Ga Dept of Agriculture


Consumer Q's February 2014

Question: What do your inspectors do when they go into a grocery store?
Answer: Our Food Safety Division administers state laws, rules and regulations and conducts sanitation inspections for retail food establishments such as grocery stores and food warehouses as well as places in the business of food processing including wholesale bakeries and bottled water, dairy and drink processors. We do not inspect restaurants; they are under your county health department.
     The regulatory function of our Food Safety Division assures the consumer’s health is protected, provides food that is safe and unadulterated and ensures food is prepared in a clean environment and honestly presented.
     Our inspectors conduct routine inspections, follow-up inspections, complaint investigations and foodborne illness investigations. During these inspections the inspectors may check sanitary conditions, proper food handling and storage, employee health and hygiene as well as check small scales for accuracy and collect samples for testing.

Q: What is quinoa? I have seen boxes of it for sale in the grocery store. Do we grow it in Georgia?
A: Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is an edible seed that is cooked and eaten in a variety of ways. Quinoa comes from the quinoa plant, Chenopodium quinoa. Quinoa is sometimes referred to as a grain, but a true grain has to be a member of the Grass Family such as wheat and corn. Quinoa is not a grass but is related to amaranth, spinach, beet and lamb’s quarters.
     There are dozens, if not hundreds, of different recipes – from salads and pilafs to burgers – using quinoa. The basic recipe is to place one cup quinoa and two cups water, chicken broth or vegetable stock in a one-and-a-half quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed (10-15 minutes). When done, the seeds will appear soft and translucent. After cooking, the seeds can be mixed with butter or oil such as olive oil, pumpkin seed oil or sesame/benne oil. It is sometimes served with tomatoes or roasted bell peppers or tossed with steamed vegetables such as broccoli, green peas and carrots. It also makes a good breakfast dish mixed with raisins or dried fruit, cinnamon, milk and honey.
     We do not know of anyone growing quinoa in Georgia. Most quinoa is imported from Bolivia and Peru.

Q: Do I need to refrigerate honey?
A: No. Although it will not hurt honey, refrigeration will make it harder to spread. Storing honey at room temperature will keep it ready to use at all times; those hot biscuits won’t wait.  

Q: I want to grow tobacco in my garden as a novelty. Even though I don’t smoke, I think it is an interesting plant. Where can I buy seeds?

A: Tobacco is an interesting plant with an interesting history and attractive flowers. Hummingbirds visit the flowers and tobacco is a host plant for caterpillars of the Carolina sphinx moth (tobacco hornworm) and the five-spotted hawkmoth (tomato hornworm). These moths can be beautiful, but the caterpillars can do a lot of damage as they eat. Monitor your plants and pick them off if there are too many or you don’t want a lot of eaten leaves. If you have never grown tobacco before you may be surprised at how sticky the large leaves are.

Here are some possible sources of seeds and information:

Sustainable Seed Company
P. O. Box 38
Covelo, CA 95428

New Hope Seed Company
P.O. Box 443
Bon Aqua, TN 37025

Victory Seeds
P.O. Box 192
Molalla, OR 97038
The Tobacco Seed Store

Heirloom Tobacco

Q: It looks like the cold has killed or extremely damaged my trailing rosemary, pittosporum, creeping fig, sago palm and some other evergreen plants. When should I prune them back or pull them up? Why is there so much damage this year?
A: Have patience! Many evergreen plants such as the ones you mentioned may have dead or damaged leaves but will re-sprout from the stems. Wait until late spring before cutting them back. When the plants begin growing, you can better determine the extent of the damage and what you need to do.
     Even though the fronds of sago palm may be completely dead, do not cut them off now. They may help protect the trunk from further damage during the rest of the winter. Also, a half-brown or half-damaged frond on any palm should be left until new fronds arise because the living half is continuing to manufacture food for the plant.
     Having said that, sago palm, creeping fig and other plants that are truly only marginally hardy in north Georgia have been overwintering outdoors with few problems in recent years due to mild winters. It has been a while since we experienced the extremely low temperatures we had for extended periods this winter. Some of these marginally hardy plants will survive and some will not. However, we still need to wait and see before we pull out the pruners, handsaw or shovel.
     Sunny conditions during or immediately following periods of extreme cold are especially damaging for many broad-leaved evergreen plants. The low temperatures freeze the soil and the moisture in it; when the sun comes out it heats the surface of the leaves and causes them to begin losing water due to transpiration. That is why leaves damaged by the cold may look scorched as if they were burned in a summer drought. Many areas experienced this. Wind, in addition to the sunshine, will further exacerbate the water loss and subsequent damage.
     Snow can be a plant’s best friend during cold weather. Snow can insulate the ground and the plants themselves against further dips in temperature and protect leaves and stems from the loss of water due to transpiration.

