Question: Do you eat the rind on cheese? I frequently encounter unfamiliar (at least to me) cheeses and do not know what to do.
Answer: There are so many cheeses on the market now it is hard to keep track, let alone know how to use and eat them. As to eating the rind, it depends on if you like its taste and texture. You don’t need to feel guilty or ill-bred if the rind of a particular cheese does not appeal to you. Some rinds are clearly too tough, pungent or strong to eat. Of course, you should not eat the exterior of cheeses covered in cloth, wax or paper. (Technically, these are not classified as true rinds, anyway.)
You may want to visit a Georgia cheesemaker or vendor to learn more about cheeses. Some offer classes and taste-tests.
Q: Is it true there will be miniature horses in the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s next auction of rehabilitated horses?
A: Yes, there will be miniature mares and geldings in the auction which will be held Saturday, October 17, at the Mansfield Impound Barn, 2834 Marben Farm Rd., Mansfield, Georgia 30055.
The horses may be inspected that day at the facility beginning at 10 a.m. The sale will start at 11 a.m. For more information, contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Equine Health Office at 404-656-3713. (M-F 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
The exact number of horses to be auctioned will not be known until closer to the sale date, but at this time we estimate that 10 horses (Loretta, Luke, Dolly, Trisha, Bentley, Jenny, Taylor, Miranda, Dixie and Garth) will be available for new and loving homes.
Q: Can you identify this plant? There is a patch of it blooming (Sept. 18) on my property. It is three to four feet tall with spikes of rosy purple flowers that look a little like a snapdragon. The stems are square and the leaves are dark green and in pairs opposite each other.
A: It sounds like obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana). It's called “obedient plant” because you can move the individual flowers on a stalk and they will remain where they have been moved. Another common name is “false dragonhead.” (I don't like calling any plant "false," though; it makes it sound like the plant is a liar!)
Obedient plant is a native wildflower but has been incorporated into gardens for hundreds of years. In fact, you are probably more likely to encounter it in gardens than in the wild.
There are several varieties of obedient plant on the market that vary in flower color (pure white to pinks and purples) and growth habit (height and spread). There is at least one with variegated leaves.
Obedient plant prefers moist soil but is very tolerant of soil conditions and is easy to grow. It is a good companion for goldenrod, blue mist flower, garden phlox, monarda, great blue lobelia, cut-leaf coneflower, native asters, swamp milkweed and anise-scented salvia.
It is also an excellent cut flower. The obedience of the individual flowers gives an enhanced dimension to the term “flower arranging.”
Q: I set my houseplants outside for the summer. When should I bring them in for the winter?
A: As a general rule, bring them inside when nighttime low temperatures consistently dip into the 50s.
Q: I have just discovered red spider lilies. What can you tell me about them?
A: Red spider lilies (Lycoris radiata) get their name from the shape of the flowers with the stamens radiating from the center like a spider’s legs sticking out. They are also known as “hurricane lilies” because they break dormancy and bloom at the height of hurricane season, their growth triggered by the rains of September and October.
Red spider lilies are easy to grow. The red spider lily we most often see is a triploid form that never sets seed. It grows fast enough even without seeds provided it is planted shallowly and the leaves get sunlight in the winter. The leaves arise after the bulb has bloomed and die back before it blooms again. This growth habit makes red spider lilies good choices for growing in the shade of deciduous trees.
There is an exotic, even other-worldly, quality about red spider lilies in bloom. It is has to do with the unusual, although refined, form of the flower, and that they arise devoid of leaves and pop up almost as fast as mushrooms.
Red spider lily bulbs are available from high-quality garden centers and bulb catalogs, Southern Bulb Company and Old House Gardens, to name two. (Southern Bulb Company, PO Box 350, Golden, TX 75444, Phone: 1-888-285-2486, www.southernbulbs.com. Old House Gardens, 536 Third St., Ann Arbor, MI 48103, Phone: 734-995-1486, www.oldhousegardens.com.) And, of course, don’t forget to check the advertisements or place an ad in the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin or your local newspaper.
Q: Where can I find a corn maze in my area?
A: Check with your county Cooperative Extension office, local chamber of commerce or Georgia Farm Bureau office. You can find various agritourism possibilities, including corn mazes, at our Georgia Grown website (www.georgiagrown.com).
