Flaunting its colorful plumage, the wild turkey of Central America was handsome enough to be mistaken by Columbus for another variety of the beautiful Mexican peacock.
Wild turkey, however, was an important source of food long before the explorer touched American soil. The American Indian not only ate turkey meat, but wore turkey feathers on his clothing and ornamental headdress.
He tipped his arrows with sharp turkey spurs and fletched them with the stiff feathers from the turkey wings.
Because early American turkeys had to fly to survive, they were wild, wiry, tough and sinewy. In contrast domestic turkeys of today, derived over time from gradual cross-breeding, are so large and meaty that they are too heavy to fly. The meat is juicy, tender and nutritious.
This year's fall crop will be a particularly abundant one, according to US Department of Agriculture marketing specialists. Twelve to sixteen percent more turkeys will be available than last year.
You may remember that although there was no problem getting a bird for the holiday table, turkey supplies were reported to be just adequate this time last year.
With the predicted abundance, freezing an extra one or two for use later may offer an economical advantage if you have adequate storage space.
Whole turkeys can be kept frozen at 0 degrees F. for up to 12 months, pieces for six months, without significant loss of quality. Just be sure to wrap air-tight to keep moisture in and avoid freezer burn.
Also remember when it is ready to use, allow enough time to thaw the wrapped turkey in the refrigerator. The recommended refrigerator temperatures of 35 degrees to 40 degrees Fahrenheit are low enough to inhibit bacterial growth, yet will allow the product to thaw slowly.