Ga Dept of Agriculture


Consumer Q's August 2011

Q: Deer are eating up my garden. Is there a homemade repellent to keep them away?
A: Here is a concoction you may want to try: Beat two raw eggs in a bucket. Add one gallon of water and place one cake of very fragrant soap such as Irish Spring in the mixture. Leave the soap whole. Set the bucket aside for several days. Stir the mixture and strain it into a spray canister. Spray the mixture on the foliage of the plants the deer are eating. Re-apply after rains. After a time, you may only need to spray the plants at the perimeter of the area. (When the deer encounter it, they may back away and go elsewhere to feed.) If you need more than one gallon, add two extra eggs but no more soap. The same bar of soap can be used to make subsequent batches until it dissolves. From our experience, the mixture has done a good job keeping deer away from the tasty foliage of cantaloupes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, peanuts and peas.
     There are numerous recipes for homemade deer repellents, some including hot peppers, garlic and other products. To check out a few, visit this website: For more information and suggestions about dealing with deer, contact your University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office or look at some of their publications online at

 Q: What are the safest ways to thaw beef?
A: There are three safe ways to defrost beef: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. Do not defrost on the counter or in other locations.
     Thawing frozen meat in the refrigerator is the easiest and safest method although it takes longer than the other two methods. Ground beef, stew meat and steaks may defrost within a day. Bone-in parts and whole roasts may take two days or longer. Once the raw ground beef defrosts, it will be safe in the refrigerator for one to two days. All other cuts of beef can be refrigerated safely for three to five days before cooking. During this time, if you decide not to use the beef, you can safely refreeze it without cooking.
     To defrost beef in cold water, do not remove packaging. Be sure the package is airtight or put it into a leak-proof bag. Submerge the beef in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Small packages of beef may defrost in an hour or less; a three- to four-pound roast may take two to three hours. Cook immediately after thawing.
     When defrosting beef in a microwave, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present would not have been destroyed. Foods defrosted in the microwave or by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing because they may have been held at temperatures above 40 degrees F. It is safe to cook frozen beef in the oven, on the stove or to grill it without defrosting it first; the cooking time may be about fifty percent longer. Do not cook frozen beef in a slow cooker.

Q: I grew two rows of peanuts in my garden this year. I just pulled up the vines to harvest the peanuts. Can I feed the vines to my cows?
A: Yes. Your cows will enjoy the peanut vines as much as you enjoy the peanuts.

Q: What exactly is buttermilk?
A: Old-fashioned buttermilk is the liquid remaining after butter is churned. It was usually flecked with flecks of butter that did not make it to the top to be skimmed. Today, most commercial buttermilk is made by adding a lactic acid bacteria culture to pasteurized sweet whole milk or, more commonly, reduced fat (two percent) or skim milk. After the addition of the culture, the milk is left to ferment for 12 to 14 hours at a low temperature. It is usually labeled cultured buttermilk. The flavor of buttermilk is reminiscent of yogurt or sour cream. Buttermilk is used to make salad dressings, pancakes, biscuits, cornbread and batter for fried chicken and in many other recipes. Served well-chilled, buttermilk is a refreshing summertime treat. It is also popular to serve with hot cornbread and pinto beans or other dried beans and Vidalia onions. Some Southerners like to crumble their cornbread into the buttermilk and eat it with a spoon.

Q: What is the difference between a plumcot and a pluot?
A: A plumcot is a cross between a plum and an apricot. A pluot is a cross between a plumcot and a plum.  An aprium is a cross between a plumcot and an apricot. 

Q: Can Thai basil be used for pesto? What about lemon basil?
A: Both kinds may be used in pesto, as may cinnamon basil, lime basil, lettuce-leaf basil and other basils. The flavor will be slightly different for each, so experiment to find which one you like best. While a wide variety of basils may be scarce at the supermarket, you can easily grow some of these less-common basils from small plants or seeds you can find at Georgia nurseries and garden centers. You may find bunches of different basils for sale at local farmers markets where you may even find some Georgia Grown garlic for your pesto. Also experiment by substituting Georgia pecans for pine nuts or walnuts in your basil recipe. Pesto may be a traditional Italian recipe, but you can always put a Georgia spin on it.

Q: What can I do to keep moles out of my lawn?
A: Moles eat grubs and earthworms. If you treat your lawn for grubs, this will diminish the moles’ food source and they will begin to look elsewhere.  Using a product containing Bacillus popilliae, a bacterium that causes a natural disease (milky spore) of the grubs of Japanese beetles (one of the most common grubs feeding on grass roots,) will help diminish your mole problem. This is much safer and has a longer effect than a chemical insecticide. Products containing Bacillus popilliae are available at your local garden center as are conventional insecticides if you choose to go that route. Since watering may lure insects and earthworms near the surface, reducing the watering will also diminish the probability of moles digging near the surface. Also, you will have fewer problems with moles (and mice and voles as well) if you have a black snake or another snake such as a king snake in your garden. The snakes may give us a small fright when we come across them, but they are harmless to us and are true allies in the garden. Trapping a mole will kill that one mole, but doesn’t give a long-term solution. Gadgets such as windmills and pinwheels do not work to keep moles away. Castor bean plants are sometimes planted to repel moles, but they have not been shown to be effective, especially for a large area.

