Question: Is one variety of peach better than another for making cakes and cobblers? What about ice cream?
Answer: All varieties and types (yellow, white, cling, freestone) of peaches are suitable for cakes, cobblers and other pies and ice cream. Try different kinds to find the ones your family likes best.
Q: I was served a watermelon and blueberry salad at a gathering last July 4th. It was quite good, and the colors were patriotically appropriate. Do you have a recipe?
A: The simplest watermelon-blueberry salad is to mix together cubes of watermelon and fresh blueberries. Nothing else is needed. People vary this basic recipe by adding different dressings or seasonings. Here is a recipe from the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen that is easy, tasty and refreshing:
½ seedless watermelon, cubed
1 pint blueberries, washed and stemmed
7-8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
¾ red onion, thin slivers
1 package fresh basil, cut chiffonade style
½ cup olive oil
Salt & pepper
Combine watermelon, blueberries and red onion in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss gently. Top with feta and basil, gently mixing to combine. Serve immediately. Serves about 12.
Besides having the watermelon and blueberries grown in Georgia, you may also find Georgia olive oil, basil and feta cheese to make this an All-Georgian as well as an All-American treat.
Q: What are plantain lilies? I saw the name in an old book.
A: “Plantain lily” is another name for a hosta. However, it is a name that is not commonly used anymore. Today, “hosta” is the name known, used and understood most frequently by both horticulturists and the general public. Another old name for hostas is “funkia.” It is no longer used, but you may still come across it in old reference books. Hosta plantaginea, a species that blooms in late summer, is sometimes called “August lily” or, to keep from mistaking it for other lily-like plants that bloom in late summer, “August lily hosta.”
To avoid confusion, call a hosta a hosta.
Q: My neighbor keeps his dog chained all the time. It looks like a case of abuse. Where should I report this?
A: Please report your concerns to local law enforcement officials.
Q: Do bananas grow on trees? I have heard bananas are not actually trees.
A: Bananas are most accurately described as herbaceous perennials, not as trees. Banana plants are sometimes called “trees” because they can be as large as trees and have a trunk-like structure. Their “trunk," however, consists of the bases of leaves tightly wrapped together and is technically known as a pseudostem.
Bananas can be a bold addition to the landscape and are especially useful if you are aiming to create a tropical or exotic effect. There are numerous varieties available in garden centers and from mail-order sources. There are varieties that are dwarf, have red leaves, are especially cold hardy, have interesting flowers and may even bear fruit here. In fact, researchers with the University of Georgia are testing dozens of different varieties for edible and ornamental uses. Perhaps one day Georgia will be the Banana State in addition to being the Peach State!
Q: I planted garlic cloves in the fall. The leaves are now (June 7) dying. What should I do?
A: When garlic is mature, the leafy tops begin to wither and die. This is when most gardeners harvest the bulbs. However, some gardeners leave the bulbs in the ground and dig them up as they are needed.
If you are interested in maximum production or in growing cloves to sell or give away, harvest the bulbs when about one-third to one-half of the leaves have died back. Be careful not to damage the bulbs or the stems when digging them up. If you are only growing a few garlic plants for beauty (the lavender flowers and blue-green leaves are attractive), novelty or occasional use, you may want to treat your garlic like a perennial flower such as a daylily.
Q: When are Georgia watermelons in season?
A: Georgia watermelon season begins in June and continues through the summer with peak harvest being in July.
Q: Can pickling cucumbers be used for salads?
A: Yes. In fact, some people prefer them for fresh eating to those sold as “salad” or “slicing” cucumbers.
Pickling cucumbers hold up better during the canning and pickling process than the salad/slicing types. However, that does not mean they must be used exclusively to make pickles.
Georgia cucumbers are now in season. Try different kinds and find the ones you like best.
Q: What is a hog peanut?
A: Hog peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata) is a native vine noted for producing edible peanut-like seeds underground. It is also known as American hog peanut, hogpeanut, hog-peanut, talet, ground bean and wild peanut. It is indigenous to eastern and central North America, including Georgia.
Hog peanut is a member of the pea family and looks like a thin, vining garden bean. It has two types of flowers. One type is borne high on the plant and produces seeds in small, flat, bean-like pods. These flowers are white, lavender or purple. The other type grows low on the plant, is inconspicuous, buries itself underground and produces, usually, a single large seed per flower.
Eaten raw, the underground seeds are similar in taste and texture to a green peanut. They can also be cooked, but we have not tried this. It would take considerable effort to gather enough to warrant cooking.
Various birds including ruffed grouse, bobwhite quail and wild turkey eat both the aboveground or underground seeds. Wild hogs will eat the underground seeds, hence the common name. Hog peanut is a larval host plant for several species of butterflies including the silver-spotted skipper, little yellow, golden-banded skipper, long-tailed skipper and gray hairstreak.
Hog peanut is not commonly offered for sale. Being a legume, it may have some value as a nitrogen fixer, particularly since it is shade tolerant. It could be used improve land for wildlife. It could also be of interest to experimenters or visionaries who want to work with it to increase the number and size of the underground seeds and create a new agricultural crop.
Q: I remember my grandmother telling me about picking cotton when she was young. I tried to pass along some of her stories to my own grandchildren. She was told not to leave “shirt-tails” in the field. I cannot remember what she meant by that. Can you help me?
A: “Shirt-tails” are the strands of cotton fibers that cling to the bolls after picking. Skillful and conscientious cotton pickers would not leave shirt-tails or would keep them to a minimum. To the growers and to pickers who were being paid, leaving cotton fibers in the field was like leaving money there.
If anyone knows other terms for this or has other old-time agricultural terms to share, please pass them along to Arty Schronce, 19 Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr., Agriculture Building, Room 128, Atlanta, GA 30334 or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I am concerned about credit card security at gasoline pumps. Is there anything being done and is there anything as a consumer I can do to help protect myself?
A: The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) is conducting a campaign to check Georgia gas pumps for “skimmers,” illegal devices that capture credit and debit card information. The campaign is in conjunction with the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores as part of the department’s routine fuel dispenser inspections.
“It is an issue that the industry is aware of, and many companies are taking steps on to implement further security efforts,” according to Rich Lewis, Director of the Fuel and Measures Division of GDA. “We hope those efforts combined with our surveillance will keep these thieves from preying on our traveling public.”
Here are a few steps you can take to mitigate the risk of identity theft while pumping gas:
•Pay in cash inside the store.
•Check to make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet is closed and has not been tampered with.
•Use a gas pump close to the front of the store. Thieves often place skimmers at the gas pumps farther away from the store so they are not noticed as quickly.
•Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have better fraud protection, and the money is not deducted immediately from an account.
•If using a debit card at the pump, choose to run it as a credit card instead of a debit card. That way, the PIN number is safe.
•Monitor bank accounts regularly to spot any unauthorized charges.
Consumers who suspect their credit/bank card number has been compromised should report it immediately to authorities and their credit card company or banking institution. Complaints can also be reported to the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Fuel and Measures Division at 404-656-3605.
-- Arty Schronce
If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (email@example.com) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov.