Ga Dept of Agriculture


Consumer Q's December 2013

Q: I want to grow sprouts for salads. Can you offer advice?
A: Perhaps the easiest and most reliable method for raising edible sprouts is with a wide-mouth jar and screen of some type. Screw-on screen lids are readily available at health food stores and other companies. (You can make your own screen with cheesecloth and a rubber band, but it is messier and ultimately more expensive.) A wide-mouth quart canning jar is a good choice. A quart mayonnaise jar also works well.
     To start the sprouting process, place two to three tablespoons of small seeds (such as alfalfa) or one-fourth to one-half cup of large seeds (such beans) per quart into a glass jar. (It is best to start with a smaller amount of seeds to see how the process goes.) Fill the jar two-thirds full of lukewarm water, place the screen over the mouth of the jar and soak seeds for eight to 12 hours or overnight.
     After soaking, drain the seeds and lay the jar on its side. During the next three to five days, rinse the seeds with lukewarm water once every morning and evening. Drain off all excess water after each rinsing. Keep the jar at temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees F. Some people like blanched sprouts that develop in darkness or indirect light and are not exposed to any sunlight. Placing the seed-sprouting jar on top of the kitchen counter and covering it with a small towel will provide an excellent environment during the sprouting process. To create green sprouts place the jar of sprouted seeds in a sunny window for a few hours. If in the sun too long, they can become tough and bitter.
     The eating size of the sprouts will vary with the type of seed and with your individual preferences, generally one-quarter inch to two inches long. Once the sprouts have reached the desired size, place them in a bowl of water. The seed sprouts will sink to the bottom and the loose seed hulls will float to the top. Skim the hulls off. Remove the sprouts and allow them to drain. You can use them immediately or store them in closed glass or plastic containers in the refrigerator for later use.
     Some of the seeds you can use for sprouting are alfalfa, broccoli, buckwheat, cabbage, clover, fenugreek, mustard, radish, sesame, sunflower, millet, chickpeas, lentils, green pea, wheat, rye, triticale, onion and various beans including adzuki bean, soybean, kidney bean and mung bean. Seeds for sprouting may be purchased from mail-order seed companies, health food stores and some garden centers. Do not use seeds that have been treated with fungicides or other pesticides.
     Because seeds have different sizes and growing habits, experiment to find the best way to handle each kind and to suit your tastes and needs. If you become really involved in sprouting, there are devices for quantity production.
     Sprouts need not be limited to salads but can be used in sandwiches, soups, stews, omelets, bread (mixed into dough) and stir-fry dishes.

Q: I grew an okra plant last summer I started calling elephant okra because the leaves looked like elephant ears. At frost it was 15 feet and two inches tall. The pods reached 12 inches long and were tender. Do you know what kind of okra this is?
A: We cannot be certain as to the identity of this okra from the photo you sent and your description. It could be ‘Burmese’ okra, which can have large leaves up to 16 inches across and long pods that remain tender when larger than many varieties of okra. It could also be one of the numerous strains known as cowhorn okra. They get quite tall and have long pods that remain fairly tender. Some have rather large leaves. Or it could be ‘Louisiana 16-Inch Long Pod,’ which, as its name states, can have very long pods. It also grows “big like a tree” according to one description. Another possibility is ‘Philippine Lady Finger.’ It meets your descriptions. It has smooth, rounded pods, but there are some other okras with “lady finger” in their name that do not have rounded pods. Or it could be a variety that is not currently being sold in the seed trade. Here are two companies that carry some of the okra varieties mentioned:  

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.
2278 Baker Creek Road
Mansfield, MO 65704
Phone: 417-924-8917

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
P.O. Box 460
Mineral, VA 23117
Phone: 540-894-9480

     You can read the descriptions and look at the photos in their catalogs and in other seed catalogs to see if you can match your mystery okra.
     You may consider ordering some seeds and comparing the different varieties. You may also consider contacting some seed companies to see if they know the identity of your okra. Perhaps they may be interested in carrying the variety you have.

