Question: How long can I leave a raw, unshelled egg out of the refrigerator before I cook it?
Answer: Eggs should not be left out of the refrigerator more than two hours; one hour if the air temperature is 90 degrees F or above. After eggs are refrigerated, they need to remain in the refrigerator. A cold egg left out at room temperature can “sweat” (become wet on the outside), facilitating the growth of bacteria.
Q: What exactly is pumpkin pie spice? Is there anything I can do with it besides make pies?
A: Pumpkin pie spice is not one specific spice but a mixture of spices usually consisting of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Some brands may include allspice and mace. Recipes may list pumpkin pie spice as an ingredient and others may list spices individually to allow the cook to have more flexibility and originality. Indeed, some cooks prefer buying and using individual spices rather than buying them pre-mixed.
Although you may think of pumpkin pie spice in a sweet dessert context, it can be used in savory dishes as well. Try it on roasted winter squash, parsnips, carrots or sweet potatoes. Use it on roasted Georgia Grown pecans; you can make them sweet or salty. Sprinkle a little on popcorn. Use it to top your creamed coffee or latte.
Experiment; don’t just leave that jar in the drawer until next fall!
Q: Is it true you can foretell the severity of the winter by looking at the bands on a wooly worm? Also, is it dangerous or a pest? Does it become a butterfly?
A: The wooly worm, also known as the wooly bear caterpillar or, more precisely, the banded wooly bear caterpillar is a familiar fuzzy caterpillar with a center brown section with black sections at the front and back ends.
According to folklore, if a woolly worm's brown section is wide, the winter will be mild and if the brown section is narrow, the winter will be severe. This belief, while fun and interesting, does not hold up to scientific scrutiny.
The wooly worm can feed on many different kinds of plants, but is not a garden or agricultural pest. It is not dangerous although some people have reported experiencing dermatitis after handling them.
Caterpillars do not remain caterpillars forever. The wooly worm/wooly bear overwinters as a caterpillar and pupates in the spring to become the Isabella tiger moth. Although the adult form of the caterpillar has a regal name and is an attractive moth, it is not as well-known as its lovable, larval form. See photos at http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Pyrrharctia-isabella.
Q: I have just divided my daylilies and have numerous clumps that I hate to throw away or put on the compost pile. Do you know anyone who would want them?
A: Contact local 4-H clubs or garden clubs; the members may want them for their own gardens or for landscaping projects. Some clubs may be planting traffic islands, community centers or parks and could use more plants, especially something as beautiful and versatile as daylilies. Your county Cooperative Extension office may be able put you in touch with one or more of these clubs and offer other ideas as well.
Contact local schools; they may be starting a garden and would appreciate them. Churches are another option. If you are a subscriber to the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin, (http://agr.georgia.gov/market-bulletin.aspx) you can place a free ad announcing that you have daylilies to share.
Q: Are peanuts a root crop?
A: Not really. Although they develop underground, peanuts are not roots themselves and are not attached to the peanut plant’s root system. The peanut begins as a flower above ground. After pollination, the pedicel (flower stalk) begins to extend and a “peg” begins to form. This peg buries itself in the ground and becomes a peanut.
Peanuts have a fascinating life cycle. No other crop we grow is like it. For more information see:
Q: How many times can I reheat foods?
A: Because the quality decreases each time food is reheated, it is best to reheat just the amount needed. Leftover cooked food may be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. During this time, you can reheat the leftovers to 165 degrees F but return any unused portion to the refrigerator within two hours. Cooked foods that cannot be used within four days should be frozen for longer, safe storage.
Q: I saw white sweet potatoes at the grocery store. Are these new?
A: White sweet potatoes are not new, although they are not as familiar as orange ones. There are hundreds of sweet potato varieties including some that have white, cream or yellow flesh. Sweet potato varieties may differ in sweetness, flavor, texture, nutrient content, storage life as well as in the color of their flesh and skin. Some of these non-orange varieties can even be substituted for Irish potatoes to make potato salad and other dishes. That makes them valuable in areas too hot to grow Irish potatoes.
You will be more likely to find some of the more unusual varieties by visiting specialty grocery stores or farmers markets. If you come across some of these varieties, give them a try; you may find a new favorite.
To read more about some of the different varieties of sweet potatoes check out the following websites: http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/catalog/sweet_potatoes.html and http://www.sweetpotatoes.com/About/VarietiesandBotanicalInformation.aspx.
Q: My best friend was given a Pewabic snowdrop vase. Can we grow snowdrops in Georgia? If so, I want to give her some so she can grow them to put in her new vase.
A: Yes, snowdrops can grow in Georgia with some caveats. Depending on the species and variety, they may bloom from late fall to spring. The bulbs are available from specialty garden centers and mail-order catalogs. They are not as familiar as daffodils or tulips, but deserve to be more widely known.
The one that is reported to do the best in the South is the Elwes snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii), also known as the giant snowdrop. It is supposed to be more heat tolerant than the common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis). Gardeners in north Georgia can try both kinds, and anyone growing either of them should plant them in deep, well-drained soil and summer shade.
Gardeners in south and coastal Georgia may want to grow snowflakes (Leucojum spp.) instead of snowdrops. Snowflakes are another bulb with white flowers. They thrive in all of Georgia and are more common here than snowdrops. Go ahead and get some of them for your friend as well; they’ll both look good in her garden and in her new vase.
If you don’t see the bulbs you want at your local garden center, order them soon. For photos and information on some of the different types check out these websites: https://store.brentandbeckysbulbs.com/spring/genus.php?genusid=24
With their unique form, it is easy to see why an artist would design a vase with a snowdrop motif: http://www.pewabicstore.org/browse.cfm/4,44.html
And, of course, always buy your snowdrop bulbs from reputable sources to make sure they are not collected from the wild.
