100 Mile Thanksgiving: What’s in Season

What to eat locally for Thanksgiving

It’s almost laughable how easy we have it in Sonoma County when it comes to eating local produce and meats. While other folks may struggle to find much more than a few frozen root vegetables in their “food shed” — a term given to local food systems — the 100 or so miles surrounding Santa Rosa is near brimming with food for your feast.
The Original Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market will be held on Wednesday from 8am to noon at the Veteran’s Hall to showcase some of the local bounty in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday. Many local grocers, however, are also awash in great local products for your holiday table. Here are a few to look for….
Turkey: Even the day before Thanksgiving, Willie Bird Turkeys will be available at the retail store (5350 Highway 12, Santa Rosa, 545-2832). Though they can’t guarantee what size they’ll have left for procrastinators, our local turkeys have been a Sonoma County tradition for more than 40 years. Don’t miss their smoked turkey.
Dressing: No matter what your style — moist, dry, stuffed-in, oyster-studded or baked, the basis of a great dressing is bread. Lots of local bakeries are selling bags of dry bread for stuffing this holiday, but two favorites are Full Circle and Costeaux. Instead of oysters, why not try some goat or lamb sausage? Check out Franco’s or Dreamcatcher at the Santa Rosa market.
Potatoes: Some of our favorite potatoes are from right here in Sonoma County. Denny Hunt is a maverick tuber farmer, dry farming his Blankity Blank butterballs, fingerlings and Viking Purples without pesticides or chemicals with the help of his trusty mule, Hail. Hunt cooperatively farms on a patch of land that used to belong to his dairy-farming family outside of Sebastopol. Consider them taters with temerity. Available at Fresh by Lisa Hemenway or at the Sonoma Market.
Live Crab: Dungeness crab season has finally opened, and there’s nothing more Northern California than a fresh crustacean at the Thanksgiving table. Santa Rosa Local & Exotic seafood, 946 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa and at the Wednesday Veteran’s Hall Market.
Mushrooms: Wet weather means chanterelles, shittakes and all manner of other foraged fungus. Don’t go it alone. Instead, buddy up to the farm market mushroom purveyors who bring in their precious wares for just a few months each year. Just don’t ask them to share their secret foraging spots.
Pumpkin: Not just for Halloween, people actually used to use real pumpkin for their pies rather than that stuff in the cans. Break out of your comfort zone and roast up a tasty Cinderella or sugar pumpkin. Plenty are still left for the holidays.
Butternut Squash: Like most squash, butternuts are prolific little guys. But unlike their kin, these orange monsters roast up perfectly and make for a perfect fall soup. Redwood Empire Farm, a small, couple-run farm in Rincon Valley will have plenty to stock your stockpot.
Persimmons: Fear not the fuyu. Though many have had alarming run-ins with unripe persimmons (the astringency and tannins will give you a most-unpleasant pucker), this funky fruit is much-loved by its devotees. Use for sweet desserts or just as a centerpiece, if they’re not ripe.
Beets: Golden and ruby red beets are in the midst of their cool-weather season. Though they may look a bit earthy in the raw, a nice roast and peel brings out the jewel-toned colors. Pair with fresh Redwood Hill chevre.
Green Beans: Put down the can, and scoop up some local green beans. Though they’re at the tail end of the season, you can still find some fresh beans to throw into your casserole — preferably with some fresh local mushrooms and fresh onions.
Butter: With so many dairies in Sonoma County, it’s not hard to find a great stick of butter. Besides Clover, a small-producer favorite is McClelland’s Dairy, which makes rich, European style butters in Petaluma. Available at Oakville Grocery, Jimtown Store, Oliver’s Market.
Citrus: Winter citrus is just beginning to hit the markets, with limes and mandarin oranges leading the way. Look for the strange finger-like Buddah’s hand, whose fragrance lends itself to perfuming homes or salads with its zest.
What can’t you get?
There aren’t many foods you can’t find locally, though there are a few things that just don’t thrive in our climate. Like cranberries. This staple of the holiday table prefers the cold bogs of the northeast, so whether you like it jellied out of a can or fresh, you’ll have to break your locavore diet if you want these berries. Local sweet potatoes are also hard to find, mostly coming from the east coast and south.