Q: One of my plants was killed by the cold weather. I thought it was hardy. May I take it back for a refund?
A: Cold hardiness is not an exact science, and there are numerous factors that come into play when considering how cold hardy a plant is. A plant may survive 0 degrees F. for one night with no damage provided temperatures rise the next day. The same plant may be killed outright if exposed to only 15 degrees F. for three nights if daytime temperatures don’t rise above freezing. Plants that are well established are less likely to be damaged than those planted more recently. Cold snaps that follow extremely warm periods are more damaging than those that come after a gradual period of cooling. Plants that are flushed with new growth due to lots of water and nitrogen fertilizer are also more likely to be damaged than those grown under leaner conditions. Plants in pots and containers are much more susceptible to cold damage because their roots are more exposed than those of plants in the ground. Some plants will survive low temperatures provided their roots are not wet but will die during cold, damp periods.
     Some evergreen shrubs in sunny areas will experience “leaf burn” if the ground remains frozen for extended periods. This is because the sunlight will raise the temperature of the leaf and cause it to transpire and lose water. The plant is unable to absorb water from the frozen ground which leads to the scorched appearance of the leaves. These plants often re-leaf in the spring with no major damage. When you see this kind of damage, don’t jump to a premature conclusion that the plant is dead.
     Are your sure your plant was supposed to survive the winter? Also, don’t forget that many perennials die back to the ground but re-sprout in the spring. They are not dead but may look like it on the surface.
     It is unfair to expect a nursery to predict every possible scenario and guarantee success in all situations and conditions. If we are that demanding, it may lead to nurseries carrying only weedy and undesirable plants like Chinese privet and Japanese honeysuckle that will grow practically anywhere.

Q: I have an odd question. Apples grow in orchards, but oranges grow in groves. What is the difference between an orchard and a grove?
A: An orchard is an area of land devoted to the cultivation of fruit or nut trees. “Orchard” is also defined as the trees cultivated in such an area. A grove is a small wood or stand of trees lacking dense undergrowth. “Grove” is also defined as a group of trees planted and cultivated for fruit or nut production.
     An orchard always has to consist of fruit or nut trees, but a grove does not. That is the big difference. Orchards are usually maintained in a grove-like manner, with all the competing underbrush removed. So an orchard can almost always be considered a grove by both definitions of the word, but a grove is not always an orchard.
     You can say that oranges are grown in orchards or groves, but I suppose “orange orchard” was too clumsy to say, and grove became the norm when referring to where they are grown.
     Your question is not odd. It has been asked by numerous people from varied backgrounds and from different parts of the state.

Q:  I don’t think the gasoline pump gave the proper amount. Who do I report this to?  
A: Notify the station manager and call the Georgia Department of Agriculture immediately if you experience malfunctioning pumps (including leaking hoses) or problems with the quality of the gasoline, kerosene or diesel fuel you receive. The direct line to our Fuel and Measures Division is 404-656-3605 or you may call our toll-free line: 1-800-282-5852. This number is on all fuel pumps in the state. You can also e-mail the office at
     Please let us know the name and address of the store or station, the pump number and the nature of the problem. Please do not just say “There is a problem with the gas station on XYZ Road outside Georgiaville.” Be precise so we have as much information as possible in order to investigate. If there is a problem, the affected pump or pumps will be locked down until the problem is corrected.

Q: What are some vegetables I can grow in pots on my deck?
A: Almost any vegetable can be grown in a container if you keep it watered. Due to the limited root space, the plants are going to dry out more quickly than those planted in the ground. They will probably also need more fertilizer. The best options for growing in containers are vegetables with smaller fruits or those that have a smaller stature and don’t spread out much. Some good possibilities include leaf lettuce, radish, eggplant, garlic, carrot (round or short-root varieties), tomato (determinate varieties will stay shorter), hot and sweet peppers and bush varieties of summer squash and cucumber. Use the largest containers possible as they will provide more root-room and make the plants less vulnerable to drying out or getting blown over.

