North America. Pumpkin pie, too, was impossible because they had no butter and flour needed for crusts. They didn’t have ovens yet either.
Modern Thanksgiving did not become official until 1863, but it has been celebrated on and off since it began.
Local Turkey for Thanksgiving
If you eat turkey for Thanksgiving (and 88% of us do!), buying a heritage local turkey should be at the top of your list when eating local food for Thanksgiving.
Heritage turkeys are grown slower, using breeds that were bred for taste, not quick growth. Commercial turkeys are raised in 12 weeks, while a heritage bird can take 6 to 7 months.
When a turkey lives longer, it has a chance to put on fat for flavor. A sustainably raised local turkey, with access to pasture, will also be more flavorful thanks to their foraged diet.
In general, the whiter the meat, the poorer the nutrition of the animal. A heritage turkey has deep, rich meat because the animal can run, jump, and fly.
Your local turkey will look different than conventionally raised turkeys. It will have longer legs, a more prominent breastbone, and a smaller breast.
When roasting your heritage bird, remember that the breast is much smaller than a conventional bird. Since the ratios of breast to dark meat are smaller, heritage turkey breast may cook as fast as the dark meat.
Take your local turkey out of the fridge an hour or two before cooking to bring to room temperature, and consider only roasting it to 140 or 150F instead of the conventional 165F for commercial turkeys.
Buying a Local Turkey in Maryland
- Albright Farms is located in Phoenix, Maryland. You can also find their products at the Baltimore Farmers Market. They sell turkeys fresh, as well as beef, chicken, and produce.
- Ferguson Family Farm is found in Parkton. They sell at the Hereford and Greenbelt Farmers Markets. You can find both fresh and frozen turkeys at their farm. Besides turkey, they sell beef, pork, lamb, goose, chicken, and duck.
- Groff’s Content Farm, in Rocky Ridge, sells fresh local turkey for Thanksgiving and other times. They also sell pork, beef, lamb, and chicken.
- Liberty Delight Farm is located in Reisterstown. They sell local turkey products, like turkey breast, bacon, sausage and ground turkey. You can also find fresh vegetables, beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and rabbit.
- Nick’s Organic Farm, in Adamstown, sells organic local turkeys. They also sell organic cornmeal, soy, as well as grass fed beef, chicken, and eggs.
- P.A. Bowen Farmstead is located in Brandywine. Besides local turkey, they also sell raw milk for pets, beef, chicken, and pork.
- TLV Tree Farm, in Glenelg, sells holiday turkeys and turkey sausage. You can also find produce, pork, and Christmas trees at the farm.
- Whispering Breeze Farm is found in Taneytown. Along with local turkey, Whispering Breeze Farm also sells beef, pork, cheese, and chicken.
If local turkey isn’t what you are looking for this Thanksgiving, consider visiting another local meat supplier. Chicken roasts faster and is perfect for a smaller gathering. Ham, prime rib, and roast lamb could all be great options!
Local Vegetarian Thanksgiving Ideas
Honestly, with all the side dishes you can make for Thanksgiving, you can easily have a vegetarian Thanksgiving without a main dish at all! But if you do want to make something special, here are a few ideas:
- Pumpkin Pot Pie
- Roasted Vegan Thanksgiving Bowl
- Vegetarian Shepherds Pie
- Stuffed Acorn Squash with Cornbread Stuffing
I love the idea of incorporating a big winter squash somehow as a beautiful centerpiece for a vegetarian Thanksgiving. Whether filling it with homemade stuffing, or a soup or stew, it could be a great substitution.
Local Thanksgiving Side Dish Ideas
Traditional Thanksgiving side dishes come from root cellar crops, ones that are easily stored underground all winter. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins come to mind.
With newer technology, you can now find local greenhouse or high tunnel crops, as well as frozen and canned options. You can make anything for your local Thanksgiving sides!
Storage crops that are available in Maryland right now include potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, squashes, Brussels sprouts, turnips, cabbage, beets, onions, leeks, and garlic.
Some farmers may have collards and kale, as well as salad greens and herbs still growing in high tunnels. Mushrooms may also be found. Plenty of meats should also be available.
You can also use your home canned or local jams or sauces to make sides and desserts. Frozen and canned fruits or vegetables can also be used.
Local Thanksgiving Recipes
There are thousands of Thanksgiving recipes out there, and every family has their own favorites. Why not try taking on a few of the traditional recipes and making them from scratch, from local ingredients?
You don’t have to make pie crust from scratch (though I encourage you to try!), but take an Apple Pie recipe and put local apples in it! There are so many different apples out there that you can’t find in the grocery store.
Skip the marshmallows this year and make Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes instead! This is my favorite way to serve sweet potatoes.
Likely your plans for Thanksgiving already include so many foods you can also buy locally. This year, support your community and make the most delicious local food for Thanksgiving!