Here is a list of the mazes we know: A-Maz-n Cane, Nashville; Athens Corn Maze, Bogart, www.athenscornmaze.com; Big Springs Farm, Woodstock, www.bigspringsfarms.com; Buck's Corn Maze, Dawsonville; Buford Corn Maze, Buford, www.bufordcornmaze.com; Cagle's Family Farm, Canton, www.caglesfamilyfarm.com; Calhoun Produce, Ashburn, www.calhounproduce.com; Carlton Farms, Rockmart, www.carltonfarm.com; Copper Creek Farm (Huckleshuck's), Calhoun, www.coppercreekfarm.net; Corn Dawgs, Loganville, www.corndawgs.com; Corn on the Cobb, Powder Springs, www.stillfamilyfarm.com; Daisy Adams Farm, Cochran, www.daisyadamsfarm.com; Enchanted Maize Maze at Rock City, Flintstone, www.enchantedmaze.com; Freeman's Family Farm, Sylvania, www.andersonfreemanfarm.com; Freeman Springs Farm, Rocky Face, www.freemanspringsfarm.com; Hamlin Hills Farm, Forsyth, www.hamlinhillsfarm.com; Hillside Orchards, Tiger, www.hillsideorchard.com; Hootie's Corn Maze, Millen, www.hootiesmaze.com; Jaemor Farms, Alto, www.jaemorfarms.com; Kernel Kob Corn Maze; Jasper, www.kernelkobcornmaze.com; Lane Southern Orchards, Fort Valley, www.lanesouthernorchards.com; Madrac Farm, Rincon, www.madracfarms.com; Mitcham Farm, Oxford, www.mitchamfarm.com; Ole McDermitt's Farm, Carrollton, www.olemcdermittsfarm.com; Ottawa Farms, Bloomingdale, www.ottawafarms.com; Payne Farms, Calhoun, www.paynefarm.net; Pettit Creek Farms, Cartersville, www.pettitcreekfarms.com; Poppell Farms, Odum, www.poppellfarms.com; Raisin' Cane, Valdosta, www.raisincanevaldosta.com; Rutland Farms, Tifton, www.rutlandfarms.com; Southern Belle Farms, McDonough, www.southernbellefarm.com; Spring Hill Christmas Tree Farm, Bainbridge, www.springhilltreefarm.com; Steadman Farms, Tallapoosa, www.steadmanfarms.com; Steeds Dairy, Grovetown, www.steedsdairy.com; Sunny Day Farm, Louisville, www.sunnydayfarms.net; The Rock Ranch, The Rock, www.therockranch.com; TroupCorn, Dublin, www.troupcorn.com; Uncle Bob's Tricky Crop Maze, Newnan, www.unclebobspumpkinpatch.com; Uncle Shucks Corn Maze, Dawsonville, www.uncleshucks.com; Warbington Farms, Cumming, www.warbingtonfarms.com; Washington Farms, Watkinsville, www.washingtonfarms.net; and Yahoo Farm, Jasper, www.yahoofarm.com.
Q: I kept two poinsettias from last Christmas and have been pampering them all summer. I know they need special periods of darkness to make them bloom. What do I need to do and when do I do it?
A: A poinsettia needs an uninterrupted dark period at night to trigger it to form its colorful bracts. For eight to 10 weeks beginning the first of October, the plant must be kept in total darkness for 14 continuous hours each and every night. Keep the plant in darkness by moving it to a closet or covering it with a large box. Any interruption of the dark period with any kind of light such as turning on the closet light or removing the plant’s cover will delay flowering. Even car headlights can disrupt the process. During the weeks the poinsettia is given the dark treatment at night, the plant must also receive six to eight hours of bright sunlight during the day. Depending on the response time of the particular variety, the poinsettia will come into full bloom during November or December.
Q: I was told firewood could only be sold by the cord. What exactly is a cord?
A: According to regulations, wood of any type sold as fuel for fireplaces or stoves must be sold by the cord, fraction of a cord or cubic measure. A cord is defined as 128 cubic feet of wood stacked by the line or row in a compact manner with individual pieces touching. The cord can be four feet high, four feet wide (deep) and eight feet long, or any combination of these measurements (height, width and length) that yield 128 cubic feet of firewood (4 ft. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. = 128 cubic feet). Although consumers easily can measure the height and length of a cord of wood, they should pay particular attention to the width (depth) of the cord. Since it is impractical to cut firewood into lengths of four feet for most uses, consumers likely will want the wood in more manageable lengths of 24 or 16 inches for use in fireplaces and stoves. Therefore, for wood stacked in rows four feet high and eight feet long, it will take two rows of 24-inch wood or three rows of 16-inch wood to provide a width (depth) of four feet (48 inches).
