Local Food: Time to Order Your Holiday Turkey

Farmer with tablet computer

Do you eat local? Now is the time to plan ahead and order your holiday turkey from a local farmer. That juicy turkey is an essential ingredient in your 100-mile holiday dinner.

We talk with you a lot about how important it is to shop local. When you shop in your community, it keeps money flowing and multiplying in your local economy.

Behind just the money, though, it keeps you building local relationships. Whether you are buying a baby carrier, a pumpkin, or a turkey, if you have a relationship with the person who is selling a product to you, you are more confident and trusting in what you get. It’s easier to understand what is going on with your food when you shake the farmer’s hand and ask a few questions when you drop by to pick it up.

100-mile Diet

Since reading a few years ago about the adventures of a Canadian couple eating locally for a year, a story told in their book Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-mile Diet, my family has made great efforts to replace far-away foods with great local foods. We are fortunate to have a lot of choices.

The very small town (now a ghost town) where my grandfather was born, is a now a collection of turkey farms. When my family eats turkey, we always have a variety of local options, even from the grocery store.

It’s especially important to us to use foods from the Americas, LOCAL foods in more ways than one, for our harvest and holiday celebrations. Acknowledging the food and where each ingredient came from is a big part of our family meal.

It isn’t always easy to get the foods you are used to locally, but you can almost always get local poultry. Whether you go all the way with a 100-mile meal or whether you just find that beautiful, big turkey locally, talk about it with your children. Your efforts and your reasons for buying local will make an impression on them.

Where to Buy Your Local Turkey

If you don’t already have a turkey farmer on speed dial, there are websites to help you find exactly what you are looking for.

In Canada, the turkey Farmers of Canada have links to local turkey producers throughout Canada. The local sites are all different, but most of them list local farmers. For example, when you click through to the Turkey Farmers of Ontario, you end up at Ontario Meat & Poultry, where you can search for exactly what you want—including your location, distance you are willing to go, type of meat, ethnic focus, and so on.

If you are in the U.S. and still looking for a turkey for Thanksgiving, It’s not too late. Local Harvest has a big selection of local farms with turkeys ready for local pick-up. While you are there, check out the fresh cranberries section. There are fewer options, but just think how tangy and fresh those cranberries will taste with your local turkey. To find a local farmer, just focus on your area on the map on Local Harvest, and you will find a listing of local food resources.

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com

Wild Gardens for Busy Parents: Turning Colors

Wild garden colour in November

We gave our garden just enough attention to keep it growing, and the garden gave to us abundantly throughout the season. Now, our garden is turning fall colors.

Despite our September and October snow, we haven’t had a hard frost yet, and we’re in the middle of one last 70-degree day, so we’ve left the remnants of our garden—mostly for the snails. I estimate we got 75% of the harvest, and the snails got the rest. I left the damaged tomatoes on the vine for them.

Next month will be my final garden post. By next month, I will have cut everything back before the snow stays on the ground. I love seeing the progress in the photos below. I feel so attached to my wild garden. I am so happy to see the purple, orange, and green leaf colors all pop against my grey house.

November Harvest

When we were afraid that we would have a hard frost a few weeks ago, we picked all of our green tomatoes. We made fried green tomatoes, green tomato salsa, green tomato pickle, and green tomato anything at all. (See our post on green tomatoes recipes.) Even after all of that cooking, we still had a lot of green tomatoes. Rather than freezing, we decided to let them ripen.

We lined boxes with newspaper then set out all of the green tomatoes so they had plenty of air circulation around them. It worked. Now, we shop for our post-season harvest in the basement.

Ripening tomatoes

Total Cost So Far

Total for November – $0
Total for October – $0
Total for September – $3.00 (stakes)
Total for August – $0 (nada!)
Total for July – $3.00 (supports)
Total for June – $16.50 (plants)
Total for May – $34.00 (manure, top soil, peat moss)
Total for April – $18.00 (hops)
Total cost for the year – $74.50

Total Time So Far

I spent no time on the garden this month other than to stand the pumpkin up from where it grew at the edge of our sidewalk so it was visible to neighbors. That’s my fall decorating done. It took all of two seconds.

Total time so far = 11 hours 30 minutes

Our goal has been to spend less than 30 minutes in the garden most months.Depending on your climate and your weather, you might want to spend your 30 minutes this month cutting back vines and sending all of that green into the compost so it can feed your garden next year. Since we are still having mild days, we will wait until later this month to cut back completely.

Our Wall of Green

Our blackberry leaves have turned purple and red. This is the only way to see the blackberries stand out against the raspberries and the grapes that have created our wall of green this season. Tomatoes are greying, though you can see the red of the tomatoes we left for the creatures. Only the kale still carries on growing green.

