Q: I love daylilies but wished they bloomed for a longer period. How can I extend daylily season?
A: June is the main daylily month in Georgia. To extend the daylily blooming season consider adding early, late and re-blooming varieties to your garden. A few early varieties are `Gold Dust,’ ‘Orangeman’ and `Early Flora.’ A few later varieties are ‘Challenger,’ ‘August Flame’ and ‘Autumn Minaret.’ Two popular re-blooming varieties are ‘Stella de Oro’ and ‘Black-eyed Stella.’ Re-blooming varieties will bloom over several months. Visit the website of the American Hemerocallis (daylily) Society (www.daylilies.org) for more information and to find local daylily societies and some sources for buying daylilies. Also check the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin for sources. With proper selections, you can have daylilies in bloom from April to late summer or fall.
Q: Is a nectarine a type of peach?
A: A nectarine is a peach without the fuzz. Nectarines also generally have more red on the skin than peaches. Like peaches, nectarines may have white flesh or yellow flesh and be either cling or freestone. The nectarine is thought to have originated as a mutant of the peach. We grow both nectarines and peaches in Georgia.
Q: I heard that I should buy raw meat and poultry right before checking out in the grocery store. Is that true?
A: It is a good idea to buy frozen items like ice cream and sherbet last to prevent them from melting. It is also a good idea to buy raw meat and poultry near the end of your grocery store visit as well, especially if you are doing a lot of shopping. This will help keep the products cold, decreasing the chances for bacteria to grow and lengthening product shelf life. It also lessens the chances of cross-contamination — which can happen when raw meat or poultry juices drip on other food. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart and make sure they are put into separate bags at the checkout. Drive directly home from the grocery store and immediately put cold food into the refrigerator or freezer.
Q: Are watermelons with yellow flesh new? I recently saw some at a grocery store.
A: Watermelons with yellow and orange flesh are not new, although they are not as well-known as red-fleshed varieties. The taste is the same. Combining the different colors makes an attractive fruit salad. Georgia farmers grow yellow and orange as well as red watermelons.
Q: What is the difference between a mollypop and a maypop?
A: Mollypop and maypop are both common names for the same plant, Passiflora incarnata, a species of passionflower. Mollypop is native to Georgia and the Southeast and ranges northward into Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri and Pennsylvania and west to Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It is the state wildflower of Tennessee. It is an exotic-looking flower, and, indeed, most of its passionflower relatives are from the tropics.
The names “mollypop” and “maypop” both derive from the Algonkian name for the plant.
The fruit of the mollypop is edible. Allow it to ripen – it will turn yellow and even begin to shrivel – and eat the juicy flesh surrounding the seeds. This flesh tastes like Hawaiian Punch and is good to add to lemonade. Captain John Smith noted that Indians near the Jamestown settlement grew mollypops for its fruit.
Mollypop is a good choice for a butterfly garden as it is a host plant for the Gulf fritillary found throughout the state and the less common zebra longwing butterfly which sometimes appears in the southern part of the state.
Mollypop is a vine. It can be grown on a trellis or chain-link fence or allowed to climb over and among shrubs in an informal setting. Its flowers are purple. There is a pure white variety. It has a suckering nature, which means it may sprout in an area several feet from where the original plant was growing. This is not difficult to control.
If you love native plants, history, butterflies or unusual fruits, try a mollypop.
Q: What is dryland corn? I heard a farmer say he was planting some.
A: When a farmer says he planted a field of dryland corn or a field of dryland soybeans, he is planting a field of these crops that will rely solely on rain, not on an irrigation system.
Q: My neighbor has tomato plants and has offered to share some tomatoes with me if I will help pick. I’ve always been afraid to walk among tomato plants because when I was younger I saw a huge, green caterpillar big around and as long as my baby finger, on a tomato vine. My great aunt called it a tomato worm, and she said it had a bad sting. Is this true?
A: It sounds like you are describing a tomato hornworm. It is a large green caterpillar with a rhinoceros-like horn that looks like a stinger. Its appearance is intimidating, but it will not sting or harm you, although it can certainly eat a lot of tomato foliage. Please put your childhood fears and your aunt’s misinformation aside and go pick some delicious Georgia tomatoes.
Q: What are cabbage sprouts? They look like cabbage heads but are smaller. They are larger than Brussels sprouts and not as hard.
A: The sprouts that arise on a cabbage plant after the main head is cut are sometimes referred to as “cabbage sprouts.” These heads are smaller and looser (not as firm and solid) as the primary head. Because they are looser, they are generally cooked rather than being grated into slaw. Try cooking them with liquid (water or broth) and some butter, olive oil or bacon grease. Some people consider cabbage sprouts a real delicacy. They are not commonly available commercially. Check for them at local farmers markets.
Q: I heard a farmer on the news talking about the drought say it was so dry he “dusted in” a crop.” What does that mean? He was not referring to crop dusting or dusting with an insecticide.
A: When a farmer says he “dusted in” his corn crop, he means that he sowed the corn seed while the ground was dry. His tractor and equipment may have made dust rise in their wake, hence the term. The farmer sometimes sows seeds in dry conditions in hopes that rain will arrive soon and cause the seed to germinate.
Q: I’m eating a lot of cantaloupes now. The seeds look meaty, and I think birds that eat sunflower seeds may eat them. Can I use the seeds in my bird feeder?
A: Yes. A few of our native birds that will eat cantaloupe seeds are cardinals, catbirds, nuthatches, blue jays, chickadees and mourning doves. Rinse the pulp off the cantaloupe seeds. Let them dry and mix them with your regular birdseed or serve them by themselves. To save cantaloupe seeds for use in the winter, let the seeds dry for about 48 hours and store them in an airtight container. Why not share Georgia cantaloupes with our feathered friends!
Q: I have been reading about how healthy lima beans are and have been eating more of them. I found fresh lima beans at the farmers market. I am familiar only with dried ones and didn’t even know we grew lima beans in Georgia. Do you have some suggestions on cooking them?
A: Yes, indeed we do grow limas in Georgia. And, like you, more people are discovering how healthy they are. If the beans are still in the pod, split the pod open and push the beans out. Rinse the shelled beans. Place the limas in a pot of boiling water or stock. You can also put them in the liquid and bring them to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender (five to 20 minutes depending on the size of the beans.) The fresh beans can also be steamed. You can also find young limas in the freezer section of the grocery store. Cook them the same way. Add salt, pepper, butter or seasonings as desired.
Q: Someone told me that cucumber flowers are either male or female. Is this true?
A: Cucumber plants have both male and female blossoms. Behind the female flower is a miniature cucumber. The male flower has only a thin stalk behind it. Both are needed for the cucumber plants in your garden to produce cucumbers. Squash, cantaloupes and watermelons also have separate male and female flowers.
Q: May chicken salad be taken on a picnic?
A: Yes, if you keep it at the proper temperature. Cold perishable food should be kept in the cooler at 40 degrees F or below. To keep the temperature in your cooler down, open the lid as little as possible. That way, warmer air can’t get and the cold air can’t escape. Foods like chicken salad can be placed directly on ice, or in a shallow container set in a deep pan filled with ice.
Q: My cilantro has gone to seed. May I save the seed to plant next year?
A: Yes. You may also use the seeds in the kitchen. Cilantro seeds are better known as coriander, a useful spice. Your children may help you gather the seeds when you tell them that some people think coriander tastes a little like Fruit Loops initially when you pop a seed in your mouth.
Q: Is there such a thing as a night-blooming daylily?
A: Although it may seem like a contradiction in terms, there are night-blooming daylilies. The lemon lily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) and the citron lily (Hemerocallis citrina) are the two most common daylilies that open in the evening instead of in the morning. Both are yellow and fragrant. Some named varieties of daylilies also exhibit this night-blooming trait. They are wonderful to come home to after a hard day at the office.
Q: Is it possible to grow peppermint from seeds?
A: True peppermint is essentially sterile. It is propagated by cuttings or by dividing plants. Touch and smell the leaves of a peppermint (or other mint) before you purchase it to make sure it is the one you want. Some mint varieties have a sweeter, clearer taste and fragrance than others.
Q: What is the difference between pole beans and green beans?
A: The “pole” in pole beans simply refers to their growing habit. There are green beans that are pole beans, bush beans and half-runners. Pole beans are vines that twine and require trellising i.e. on poles. Bush beans do not climb at all. Half-runners are pole beans that do not climb as tall as regular pole beans. Lima beans also have pole and bush varieties. Bush beans are popular with commercial growers and some home gardeners because they do not require trellising. However, because they grow tall on trellises and generally bear over a longer period than bush types, pole types usually yield more in the same amount of space. Both pole beans and bush beans are equally nutritious and full of fiber. Bean season in Georgia begins in late May and can run through September and even into October. Look for Georgia Grown beans at farmers markets, grocery stores and directly from the farm.
Q: Why are eggplants called eggplants when they don’t look like eggs?
A: The most popular varieties of eggplants in America are large, deep purple ones. The varieties that gave the eggplant its name are white and indeed look like eggs in color as well as shape. You may see these at some specialty markets as well as green or light purple eggplants in various shapes.
Q: I found a blueberry bush, or what looks like a blueberry bush, growing wild in the woods. Could a bird eat a blueberry from one of the blueberry farms nearby and deposit the seed where it grew up into a bush? Can blueberries be grown in the shade?
A: It is possible that a bird or another animal ate a blueberry and deposited the seed in the woods where you found a blueberry bush growing. It is more likely, however, that what you found is a native species of blueberry. Several species are native to Georgia. North America’s native blueberries are the parents from which our cultivated varieties of blueberries were derived. Blueberries can survive quite a bit of shade. For maximum production and for easier cultivation and harvesting, farmers and home gardeners plant blueberries in full sun.
Q: If I keep pansies well watered and fertilized is it possible to keep them blooming through the summer?
A: Pansies and violas are annuals that die when hot weather arrives. Most annuals are planted or sown in the spring, bloom through the summer and die at frost. Pansies are planted in the fall and bloom all fall, winter and spring. In most of Georgia, they have petered out by Mother’s Day. Don’t try to keep them on life support. Sow or plant zinnias, cleome, salvia, cosmos, marigolds, cuphea, tithonia, sunflowers, nicotiana and the many other annual flowers that will thrive in the heat.