May 29, 2013

Consumer Q’s

Question: Will the television show about Georgia families that have been on their farms for more than 100 years be shown again?

Answer: Georgia Public Broadcasting devoted one entire show of its Georgia Outdoors series to some of the farmers whose families have been continuously operating their farms for at least 100 years. The Centennial Farms show originally aired in May and is being rebroadcast. Check your local GPB listings. The show may be watched online at http://www.gpb.org/georgia-outdoors# anytime. It is beautiful and informative. Watch it if you can.

Q: Is it too early to stake tomatoes?

A: Stake tomatoes and make trellises for runner beans as soon as possible after planting.

Q: What kind of tree paint is best for painting over where branches have been pruned?

A: The use of tree paint and wound dressing is no longer recommended. Research has proven that they do not prevent decay or help the tree in any way.

Q: What could cause my cucumbers to be small and crooked?

A: Lack of moisture, poor pollination due to lack of bees, a low percentage of male flowers or low temperatures at the time of flowering.

Q: What is the difference between determinate tomato plants and indeterminate tomato plants?  I see these words on labels at nurseries.

A: Determinate varieties of tomatoes are more compact than indeterminate varieties. They “top out” (stop growing taller) when fruit sets on the terminal or top bud. They ripen all their tomatoes at or near the same time, usually over a few weeks. Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes are also called "vining" tomatoes. They will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost and can reach heights of up to 10 feet although six feet is more common. They will bloom, set new fruit and ripen fruit throughout the growing season.

Q: Can pickling cucumbers be eaten fresh?

A: Yes. Pickling cucumbers hold up better during the canning and pickling process than those sold as salad” or “slicing” cucumbers. However, that does not mean they must be used exclusively to make pickles. In fact, some people prefer them for fresh eating to the salad/slicing types.

Q: What brand of meat thermometer is best?

A: We do not test kitchen equipment or make brand recommendations. Consider subscribing to Consumer Reports, Cook’s Illustrated or Cook’s Country magazines. Their staffs test all manner of equipment.

Q: What is flatiron steak?

A: Flatiron steak is a shoulder top blade steak cut from the chuck section of the carcass. The flatiron lends itself to grilling, broiling and pan frying. For maximum tenderness, cook it slowly, as in stewing or braising.

Q: I want to teach my Boy Scouts about edible plants found in the wild. Do you have any information or suggestions?

A: Here are some points to remember about eating plants you find in the wild:

NEVER eat or even taste anything unless you are absolutely certain you know what it is. Some poisonous plants resemble edible ones. Technically mushrooms are not plants, but we will mention them. There are many edible mushrooms growing wild in Georgia. However, there are also poisonous, even deadly, ones that look similar to edible species.

Many plants are technically edible. That is, they can be eaten without making you sick or killing you. However, that doesn’t mean that they are especially tasty, provide good nutrition or that you will find them in the produce section at your grocery store anytime soon.

Make sure you are not gathering anything from a contaminated site. For example, watercress and other edible water plants can grow along a stream contaminated with sewage. Plants along a railroad or highway may have been sprayed with herbicides to inhibit growth.

Never decimate a population to feed yourself or your troop. If you find edible plants, leave some of them to set seed and to reproduce. If you wipe them out, other people will not be able to see, enjoy or use them. Also, birds and other wildlife depend on the plants. Leave some for them. At the end of the day, you can go to the grocery store or farmers market and buy all the food you want; the animals cannot.

You may consider landscaping with some native edible plants at the place where your troop meets. Some are available at nurseries and garden centers.

Following are a few edible native and naturalized plants that you may want to look up and discuss with your Scouts. Some such as hickories, blackberries, blueberries have more than one species. And some such as strawberries, blueberries and muscadines have domesticated forms and varieties. Because common names vary from place to place, make sure you and your audience have the same plant in mind when you say something is edible.

Fruits: American persimmon, wild strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, dewberry, mayhaw, muscadine, fox grape, Eastern prickly pear, wild cherry, mollypop or maypop, serviceberry or sarvisberry, elderberry.

Nuts: Hickory, pecan, black walnut, beech.

Tubers: Jerusalem artichoke, chufa or nutsedge, groundnut (Apios americana).

Young shoots and leaves: watercress, peppergrass, shepherd’s purse, chickweed, lamb’s quarters, purslane, stinging nettle, ostrich fern fiddleheads, dandelion.

Flowers: yucca, redbud or Judas tree, elderberry and cattail. (The rhizome, young shoots, young flower spikes and pollen of cattails may be eaten. The pollen may be shaken into pancake batter.)

Because common names vary from place to place, make sure you and your audience have the same plant in mind when you say something is edible.

Here are a few books that will be helpful: Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons; The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer; Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide by Thomas Elias and Peter Dykeman; A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America (A Peterson Field Guide) by Lee Allen Peterson and Roger Tory Peterson. Your local library or bookstore may have others.

If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, visit our website at www.agr.georgia.gov, write us at 19 MLK Jr. Drive, Room 128, Atlanta, GA 30334 or email us at arty.schronce@agr.georgia.gov.


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