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Fair or Fowl: More Turkey Questing

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A fresh turkey, in more ways than one.

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posted by Susie Middleton

Turkeys are now officially my least favorite farm animal. The cutie in the photo pecked me twice while I was trying to take his picture. I guess I deserved it, because I was awfully close and I didn’t have any food for him. I was simply trying to be a good blogger and track down the freshest turkey on Martha’s Vineyard. And I found them. I mean him.

When Sarah and I chatted about her turkey quest a few weeks ago, I told her I’d been surprised to learn that no one out here was yet raising turkeys—heritage or otherwise.  But it got me wondering what people would do if they really wanted a local bird for Thanksgiving. So I went on a quest, too.

At first I thought at least some people must be eating wild turkeys, as they’re everywhere out here. I was right: they’re eating them, only not legally. So I can’t tell you some of the hilarious ways people dispatch these not-so-smart, overly aggressive birds that wander into their yards. But I can tell you that one up-island acquaintance recently dressed a wild turkey that had been hit by a car but not badly damaged. (Don’t laugh! Roadkill is a very efficient way to eat local.) Everyone I talked to had a different solution for tenderizing these notoriously leathery fowl; I thought slow-smoking sounded the most appealing.

Realizing that wild turkeys probably weren’t going to be the centerpiece of most Vineyard thanksgiving tables, I asked farmer Jim Athearn what he’d be selling at Morning Glory Farm. I was relieved to hear that he brings in birds from Bongi Turkey Farm in Duxbury, Massachusetts, so with a simple pre-order, anyone on the island can have a fresh turkey. But Jim also told me that there was, in fact, one small flock of meat birds over at the FARM Institute.

So when I pulled in there today, I was elated to see three beautiful white Royal Palm turkeys splashing in the puddles. But these friendly guys turned out just to be residents. A smaller, ornamental breed that’s on Slow Food’s list of disappearing foods, the Royal Palm is apparently very tasty, but right now the FARM only has three of them.

Soon enough I spotted the meat birds over in the barnyard. These characters, a breed called Broad-Breasted Bronze, have the coloring of wild turkeys but the broad breasts of their widely grown commercial cousins. They were already all spoken for. All, that is, except a couple of 32-pounders. I’m sorry to say I won’t be on-island for Thanksgiving, because there’s one particular 32-pounder I wouldn’t mind stuffing.

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