The most celebrated meal of the year is a few days away. If you grow your own food, there is a good chance that the holiday feast will showcase selections from your garden. For the ultimate planners, perhaps the entire meal (minus turkey) was harvested from your backyard. My gardening style is more off-the-cuff, but there are a few items that I plan to grow every year for the holidays. I think that homegrown foods are just tastier than store-bought (and nothing impresses guests more!)
If you want to try your hand at growing your Thanksgiving Day feast, early to mid-summer is the time to start planning. It does take some forethought, but serving fresh, healthy foods from your own garden harvest is an inspiring reward.
Here are a few ideas of plants to grow for Thanksgiving:
Pumpkins: Growing pumpkins for fall foods and décor starts well before autumn arrives. Although we call pumpkins a ‘winter squash’ because they last a long time in cold storage, they grow when the weather is warm. Large pumpkin varieties are lovely, but smaller pumpkins are tastier and have a better texture for cooking and baking. A few of my favorites are Jack Be Little, Sugar Baby, Gold Nugget, Jarradhdale, Little October, and Lumina.
Winter squash: Besides pumpkins, there are many varieties of winter squash, including Acorn, Delicata, Dumpling, Blue Hubbard, Banana, Buttercup, Marina Di Chioggia , Butternut, Sweet Dumpling. GASU carries Spaghetti Squash and Waltham Butternut.
Summer Squash: These varieties don’t store as along as winter varieties due to their thinner skin. But you can certainly blanch and freeze a few for the fall. You can find Early Prolific Straightneck Squash, Dark Green Zucchini and Black Beauty Zucchini on our website.
Gourds: Gourds are easy to grow and they make lovely décor. GASU has both Birdhouse Gourds and Large Mixed Gourds in stock.
Flowers: As part of my holiday décor, I really enjoy having flowers (both fresh and dried.) There is a long list of varieties growing in my garden, including Strawflowers, Gomphrena (Bachelor’s Button, Globe Amaranth,) Chinese Lantern, Zinnias, Sunflowers, Rudbeckia (ie. Black-Eyed Susan,) Mums, Mexican Hat, Allysum, Ipomea Sweet Potato Vine, Gaillardia (Blanketflower, Firewheels,) Geranium, Snapdragons, and Broom Corn and Marigolds. GASU carries a varied selection of flowers that are beautiful and useful for attracting pollinators to your garden.
Corn: The flint corn served at the first Thanksgiving feast differed greatly from sweet varieties that we enjoy today. GASU carries delicious Golden Bantam sweet corn. A harder variety, Reid’s Yellow Dent, is available for growers who want to grind their own cornmeal or flour. Perhaps our most popular variety, Glass Gem Corn, is also good for grinding. But many people grow it simply for its beautiful colors.
Beans and Peas: Grow beans in the summer and freeze or dry them for Thanksgiving. Our favorites that we carry are Anasazi, Tepary, Bush Blue Lake 274, and Dry Black Beans. When the weather cools, plant peas. GASU has Mammoth Melting Snow and Sugar Ann in stock. Additionally, we offer Broad Windsor Fava beans which are an unusual bean variety that is plant in the cool season.
Herbs: The addition of fresh or dried herbs makes a meal particularly delicious. Rosemary, anise, green onions, oregano, mint, cilantro and sage are a few favorites. GASU stocks a collection of fantastic herbs, including Italian Large Leaf Basil, Slo-Bolting Cilantro, Bouquet Dill, and Curled Forest Green Parsley.
Onions: Like herbs, onions are also key to flavoring recipes, from sweet yellow onions and mild bunching varieties to aromatic reds. GASU stocks Red Grano and Texas Early Grano storage bulbs, as well as Sweet Yellow Spanish Utah Onions and Nebuka Evergreen Bunching Onions.
Winter Veggies: We certainly can’t forget about cool season veggies and greens. There is so much variety in this category, including collards, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, lettuces, kale, arugula, spinach, Swiss Chard, carrots. Kohlrabi, radishes, turnips, beets and parsnips. GASU carries and large selection of cool season crops.
If you have them growing, consider using the following for food and décor:
Artichokes, persimmons, pomegranates, grape leaves, eucalyptus, apples, pears, Purple Fountain Grass, citrus fruits, fig leaves. pinecones and branches, cinnamon sticks, Pyracantha or ferns. Additionally, succulents are a popular decorative plant that can be grown indoors when the weather grows cold. If you live in USDA climate zone 7 or above, Lantana is a lovely plant whose purple, orange, yellow or red flowers last in fall cut flower arrangements.
- Order seeds for next year early. Seed companies start to run out of popular varieties in January when gardeners tend to start shopping. Beat the rush by ordering before the new year.
- 2-4 weeks before Thanksgiving, hang flowers and herbs to dry.
- 1 week before Thanksgiving, visit your yard/garden to look for items that can be used in your table-scape. Test leaves and flowers for durability (i.e.. Make sure they are not going to wilt immediately when you cut them.)
Where to get ideas:
Thanksgiving Harvest: What to Plant Next Year for Your Thanksgiving Table https://newengland.com/today/living/gardening/thanksgiving-harvest-what-to-plant-next-year-for-your-thanksgiving-table/
Twelve Things to Grow for Your Thanksgiving Garden: https://montegattafarm.com/garden/how-to-grow-a-thanksgiving-garden/
Growing a Thanksgiving Centerpiece: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/lifestyle/thanksgiving-centerpiece-plants.htm