Our wild garden in November

Progress in the Cultivated Raised Bed

Progress of our raised bed in November

Let’s Talk about Candy

Child dressed in Halloween costume eating cupcake

For parents who prefer that their children not eat everlasting gobs of sugar every Halloween, the holiday becomes a time to take a deep breath and figure out how we will navigate the choices this year. To candy or not to candy?

Switch to Better Alternatives

Within the dominant structure of treat or treat and begging for candy, or truck or treat, or school parties, or whatever is popular in your area, most options include a lot of candy.

One option is to participate but contribute better alternatives. Better alternatives to WHAT depends on your priorities. Is your family completely sugar free? Then maybe you look for sugar-free treats or natural sweets. Are you open to candy, but you don’t want to eat conventional chocolate? Then you might want to find bite-size fair trade chocolate. Organic? Plenty of that. Local? My grocery store has a dozen local chocolate choices, some organic and some fair trade.

So, the first question is: what part of the dominant celebration are you trying to avoid? Then ask how you can do that and still participate.

Or, Limit the Candy

Some parents who generally avoid sugar or chocolate or a list of other candy issues, relax the rules on Halloween. This approach avoids creating candy as the desired thing for a child, the thing they must have at all costs as soon as you aren’t looking.

The Switch Witch and the Magic Pumpkin are two ideas you can read more about in “Halloween Treat Alternatives.” The child chooses a few candies to keep then leaves the rest out for the Switch Witch or the Magic Pumpkin, who leaves a different gift.

I just said NO to candy when my children were small, perhaps less than 5-years old. Once my children were older, I let them keep what they gathered, but I limited them to one piece per day each. I don’t love this solution, but it worked those years when we participated in trick or treating with friends and neighbors.

Or, Switch Structure

Rather than accept the dominant idea that Halloween must involve candy, switch to another structure entirely. Have a costume dinner party for adults and children. Go to a maize maze in costume. Find a fun activity that celebrates the season without focusing on candy.

This is the option we choose most years. I like that this doesn’t put our choices as an alternative to candy but just removes thinking about the candy altogether.

Resources: Thinking about Candy for Children

We’ve collected a few of our past posts that you may find helpful.

Halloween Treat Alternatives

Four ways to shift focus from “Gimme Candy” to sweet memories, weird science, social activism, or community.

Sugar: 7 Reasons to Break the Addiction

Baby eating a sugar lollipopNot sure whether there is a good enough reason to skip the sugary candy altogether this year? Read through our seven reasons to avoid sugar and the studies that back up the reasons. Sugar is addictive, toxic, leads to disease, saps energy, shortens your life, and can make you stupid. How is that for reason enough?

How Are Families Going Sugar Free?

A spiral of sugarThese are baby steps to break the sugar addiction for a whole family. It isn’t holiday focused, but there are good and important steps you can incorporate into a changed holiday if you are ready to make the break.

Dark Side of Chocolate

The Dark Side of Chocolate is a documentary about child labor and slavery in the cocoa industry. Fair trade or skip it. You won’t find chocolate so sweet when you see this story.

Chocolate — It’s About Dignity and Sustainability

Child with Chocolate

I wrote this post about the good reasons to choose fair trade, sustainable chocolate a few years ago. There are so many more choices now. If you want to make change, you do have options.

My Conscious Choices, Your Conscious Choices

Reasons to create your own candy-free Halloween traditions vary: health, social justice, environmental sustainability, and so on. Not all of us make the same choices, and that’s OK. If you want help thinking through whether now is the time to make those changes, ask yourself the five questions in this post. There are no right answers. You are the only one who knows if now is the time for change.

Image © Poznyakov | Dreamstime.com

Wild Gardens for Busy Parents: End of Growing

My raised bed in October

We experimented this year. Every year, Nature Mom and I discuss how to encourage you, bynature.ca customers and other readers, to plant a garden. Every year she and I have big plans for our own gardens, and every year we get so busy that we neglect our gardens.

This year, we decided the wild, neglected reality of gardening for busy parents would be our whole theme. My intentions were to give more care than I did. Even knowing you were watching, I still didn’t find the time to tend the garden. I let the snails eat their fill of tomatoes. I didn’t trim the fennel in a way that would keep it from going to seed so early. I let the mint spread into the flowers. The pumpkin has covered the sidewalk and creeps into my neighbor’s driveway every day. Grapevines have crossed the canyon beyond the house to claim the garage. Tomatoes tell the UPS man “No Passage Here.” It’s garden chaos. It’s beautiful chaos. It’s the last push of green before it all dies back.

And this is the lesson. Even through my neglect, the garden gives us bounty. You don’t need to put much into your garden to have it feed your family a meal here and there throughout the summer. If you decide you want to get more serious, it doesn’t take much attention to harvest that bounty and preserve it for the winter. I know you are busy parents, but you can plant a garden.

October Harvest

Yesterday it snowed. There is no nighttime frost yet, so some of my green tomatoes are still on the vine, but we only have a week or so before everything will be finished growing.

The end of my harvest will include:

  • 4-5 dozen monstrous green tomatoes
  • grape leaves, to be frozen and stuffed through the year as dolmathes
  • one giant pumpkin, painted (not carved) then eaten
  • several varieties of slightly bitter mint

 Total Cost So Far

Total for October – $0
Total for September – $3.00 (stakes)
Total for August – $0 (nada!)
Total for July – $3.00 (supports)
Total for June – $16.50 (plants)
Total for May – $34.00 (manure, top soil, peat moss)
Total for April – $18.00 (hops)
Total cost for the year – $74.50

Total Time So Far

Most of my time in the past month was spent moving vines that were trying to take over. That might have taken 10 minutes all month.

Taming – 10 minutes
Previous time spent  – 11 hours 20 minutes
Total time so far = 11 hours 30 minutes

Our goal has been to spend less than 30 minutes in the garden most months. Unless you want to start the garden cleanup early, there isn’t much need for 30 minutes this month. Most of your garden time is actually kitchen time. Slice green tomatoes for salsa, relish, pickle, or other side dishes.

Your 30 minutes for September:
Taming – 5 minutes
Harvest – 10 minutes
Cooking – 15 minutes

Growing & Gathering Hops

This past month, my husband gathered the cones from his hops. You can use fresh hops to brew beer, but you have to do it right away, so he chose to dry the hops. He harvested .3 ounces when dried from one plant, the Nugget. The other plant didn’t produce this year. That isn’t a lot, but he was pleased to have harvested anything at all.

Dried and frozen hops cones

His homegrown hops inspired him to look for feral hops. In old cities, hops often grow long after the families who planted them are gone. My husband found three big groups of feral hops in the city. One of the plants he has been watching for a couple of years was in a 19th-century neighborhood that is now hip businesses in the shadow of downtown. That plant is called Cluster, which is more of a heritage breed. This plant is probably more than 100 years old. The other large producer lines a parking lot near a cultivated public garden. This breed is probably Cascade, a varietal that is about 30 years old. The bitter smell of Cascade currently dominates my house as he took it out of the dehydrator this morning.

My husband has dried and frozen several pounds of hops, but he says it would be best to express the harvest in the number of batches of beer he can make with the them. He harvested six batches of homebrewed beer from secret locations throughout our city. For now, they occupy a deep basket in our chest freezer.

Not bad for neglectful gardening and gathering.

Our Wall of Green

Progress of my garden to October

Progress in the Cultivated Raised Bed

Progress of my wild garden until October

 

6 Green Tomato Recipes You’ll Love

Green tomato

I’m overwhelmed with tomatoes. I have so many of them that I have even stopped telling the snails to leave them alone. The only problem: they are all still unripe. I have masses of green tomatoes that will not have time to ripen before the frost. My wild garden was a bit late going in—that’s how things sometimes go with a wild garden—so here I am with a bountiful harvest of green.

To take full advantage of these beautiful green tomatoes, I have lined up six new recipes to try.

Fried Green Tomatoes

A southern classic. I have never tried it, but I have some flavorful, roasted corn meal that is calling out for a special recipe. Southern Living magazine links to this classic fried green tomato recipe at MyRecipes.com, so this is going to be the lunch side for my kids tomorrow. I see a bottle of Crystal cayenne sauce in the photo, and that’s how I’m going to serve this. Warning: this takes a lot of oil. This is a one-time deal for us.

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

Rather than blending a traditional tomatillo-based green salsa, this recipe goes all-out green tomato. I need to use all of the tomatoes I have, and we eat a lot of salsa, so this salsa recipe from the New York Times is the winner. Very simple salsa recipe using charred tomatoes as the base.

Green Tomato Relish

I don’t love sweet sauces, so I’m intrigued that Farmgirl Susan’s No-sugar Green Tomato Relish uses tart cooking apples for all of the needed sweetness. That’s my kind of sweetness (without the sweet peppers). Boil, thicken, and buzz in the KitchenAid.

Green Tomato Pickle

We love Indian food, and all kinds of pickle are staples of the current British diet, so this I Indian-flavour pickle recipe from NPR ought to fit right in with my family. It lasts several weeks, but we will likely freeze this so we can continue to have it through the winter.

Italian Farmhouse Green Tomato Pickle

I love the Splendid Table, so I was glad to see that they had a suggestion for me of a long-lasting, vinegary pickle. These last up to six months in the refrigerator if they are completely covered with vinegar (white wine vinegar) each time you take a few tablespoons to add to saute or to spread on a sandwich.

Grilled Green Tomatoes with Creamy Basil Sauce

I do love sauce, salsa, relish, and pickle, but I wanted to find more recipes that leave the tomatoes closer to whole. Martha Stewart came through with grilled tomatoes. They have a simple garlic, lemon, mayo sauce. This sounds like a perfect first dish to let my family know that this is green tomato season.