Features

May 16, 2013

Consumer Q’s

Q: Who approves additives that can go in foods? Why are these things added to processed food?

A: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for approving ingredients used in food products in order to ensure safety for the consumer. Additives may enhance flavor or color or increase shelf life.

Q: Have you ever heard of a plant nicknamed “burglar bush?”  It has long, slender, erect, dark green leaves sort of like a mother-in-law’s tongue with a needle-like tip that is razor sharp. If you touch that tip you’d swear you’ve been stung by a bee. When I lived in Augusta my neighbor had a few, so they do thrive in Georgia.  I’ve always wanted to locate some to plant under windows.

A: It sounds like the plant you are describing is Spanish bayonet (Yucca aloifolia). This tough-as-nails yucca is native from North Carolina south to Mexico and the West Indies. In Georgia it was originally found in only six counties along the coast and in the southern part of the state but is now widely planted due to its beauty and usefulness.

It can get to be a small tree in the warmer parts of its range, but is usually grown as a medium to large shrub. You may see it growing naturally behind sand dunes or planted at beach properties. It can take the heat, salt spray and dry conditions. The form of the plants is palm-like, and they produce beautiful, large clusters of waxy white flowers.

The sharp leaves that give the plant its names (it is also called Spanish dagger) can be an asset or a liability. It is sometimes planted next to dangerous equipment to keep people from getting near.  If planted at a window it could certainly deter thieves, burglars, peeping Toms and other ne’er-do-wells. It will require some careful negotiating when it comes time to paint, however. You would not want to plant one along a sidewalk or where a child could run into one. They could put out an eye. You can disarm the plants by trimming the points.

You may also consider some of the hardy agaves in your crime-prevention landscape. Their pointed leaves could also send someone screaming in the night.

Q: I bought some tall (seven inches) tomato plants. The man at the nursery instructed me to plant them deep and only leave a few inches above ground. Won’t this smother the roots?

A: Dig a deep hole and do as he said. The tomatoes will sprout roots along the stem which will help them take up water and nutrients, and the deeper, more expansive root system will help the plants better cope with dry conditions that may come in summer.

Q: What is this flower known as calibrachoa? It looks like a petunia.

A: Calibrachoa (pronounced cal-ih-bruh-CO-uh) is related to petunias. It is sometimes called “million bells.” It produces copious bell-like flowers that look like mini petunias. Calibrachoa prefers full sun and is good for pots and hanging baskets as well as borders. It may survive mild winters but is usually treated as an annual.

Calibrachoa is relatively new and not as widely known as some other flowers. With its durability and long period of blooming, however, it is making a name for itself and gaining more admirers every year. Look for it this spring and summer at Georgia nurseries and garden centers.

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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