The Bountiful Garden: Bringing The Garden To Thanksgiving

By Mary Ellen Ellis | November 23, 2020
by Mary Ellen Ellis
November 23, 2020

By Thanksgiving, my Michigan is fully dormant. However, I have the fruits of that garden and from my local farm. I always make these a part of whatever dish I bring to the family dinner. And using materials from the garden is a great way to decorate for the holiday.

Dried Herbs for Thanksgiving

The best produce from the garden every year are my herbs, and they make perfect additions to Thanksgiving dishes. As a vegetarian, I don’t make turkey or gravy, but all the amazing side dishes are better with the fresh and dried herbs from my backyard. These are some of my favorite herbs for Thanksgiving and their uses:

  • Sage for the vegetarian stuffing and pumpkin soup
  • Thyme in the roasted butternut squash
  • Rosemary with roasted potatoes
  • Parsley and oregano in the wild rice
  • Lavender for a relaxing hot tea with dessert

Cooking with Winter Squash

I don’t grow my own squash, but I belong to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm that provides me with weekly produce. Eating seasonally means getting loaded up on butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pie pumpkins, acorn squash, and honeynut squash. Squash is a perfect ingredient for Thanksgiving. These are the top crowd-pleasers I’ve made in the past:

  • Curried pumpkin and butternut squash soup
  • Roasted acorn squash with brown sugar and butter
  • Stuffed honeynut squash with wild rice and lentils
  • Spiced butternut squash puree

Decorating the Table

Everything may be dormant or done for the season by Thanksgiving, but there are still materials from the garden that make great decorations. The Thanksgiving table looks best to me when draped with natural materials.

Evergreen branches, of course, set the tone for the holiday. I like to use a runner of greenery down the table as the base for decorations. A friend grows native Michigan holly, also known as winterberry, and I collect a few of these branches with bright red berries to add to the greens on the table.

Just these items are adequate to make a beautiful, natural centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table, but sometimes I also add pinecones. One year I even painted the tips with glue and dipped them in gold glitter to catch the candlelight. Bringing the garden to Thanksgiving is always fun.

November is a dead season for Michigan gardens, but that doesn’t mean my garden doesn’t still pull its weight. I’m always thinking of ways to use the produce from the garden and my local farm, and Thanksgiving dinner is a great time to put it all on display.

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