Thanksgiving is the easiest and best time of year to “eat local,” for the simple reason that the Native Americans and the Pilgrims were “locavores” back when “fresh and local” were not marketing terms, but just the way it was. This means that most of what you find on a traditional Thanksgiving menu has its roots in local, seasonal foods.
A New “Tradition”
Yet too often we feel obliged to follow more recent traditions. We fill a Thanksgiving menu with an industrially raised turkey that’s been injected with saline to make it seem juicy, or Jell-O salad with canned fruit cocktail, or green bean casserole with canned mushroom soup, or sweet potatoes from a can, baked with butter and brown sugar with marshmallows on top. That’s what my Grandma made anyway.
True Thanksgiving Tradition
There’s nothing wrong with family traditions, but it’s easy and fun to give those old favorites new life with fresh, locally raised foods. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to choose from autumn’s bountiful cornucopia of locally grown foods from salad greens to root vegetables.
And there’s even more to be thankful for, because local foods, when grown without synthetic chemicals, enhance our personal health, the health of our farmers, their farms, and our communities. And the virtuous circle expands as local organic foods benefit the soil, air, and water upon which life depends.
Giving Thanks for Healthy Food
There is just no better way to express gratitude for good food, local farmers, and their active stewardship of the land than to buy one or more local items for the big meal on the day we join together and give thanks.
And it’s easy–just tweak your favorite family recipes to create locally produced variations on Thanksgiving classics. Here are a few ideas:
- Cole slaw can become a light Brussels sprouts salad
- Mashed potatoes go glam as local potatoes roasted with leeks, parsnips, and rutabaga
- Sweet potato gratin can be transformed into a sophisticated cardoon gratin
- Classic raw celery and carrots become a classy celery root remoulade (recipe below)
- Dinner rolls from a can become buttery sage biscuits
- Pecan pie turns into local hickory nut or black walnut pound cake
And we all know pumpkin pie is better with local pumpkins, so get yourself a few from a local farmer.
You’ll have the tastiest Thanksgiving ever, and you’ll help keep local, sustainable farms thriving now, and for many Thanksgivings to come. Thank you!
Celery Root in Mustard Sauce (Remoulade)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound celery root (about 2 medium-sized roots)
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice, mustard, cream, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Quarter the celery root and peel it. Grate coarsely. Immediately add the celery root to the mustard sauce and toss to coat. Season to taste. Serve as a first course or side salad.
The best way to enjoy healthy, seasonal produce is to buy it from your local community farmer. To locate the farmers’ market or CSA nearest you, visit www.localharvest.org.
Farm Fresh Now! is a project of The Land Connection, an educational nonprofit that preserves farmland, trains new farmers, and connects people with great locally-grown foods. This series is made possible with generous support from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.