Q: I saw a ‘Flying Dragon’ tree with lemon-like fruits in a catalog. Is it hardy in Georgia? Is the fruit edible?
A: ‘Flying Dragon’ is a variety of trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata), the most cold-hardy member of the citrus family. It will grow throughout Georgia and even farther north. Unlike the regular form of trifoliate orange, ‘Flying Dragon’ has spiraling stems and curved thorns that give the appearance of a Chinese dragon taking flight.
     Trifoliate orange is almost exclusively grown as ornamental for its dark green thorny branches, white flowers and attractive fruits.
Although the fruit is fragrant and citrusy, the pulp is extremely sour and chock full of seeds. We have heard of people using the fruit to make marmalade but have never tried it ourselves.
     The thorns of trifoliate orange are formidable. Back in the 1980s Fort Bragg was planting them as a barrier. We haven’t heard how successful the effort was, but a hedge of trifoliate orange is a lot more difficult to get through than barbed wire and would give even Brer Rabbit pause. Removing a thicket of trifoliate orange would be like going into battle against a syringe-laden army of octopuses. ‘Flying Dragon’ would be less dangerous since the thorns do not stick straight out, but it still needs careful handling.
     Trifoliate orange is listed as an invasive species in some areas – a scary thought if you’ve ever accidentally bumped into one. For more information see the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States
     On a lighter note, branches of standard form of trifoliate orange are used in Christmas decorating to make gumdrop trees. The decorator removes the needle-like tips and sticks gumdrops on the thorns. The branches of the standard form and the contorted ‘Flying Dragon’ may also be used (with care, of course) in Good Friday and Easter floral arrangements to signify the suffering of Jesus.

Q: Are poinsettias poisonous?
A: Answering this question has become a Christmas tradition. They are not. They are not edible, however, so don't add them to your salad. Like many plants in the same family, their sap can be irritating to the skin, so don't rub it on yourself.

Q: I had five huge holly bushes cut down as they were getting too large for me to take care of. They were 10 to 12 feet high and seven feet across. Is there a simpler way to remove the stumps than having them dug up? I cannot do it myself or get to them with a truck and a chain.
A: Digging up the stumps is the fastest and surest way to get rid of them, but it will be an arduous task because the bushes were large with a large root system. An easier, although much slower, option is to cut the bushes down as close to the ground as possible and remove every shoot as soon as it sprouts until the stump eventually dies along with the root system. You must be persistent in keeping the sprouts removed or the hollies will come back. You may want to spray or paint some brush killer on the stump and on the sprouts as they appear. Be careful not to let the herbicide get on any other plants. Follow all label instructions when using any herbicide.

Q: My wife is trying to find a recipe for “tom-tom,” a condiment her grandmother made. It sounds similar to “chow-chow,” but my wife says that tom-tom has a vinegar-spice flavor while chow-chow has a sweeter flavor. She recalls it containing red peppers, onions, pears (or apples), cabbage, vinegar and salt. She does not believe it contained tomatoes. Her grandmother lived near Canton in Cherokee County most of her life. Does anyone know this product or have a recipe?
It is not the tom-tom recipe made with tomatilloes; my grandmother never heard of tomatilloes.
A: We have not been able to find a recipe for what you are describing in our cookbooks, on the internet or from asking around. If anyone is familiar with tom-tom, please send us the recipe or information about it to: Georgia Department of Agriculture, Arty Schronce, Agriculture Building-Room 128, 19 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, 30334 or via e-mail at
     The holidays are a good time to share and discuss recipes with family members, especially the older members of your family. Old recipes are not just instructions for preparing food; they are pieces of our history! Let’s work to preserve them. Take the time to ask, record and even stand alongside during preparation to learn. You may not consider yourself much of a cook, but one day you may take a greater interest in cooking and have more time to do it. Also, your children may have a greater interest than you and will appreciate having a recipe handed down from their grandparents or great-grandparents.

Q: Do we grow Fraser firs in Georgia?
A: There are a few farms that grow Fraser (sometimes misspelled Frasier) firs but most of them sold in the state are from points north. The Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) is native to the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Because it cannot handle hot temperatures, it cannot be grown in some parts of Georgia. In those areas, Georgia Christmas tree farmers grow red cedar, Leyland cypress, Virginia pine, deodar cedar, Arizona cypress and other conifers.  

Q: Can double-yolk eggs be used the same as regular eggs?
A: In most baking recipes, double-yolk eggs can be used on a one-for-one basis for regular eggs. You may find that your cakes will be richer than those made with regular eggs.  If the two yolks look very large and you are afraid they will upset the yolk-albumen ratio in your recipe, then set the double yolker aside and use it for scrambling, frying or making an omelet.
     The release of more than one yolk at a time is due to a glitch in the egg-laying cycle and is more common in young hens. As the hens get older, they tend to settle into laying single-yolk eggs. Double yolks are also more common in meat-type strains of hens versus egg-type hens. Genetics may also be a factor involved with some hens naturally producing a higher percentage of double-yolk eggs than others.

Consumer Q's is written by Arty Schronce. If you have questions or need further information, please contact him at 404-656-3656 or via e-mail at