Consumers may find firewood sold in small bundles or shrink-wrapped packages at convenience stores and other retail outlets. However, the Georgia Department of Agriculture requires that the quantity of the firewood be clearly displayed on the package in terms of cubic measure so the consumer will know the exact amount of wood purchased.
Some firewood sellers state in their ads that the selling price includes stacking the wood. If the seller does stack the firewood upon delivery, consumers are advised to check the dimensions of the stacked wood before completing the transaction to ensure they have the quantity of wood they agreed to purchase. Any discrepancies can then be resolved before the sale is completed and the seller leaves the premises.
If a seller does not advertise that he will stack the wood when it is delivered, the consumer should be prepared to stack the wood upon delivery in order to verify the quantity before completing the sale.
Q: I heard on a radio show that gardeners should plant more “minor bulbs” to bloom in spring. What is a minor bulb?
A: Daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are the three spring-blooming bulbs that occupy the most space in gardens, catalogs and garden center shelves. “Minor bulb” is an unfortunate term used to refer to everything else. “Minor” does not refer to the size of the flowers or the impact they can have in your garden.
Some of the spring-blooming bulbs that are lumped into this group are crocus, scilla, muscari, allium, anemone, camassia, snowdrops, leucojum, dichelostemma and triteleia. Perhaps a better term would be “lesser-known bulbs.” There are not as many varieties of these as there are of the “big three,” but they are certainly worth considering to add more diversity to your garden.
Q: One hummingbird is dominating my feeder and driving the other hummers away. What can I do? There is plenty for them all to eat. I never thought I would be angry at a hummingbird, but I am angry at this greedy little bully.
A: Don’t be angry. The hummingbird that is chasing away the others is not being greedy or mean; it is doing what it is programmed to do. In nature, nectar is a valued resource that is worth defending. Humans have been feeding hummingbirds for a very short time, and hummingbirds have no concept that another creature on this earth is willing to make an endless supply of sugar water for them. We have a hard enough time teaching children or even other adults to share, get along and think about what they are doing. We shouldn’t expect a little bird to ignore its instincts and behave better than we do. Also remember that we cannot determine the reason for everything in nature. Perhaps all this chasing and fighting serves a purpose by building the strength and stamina of the little birds and helps them on their long migration. We should accept their behavior and not criticize it.
Having said that, here are a few things you can do to make sure more than just the dominant hummingbird gets to feed:
One: Place one or more feeders out of sight of the original feeder, perhaps on the other side of your house or around the corner but where you can also see them. Even a fast hummer can’t be two places at once or see through walls.
Two: Place several additional feeders in the area where one bird is dominating. The more feeders there are, the harder it will be for one hummer to patrol them all and keep other birds away. Also, the more hummingbirds there are, the less likely one bird will be able to exercise crowd control. When there are numerous hummingbirds feeding at flowers and nearby feeders, the dominant bird may realize it cannot drive all the birds away at once and that other birds will be there feeding while it is chasing one bird away.
Three: Plant lots of flowers for hummingbirds. These not only provide multiple sources of food, but they act as colorful advertising signs flashing “Eat Here” that will lure hummingbirds. The more hummers you have, the less likely one bird will be able to dominate.
Remember that by having multiple feeders, you must be more diligent about regular cleaning to prevent disease and spoilage. Also remember that, in many cases, the dominating hummingbird is migrating through the area and will not be there long. Be patient.
Q: What can you tell me about oxblood lilies? They look like miniature amaryllises and bloom in late summer.
A: Oxblood lily goes by the botanical name Rhodophiala bifida, although some sources list it as Hippeastrum advenum. It is also called “schoolhouse lily” because it blooms at the beginning of the school year.
Durable and undemanding, oxblood lily deserves to be planted more frequently than it is. Although not as large (11 to 14 inches tall with blooms two to three inches long) as its amaryllis cousins, oxblood lily produces numerous blooms per stalk in a color equal to its name. There is also a less common pink form.
Oxblood lilies thrive in full sun to half shade and in any soil as long as it is not soggy. You may find them sold at specialty garden centers. Here are a few mail-order sources if you cannot find them locally:
Southern Bulb Company
P.O. Box 350
Golden, TX 75444
Old House Gardens
536 Third St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Yucca Do Nursery
P.O. Box 1039
Giddings, TX 78942
-- Arty Schronce
Consumer Q's is a weekly question and answer column written by Arty Schronce. If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov.