A Locally Sourced Farm-to-Table Thanksgiving!
From local farms to family tables, Treasure Coast residents have a wide range of products available to create a locally grown and sourced Thanksgiving meal. With options that include wild turkey, fruits and vegetables from specialty and family farms, beverages, and desserts, there is no shortage of menu choices that are sure to please every home chef and dinner guest, while providing an opportunity to support local growers.
The modern Thanksgiving meal is based on the three-day harvest festival shared by the pilgrims and the Wampanoag Native American tribe at Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, in 1621. The farm-to-table meal was intended to celebrate the colonists’ first successful harvest in the New World. While today’s Thanksgiving meals don’t usually last three days, items still found on holiday tables allow Treasure Coast residents and visitors to pay homage to the food that was shared over 400 years ago.
Hunting for Thanksgiving Ingredients
According to historic cookbooks, turkey was not the main focus of the first November feast, unlike in modern Thanksgiving. Although it’s believed the colonists and Indians cooked wild turkey, research suggests waterfowl such as goose and duck were the preferred choice. Other meats known to be part of the first Thanksgiving were deer, swan, and pigeon, along with a range of seafood including eels and various shellfish. For people looking to hunt wild turkey, there are two options to choose from in Martin County. The QHF Ranch is located on 1,350 acres in Palm City, and is popular with hunters for its wide range of year-round hunting options. Choices for turkey include guided hunts lasting one, two or three days, with taxidermy and meat processing available upon request at an additional charge to the cost of the hunt.
Another option for hunting wild turkey is SE Timbercreek Outfitters, located in Indiantown on a 2,000-acre ranch. At this ranch, hunts in the fall are an option; however, the majority of hunts are done in the spring. As a convenience to hunters, turkeys are skinned and breasted, and left whole to be frozen for Thanksgiving meals later in the year. At both ranches, reservations are necessary to secure a spot for a hunt, with wait lists available for seasonal hunts that are fully booked.
Along with the ranches that offer turkey hunts, there are also many produce farms located in Martin County that grow a wide range of fruits and vegetables for Thanksgiving dinner menus. One of the farms, Kai-Kai Farms, is located on 40 acres in Indiantown and grows broccoli, yellow beans, and 80 other varieties of grown-in-the-ground vegetables. They also offer on-site farm-to-table dining events, demonstration dinners, and cooking classes.
St. Lucie County: Gobblers, Greens, and Grapes
As an alternative to hunting for a Thanksgiving turkey this year, AE Family Farms in Fort Pierce offers pasture-raised turkeys that are antibiotic-, hormone-, preservative-, and brine-free. Additional menu complements include micro-greens, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, and specialty herbs and vegetables.
At Nelson Family Farms, another family- operated farm in Fort Pierce, a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetable menu staples are available such as apples, peppers, peaches, pears, pineapples, plums, red cabbage, strawberries, sweet corn, and tomatoes. In addition, fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices are also available when in season.
No Thanksgiving meal would be complete without dessert, and what could be better than a Honeybell Orange Lover’s Cake, made with Honeybell oranges at Al’s Family Farms, a third-generation citrus grove in Fort Pierce. The popular cakes can be shipped for Thanksgiving if ordered by mid-November.
Along with oranges, grapes are another beloved fruit in St. Lucie County, perhaps best known locally in their fermented state. At the well known, 10-acre Summer Crush Vineyard & Winery in Fort Pierce, they specialize in Muscadine and tropical fruit wines. At the vineyard, wine tastings and tours are available, which allow visitors to choose the perfect wine for Thanksgiving dinner or any other special occasion.
Indian River County: Heritage Turkeys and Harvested Citrus
Within the Treasure Coast, Indian River County is home to the Crazy Hart Ranch, a five-acre farm in Fellsmere, where Narragansett heritage turkeys are raised on a diet of certified organic grain, along with foraging on organic pastures. The turkeys never receive antibiotics or hormones, and there are no additives or preservatives added when they are harvested and packed. Turkeys for Thanksgiving are typically available to order beginning in September.
Looking to farms located in Sebastian, locally grown items at Kroegel Produce include celery, onions, radishes, kale, turnips, and various types of potatoes, as well as yams, leeks, yucca, horseradish, okra, tomatoes, fennel, peppers, and eggplant.
At the heart of Indian River County, many family-owned groves – such as Countryside Family Farms, Schacht Groves, and Peterson Groves – that grow, harvest, and ship varieties of citrus are located in Vero Beach. The various citrus items are sold locally, and can also be shipped around the country. Popular products include honey tangerines, navels, honeybells, ruby red grapefruits, Valencia oranges, sunburst tangerines, nova tangelos, scarlet red navels, and many more. The Florida citrus season offers many delicious varieties from November through May and sometimes into June, with groves beginning their shipping of citrus gifts in November for Thanksgiving deliveries.
About the Author
Brenda Silva is a contributing writer located in Vero Beach who has covered food and dining for many local and national publications. As an alumna of Johnson & Wales University, she enjoys researching and exploring new culinary trends and technology.
For more information about these local growers and farms, visit insidetrackalmanac.com