Q: Can we grow ‘Fuyugaki’ and other oriental persimmons in Atlanta?
A: Yes. ‘Fuyugaki’ (sometimes simply called ‘Fuyu’) and most other oriental persimmon varieties will do well in all of Georgia except perhaps the mountains. ‘Sheng’ is one of the most cold-hardy varieties, and it would be a good choice for someone in the mountains who wants to give oriental persimmons a try. ‘Maekawa Jiro’ is also listed as a very cold-hardy variety that might work in the mountains.
     ‘Fuyugaki’ is the most popular variety of oriental persimmon. Other varieties you may want to consider include ‘Wase Fuyu’ (sometimes listed as ‘Matsumoto’), ‘Gwang Yang,’ ‘Hana Gosho,’ ‘Jiro,’ ‘Eureka,’ ‘Tanenashi,’ ‘Ichi Ki Kei Jiro,’ ‘Saijo,’ ‘Great Wall’ and ‘Kyungsun Ban-Si.’
     Many oriental persimmons are sold bare-root although some nurseries do sell them in containers. The bare-root ones are shipped in late winter while the trees are still dormant. Get your order in soon.

Q: I brought a potted Japanese maple indoors when the temperature dipped into the single digits. I left it inside too long and now it has now leafed out. Can I set it back outside?
A: The tree has broken dormancy, and freezing temperatures will kill or damage the tender leaves and stems that have sprouted. You may set it outside again but bring it back inside when temperatures dip below freezing. When danger of frost is past, leave it outdoors.  

Q: Can you freeze cheese? Someone gave me a huge block of cheddar.
A: You can freeze hard and semi-hard cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, Swiss and mozzarella. However, the texture may be crumbly when thawed. That means you may not be able to use it on a cheese platter, but it will be good for soups, sauces, pizza, macaroni and cheese, casseroles, grilled cheese sandwiches and other cooking purposes.
     When freezing cheese, cut it into portions no larger than one-half pound each, wrap it tightly in airtight wrapping or place it in a heavy-duty freezer bag. You can grate cheese before freezing and place it in a freezer bag. For best results, keep cheese frozen for no more than six months.
     Soft cheeses like cream cheese, cottage cheese and ricotta do not freeze well. Do not freeze fine or expensive cheeses; buy no more than you will use at a time.

Q: Where can I find Lenten rose plants for sale? I have seen some blooming (February 17th) that are beautiful.
A: Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus, formerly Helleborus orientalis) are beautiful and durable additions to a garden. They are especially noticeable this year blooming their heads off immediately following the severe cold weather that left many plants looking ragged.
     Lenten rose and other hellebores have grown in popularity and availability over the last two decades. In the past you may have only had one kind to choose from, but now you may find several varieties or different species or hybrids available at top-line nurseries and garden centers.
     Check with your local nursery or garden center to see what is available. There are also numerous mail-order sources. Here are a few Georgia garden centers and nurseries we found carrying Lenten roses:

Cofer's Home & Garden Showplace (
1145 Mitchell Bridge Rd, Athens, GA 30606
Phone: 706-353-1519
Piccadilly Farm (
1971 Whippoorwill Road
Bishop, Georgia 30621
Phone: 706-765-4444

Pike Nurseries (
Various locations
Corporate Office Phone: 770-921-1022

Garden*Hood (
353 Boulevard, SE
Atlanta, GA 30312
Phone: 404-880-9848

You may also look in the ads of the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin.  We often have people from across Georgia selling Lenten roses and other plants there.

Consumer Q's is written by Arty Schronce. For more information call him at 404-656-3656 or via e-mail at