Q: What exactly are linters? I saw the word when I was reading about cotton.
A: The cotton gin removes the seed from the cotton fibers that eventually are made into our blue jeans and other clothing and products. When cottonseed is moved from the gin to a cottonseed oil mill, it consists of three parts: (1) linters, the short, fuzzy fibers still clinging to the seed; (2) hulls, the tough, protective coating on the seed kernel; and (3) the protein and oil-rich kernel.
     Linters are one of the finest sources for cellulose which is used to produce a number of things like plastic, rocket propellants, rayon, pharmaceutical emulsions, cosmetics, photography and x-ray film, upholstery, fine writing paper and even paper currency.
     Hulls are used mostly in the feed industry as a source of roughage for livestock.
     Kernels are flaked and crushed to produce cottonseed oil and meal. One ton of cottonseed, crushed, can yield approximately 320 pounds of oil. The meal and hulls are used in animal feeds as high protein and roughage supplements. Cottonseed imparts virtually no taste into foods cooked in it.  It is versatile and is used in salad dressings, stir-fry and baking applications. It is regarded by the food industry as premium oil and is eagerly sought by prepared food makers.  The U.S. snack food industry uses about 40 percent of the cottonseed oil produced in this country.

Q: What are woody lilies? I have seen this category in several plant catalogs.
A: “Woody lily” is relatively new term used by some nurseries to group lily-like plants that have evergreen parts. Many of these are grown for the structural elements of the plants themselves rather than for their flowers. Plants often included in the woody lily category are yucca, nolina, beschorneria, agave, rohdea, dasylirion, aspidistra and manfreda.
Q: Will an electric “bug zapper” help control mosquitoes in my yard and barn?
A: Bug zappers may actually make things worse by attracting more mosquitoes to the area, and they end up killing thousands of beneficial insects that do not bother people. Another drawback is the electric grid that kills the insects can cause the trapped insect to explode. Not a pleasant thought as you grill hamburgers near the bug zapper on your patio.

Q: Is there a variety of tomato called “toy box?” I had a salad recently that consisted of different colors of tomatoes that the menu listed as toy box tomatoes.
A: There is not one particular variety that is the “toy box” tomato. The name is sometimes used to market a combination of different colors of small tomatoes. Combining different colors together makes a very attractive dish, and seeing all the colors together may make you think of balls or small toys spilling out of a toy chest. Visit nurseries and seed catalogs and look for different colors (red, yellow, orange, green, purplish red) of cherry and pear tomatoes and other small tomatoes if you want to grow some yourself.  

Q: Will hanging a plastic bag filled with water keep flies away?
A: This is a widely held belief. During one of his television shows, travel guru Rick Steves interviewed an elderly woman in Portugal who believed it, and we have had reports from Texas and Australia as well as here in Georgia of people hanging up plastic bags filled with water to repel flies. The investigators at report that some people add pennies or other items to the bags. It has not been scientifically proven whether water-filled bags actually repel anything or not.

Q: Do you have any advice on handling and caring for horses during hot weather?
A: You need to take precautions during these extremely hot temperatures. Here are a few tips for helping horses stay safe and healthy:

  • Limit activity to morning and evening hours. Keep work and exercise to a minimum during the hottest part of the day.
  • Leave barn doors open as often as possible to allow proper ventilation.
  • Place large fans around the exercise area, being sure to keep cords out reach of horses.
  • Loosen or remove saddles and harnesses.
  • Be cautious when allowing horses to walk on concrete; bare feet can be burned and horseshoes can become extremely hot.
  • When hosing horses down after exercise, start with the legs and work upward to avoid shock.
  • Work horses should be given regular breaks in places with shade, plenty of water and cool ground.
  • Horses should always be given access to cool water (not heated by the sun) and shade throughout the day during the summer. In extreme heat a horse can drink more than 20 gallons of water a day.
  • Some horses may require extra electrolytes, which can be given through store-bought supplements or by a mixture of three parts salt (sodium chloride) and one part lite salt (potassium chloride).
  • Older and overweight horses have a harder time dealing with heat.
  • Horses that are exposed to extremely high temperatures for long periods of time can experience heat stress or heat strokes. Excessive sweating, panting, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate and high rectal temperature are all signs of heat stress and should be treated by running cool water on the horse’s legs and giving frequent, small amounts of water. These signs can also be an indication of a heat stroke, in which case a veterinarian should be called immediately. While waiting for a vet to arrive, the same treatment methods for heat stress should be administered to the horse.

Q: I used to see achimenes for sale in lots of places, but I didn’t see any this year. Why?
A: We do not know of any particular reason you did not see these for sale this year. Sometimes plants fall from favor or become so common that nurseries (and gardeners) stop growing them. Something may be a “hot item” for a year or two and then nurseries stop growing it because sales drop or because everyone else is growing it. This happens from time to time. Everyone will be offering a particular flower for sale and then you don’t see it for sale anywhere. Try looking for achimenes in bulb catalogs this spring. Also, please check the advertisements in the Farmers & Consumers Market Bulletin. If you don’t see some gardener offering any for sale, consider placing a free ad under the “Flowers Wanted” category in the Market Bulletin

If you have questions about agriculture, horticulture, food safety, Georgia Grown products or about the services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty G. Schronce ( or visit the department’s website at