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Life is too short to eat bad food! Sharing great recipes, farm life, stories and photography from our Northern California dairy farm.

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February 24, 2010

Fluff Up Those Tail Feathers & Lettuce Wraps

I’m beginning to see a whole lot more turkeys coming out to show their tail feathers lately. It’s the beginning of breeding season, which can run from March until May, the tom turkeys become much more visible. You see them emerge from the woods, parading around with their tails fluffed up, attracting the hens. I took these photos on the drive to Bryce's school this morning.....

Wild turkeys are native to North America and there are five subspecies. All five range throughout different parts of the continent. After the female turkey mates, she prepares a nest under a bush in the woods and lays her tan and speckled brown eggs. It takes about a month for the chicks to hatch. Eggs and nests are protected by state law, so residents cannot remove and destroy a bird’s nesting habitat.

When the babies (known as “poults”) hatch, they flock with their mother all year, even through the winter. As they grow, the poults eat seeds, small insects, acorns and wild berries, and the adults also eat small reptiles like salamanders (and endangered red-legged frogs). They’ll also eat the eggs of other birds, such as quail. Turkeys usually feed in early morning and in the afternoon. Hens are capable of producing two clutches a year with as many as 18 eggs each, and can quickly overrun other bird species in their vicinity.

A little history~

Turkeys were first introduced to California in 1877, and Fish and Game has been releasing turkeys off and on into the wild for hunting purposes since 1910. From 1959 to 1999, Fish and Game released nearly 4,000 turkeys throughout the state, a rate of about a hundred per year, but it wasn’t until recently that the population really took off.

The turkeys found in Marin today can be traced back to a Fish and Game release in Loma Alta in 1988, a move intended for hunting purposes on private land. Off they went, over the fences and now they are everywhere in Marin—in private backyards and municipal and state parks and open space lands and in the Marin Municipal Water District watershed. Dominic's Grandfather, George Sr. (Bryce & Paige's Great Grandfather) built turkey pens here on the ranch back in the mid 70's. He bought the poults in Petaluma at Krout Poultry, raised them in the pens until they were old enough to be released into the wild. Great Uncle Jim, down the road on his ranch, also raised and released turkeys at the same time. They continued to do so for 15 years. It was a great contribution to the turkey population of Novato. The males are called toms, or gobblers, and can stand 4 feet high and weigh as much as 25 pounds. The females are called hens, stand up to 36 inches with an average weight of 8 pounds. The birds can run up to 25 miles per hour for short bursts, and can fly 50 feet in a flight. Wild turkeys have excellent vision during the day but don’t see well at night. They perch high in trees at night to roost, and to avoid predators like coyotes. Back in 1973 there were an estimated 1.3 million wild turkeys and 1.5 million turkey hunters in the country. There are now close to 7 million wild turkeys and nearly 3 million turkey hunters. Turkey hunting has become the fastest growing form of hunting in the country with the second-highest number of participants of any type of hunting. Since 1985, the National Wild Turkey Federation has raised and spent more than $224 million to support hunting of wild turkeys. Hopefully I'll capture more photos of the turkeys up close and personal in the near future to share with you. Stay tuned! All this turkey talk brings to mind a great recipe that I have served as an appetizer and an entree...... Five-Spice Turkey & Lettuce Wraps These fun wraps make perfect appetizers for entertaining. For extra zip ~ serve with chile-garlic sauce and rice vinegar or toss in diced mango and strawberries with lime juice for a sweet taste. 4 servings, 1 1/4 cups filling each Active Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 30 minutes Ingredients 1/2 cup water 1/2 cup instant brown rice 2 teaspoons sesame oil 1 pound 93%-lean ground turkey 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger 1 large red bell pepper, finely diced 1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, (see Note) 1 teaspoon five-spice powder, (see Note) 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 heads Boston lettuce, leaves separated 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil, mint and/or chives 1 large carrot, shredded Preparation Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add rice; reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add turkey and ginger; cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until the turkey is cooked through, about 6 minutes. Stir in the cooked rice, bell pepper, water chestnuts, broth, hoisin sauce, five-spice powder and salt; cook until heated through, about 1 minute. To serve, spoon portions of the turkey mixture into lettuce leaves, top with herbs and carrot and roll into wraps. Tips & Notes Make Ahead Tip: Prepare the filling (through Step 2), cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Serve cold or reheat in the microwave. Notes: Hoisin sauce is a spicy, sweet sauce made from soybeans, chiles, garlic and spices. It will keep in the refrigerator for at least a year. Often a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns, five-spice powder was originally considered a cure-all miracle blend encompassing the five elements (sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, salty). Look for it in the supermarket spice section. Nutrition Per serving: 285 calories; 11 g fat (3 g sat, 1 g mono); 66 mg cholesterol; 24 g carbohydrates; 26 g protein; 5 g fiber; 543 mg sodium; 390 mg potassium. Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (150% daily value), Vitamin C (140% dv), Iron (25% dv), Folate (20% dv). 1 Carbohydrate Serving

Happy Wednesday!

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