Q: A friend sent photos of the blue butterflies now at the butterfly house at Callaway Gardens. Can I attract this butterfly to my garden?
A: This month the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens is filled entirely with blue morpho butterflies, one of the most spectacular butterflies in the world due to its large size and brilliant blue wings. The blue morpho is native to the rainforests of Central and South America and cannot survive here. So to see them you’ll need to go to Callaway. (Pine Mountain is a lot closer than Brazil!)
If you long for your own version of the blue morpho, why not plant to attract the red-spotted purple butterfly? (It is curiously named, as its spots are more orange than red, and it is more blue than purple.) Its caterpillars feed on species of cherry, oak, hawthorn, birch, willow, basswood, hornbeam and sarvisberry. The adult butterflies feed at numerous kinds of flowers and also feed at rotting apples, pawpaws and other fruits.
The pipevine swallowtail has iridescent blue on its wings and may also remind you of the blue morpho. Attract it to your garden by planting pipevines.
Although we don’t have any butterflies as blue as the blue morpho, Georgia has many beautiful butterflies, and there are plants available at your local garden center or nursery that can attract them to your garden. Fall is one of the best times to plant trees, shrubs and perennials that serve as nectar plants and larval host plants for butterflies.
For more information about the blue morphos at Callaway Gardens, visit http://www.callawaygardens.com/events/education-and-culture/blue-morpho-month. There is also a butterfly garden at Callaway, so check that out if you visit to get ideas for your own garden.
Q: I am pulling up sweet potato vines. Is it safe to feed them to my goats?
A: It may be unsafe for you if you stand between the goats and the vines! The goats will relish them and not waste any time running to get to them. However, don’t overdo it by feeding your goats a lot of something they are not accustomed to eating. All things in moderation, even for goats…. And, of course, don’t feed anything that has been recently sprayed with pesticides. Contact your county Cooperative Extension agent for more specific information.
Q: Which is hotter – a Korean pepper or a Thai pepper?
A: On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the hottest, Korean peppers rate 6-7, and Thai peppers rate 7-8. Other common hot peppers rate as follows: cherry 1-5; ancho/poblano 3; wax 3-8; jalapeno 5-6; serrano 6-7; cayenne 8; tabasco 8-9; Scotch bonnet 9-10 and habanero 10. The heat in hot peppers can fluctuate depending on where and how they were grown and among different varieties within the type of pepper.
There are more differences between peppers than just how hot they are, however. They have different flavors. These flavors can also vary depending on how ripe the pepper is when harvested and whether it is fresh or dried.
If you are experimenting with hot peppers, keep milk nearby. Drinking milk or eating a dairy product such as ice cream or yogurt will help quell the burning if you are not used to eating hot, spicy foods or if you get a pepper that is a little hotter than you expected.
Q: When I was a child, an older person showed me how to make a “frog” using the leaf from a flower in her garden. The leaf was fleshy. She pressed the leaf and blew into it. It inflated like a frog’s throat. Do you know what kind of flower this was?
A: It was probably the showy sedum, also called showy stonecrop (Hylotelephium spectabile, formerly Sedum spectabile). It could have been a similar sedum/stonecrop species such as Hylotelephium telephium.
The interior of the leaves is fleshy, but they have a cellophane-like skin. Gently press and rub a leaf between your fingers to get the skin and the interior to separate. Then blow into the torn part of the leaf. It will inflate like a croaking frog. This is also called making a “frog belly” and a “doll’s hot water bottle.” Here is a video we found of someone doing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHya41yCpeI
These sedums are commonly available in garden centers and nurseries. Popular varieties include ‘Autumn Joy’ and ‘Brilliant.’ They are easy to grow.
Q: How long will a whole watermelon keep? We had a lot to ripen at one time. I set some in the basement and some under a shade tree. It has been several weeks. Do you think they are still good?
A: Fresh is best for flavor and overall quality. We don’t know of anyone who has conducted extensive and conclusive scientific or taste tests on the storage life of watermelons. Generally, a whole melon will save longer than one that has been cut, however. Melons stored too long will rot as will any fruit or vegetable. Before rotting, there is a deterioration of the texture of the watermelon beginning in the area where the seeds are. The heart and rind area may still be palatable, but the experience is certainly not as rewarding as when fresh.
We know of people who have kept watermelons until Christmas and New Year’s, but they were not as good as at their prime. Also, you may not have a taste for watermelon in the season of egg nog and traditional Yuletide treats, and watermelon is not as refreshing in winter as it is in the heat of summer.
Of course, if you have doubts about the safety of any food, it is best to throw it out than to get sick.
And why don't you try sharing? We know lots of people who would like to have a homegrown watermelon! There is no need for a Georgia Grown watermelon to go bad!
Q: Is it possible to substitute pecans for pine nuts or walnuts in a pesto recipe? Pine nuts are expensive, and I like to use Georgia products when I can.
A: Yes, it is possible to use Georgia pecans in your pesto instead of pine nuts or walnuts. The pecans may be toasted or used raw. Because pecans taste different than pine nuts and walnuts, make a small batch at first to see how it compares with what you are used to and to be sure you have just the right mix of basil leaves, nuts, Parmesan or Romano cheese, garlic cloves and olive oil.
-- Arty Schronce
For more information, please write Arty Schronce, 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Agriculture Building, Room 128, Atlanta, GA, 30334 or call 404-656-3656.