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Preview of Turkey


January 1 - December 31

Harvest Period

January 1 - December 31

Turkeys, which are more closely related to pheasants and partridges than they are to chickens, are thought to have been domesticated over two thousand years ago. No one is quite sure how they got their name. It’s possible the aboriginal word “firkee” lead to the name we use today, or they may be named after the sound of their wild call, “turk-turk-turk”.


Selecting and Storing


Buy a fresh turkey one to two days before cooking it. Some labels can be helpful by including a sell by date. The sell by date is the last date the store can sell the turkey as fresh. The turkey will maintain optimal quality and safety one to two days after that date. Avoid selecting a turkey that is stacked above the top of the store's refrigerator case.  Store a turkey in its original packaging and refrigerate it right away. Frozen birds should be placed in the freezer until ready to thaw.


The preferred method for thawing a turkey is in the fridge. Place the bird on a tray with a lip to keep the liquid from spilling onto the shelf or other food and risking contamination. Make sure to allow enough time for the bird to thaw. A small turkey (6-8 pounds) takes 1-2 days; a large bird of 18 pounds or more can take as long as five days.


The cold water method can be used to speed up the process. In a large container, cover the turkey completely with cold water and change the water every hour. Allow 1 hour per pound (2 hours/kg).


Several local farms raise and sell turkeys fresh or frozen, and some offer heritage and organic varieties. Make sure to order ahead, especially if a fresh turkey is required.


Nutritional Information


Turkey is a very good source of niacin, vitamin B6, selenium and the amino acid tryptophan (nature’s sleep aid), which increases levels of serotonin and melatonin.


3.5 ounces (100g) of cooked, skinless breast meat provides 135 calories, 1g fat, 0g carbohydrate, 0g dietary fiber, and 30g protein.


3.5 ounces (100g) of cooked, skinless leg meat provides 159 calories, 4g fat, 0g carbohydrate, 0g dietary fiber, and 29g protein.


How to Use


Refer to the December 2004 issue of Local Harvest to learn more about how to roast a whole turkey.  Turkey leftovers can be used in any dish that calls for cooked chicken or beef.




Most commercially produced turkeys in Canada are White Holland (a large variety with all white plumage) that is twice the size of its wild cousins. While domestic birds have mostly white feathers and a breast so large they are unable to fly, wild turkeys have dark feathers, and small wild turkeys can fly extremely well. Prior to the 1960s the Bronze turkey was the chief variety.


Heritage breeds of turkey, some of which are in danger of being lost on Canadian farms, include Beltsville Small White, Broad Breasted Bronze, Narragansett, Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, and Norfolk Black. Although some commercial breeds may be genetically identical to these heritage breeds, they are not able to reproduce on their own, and this is what ultimately defines a heritage turkey. Other requirements for heritage designation include a long productive outdoor lifespan and slow growth rate.