Here in the US, an official “Thanksgiving” was proclaimed to celebrate the successful fight for independence, but in reality, harvest festivals have been common for thousands of years. And they all have one thing in common: stuffing oneself with the bounty of the farm and garden in good company.
Granted it’s merely a ritual stuffing in an era and place of prosperity, but Thanksgiving is truly the holiday pièce de résistance for gardeners. Summer’s bounty is in the can or the fermentation crock or laid away in storage. Treats like pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, squash casserole and baked apples reflect the realities of seasonal eating. Rolls, bread, or biscuits can be made from stored grains. And whether you like ham, turkey or turducken, harvesting meat animals at the peak of their condition is a harvest tradition.
If you’ve been buying all the ingredients at the grocery store, why not start a tradition in your family that harks back to Thanksgiving’s origins? If you don’t have a garden and don’t want to start one, our local farmers have you covered. If you do have a garden, for our region in the Mid-South, squash and sweet potatoes are easy crops to grow to grace your holiday table with backyard bounty. Canned green beans are also traditional (by modern standards), and if there is anything more reliable in the garden than a few rows of pole beans, I haven’t discovered it yet.
Cranberries are out of reach locally, but pecans and apples are definitely on the menu. Vegetarians, vegans and vegetable lovers can round out their menu with purple hull peas, root vegetables like carrots and beets, and any number of local greens that thrive in the cold season, like spinach, collards and kale.
Choosing a local food Thanksgiving is as traditional as it gets. Before the frenzy of the Christmas season begins, take a moment with your family and loved ones to truly give thanks for the bounty of the earth that nourishes us all: and the farmers and growers that make it happen.