Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday to remind us of all the things in our lives we can be thankful for and to do so over a shared meal with friends and family. Thanksgiving is a little late for our backyard gardens, and most of us are not thinking about the garden. However it may help you to plan your garden next year so you can plant vegetables to be incorporated into your Thanksgiving dinner next year. There is nothing more fulfilling that eating a meal that came from things you harvested.
There are so many delicious side dishes at our Thanksgiving feasts, often too many to fit on our plates or our appetites. Most of these side dishes can be grown in your garden and frozen or stored for use at Thanksgiving. Sweet corn, green beans, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and one of my favorites, brussels sprouts can all be grown in your gardens in Nebraska. The corn and green beans should be canned or frozen just after they are harvested in the summer months. These products can then be used at the holiday. Brussels sprouts are typically harvested in the fall, they can withstand temperatures down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. So they can be grown through the season and harvested fresh to be used in your Thanksgiving dinner. Once they have been harvested, they can be stored for 3-5 weeks at 32 degrees and 90-95% humidity.
Both kinds of potatoes can be grown in Nebraska as well. Potatoes need to be cured in a warm, humid location and then they can be stored at a cooler temperature and stored for multiple months to be used for the holiday as well.
Thanksgiving is a great time to have a slice of pumpkin or apple pie. Again, the main portion of these delicious desserts can be grown in our gardens.
Pumpkins are great for both Halloween and Thanksgiving, but not the same type of pumpkin for both. It is best to use the correct pumpkin for the task, such as using a jack-o-lantern pumpkin for carving and a processing pumpkin for making pies. Both types of pumpkins can be used for either activity, but they work better if you get the right type for the task at hand. Pie pumpkins are smaller, sweeter, and less watery than jack-o-lantern types of pumpkins, making them easier to bake with.
Apples can be picked from your own tree in your backyard. They can be preserved in multiple ways. People often make them into pie filling and then freeze or can that for storage and easy pie baking later on in the year. Fresh apples store fairly well under home storage conditions for up to 6 months. So they can just be harvested and stored indoors for use in our Thanksgiving pies. Later maturing varieties work best for storage in a basket or box lined with plastic. One bad apple truly can spoil the barrel because apples give off ethylene gas which speeds ripening of fruits. When damaged, that ethylene is given off more rapidly and can speed up the ripening process for the other apples stored with it. Apples will store best around 32 degrees.
So we may not be able to grow all of the parts of Thanksgiving in our backyard gardens, but a good portion can come from our homegrown fruits and vegetables. Keep this in mind when you go to plant your garden next year, what parts do you want to grow in your own backyard to preserve for Thanksgiving. And take time this Thanksgiving to be Thankful for all that you have, I know I am. Happy Thanksgiving!
*For more information on Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, see this NebGuide