Ga Dept of Agriculture


December Consumer Q's

Q: When is the Flavor of Georgia contest? Are they still accepting entries? I want to enter one of my company’s products.
A: The entry deadline is Feb. 10, 2012 for the annual Flavor of Georgia food product contest, an annual celebration of all the flavors the state has to offer. Product entry opened on November 1 for the 2012 contest and final judging will be held March 12-13, 2012 at the Georgia Freight Depot, Atlanta, during the Governor’s annual Ag Awareness Week.
     Featured are commercially available food products or market-ready prototypes that are judged by a panel of food experts. Categories for the contest are as follows; barbecue and hot sauces; confections; dairy products; jams, jellies, and sauces; meat and seafood products; and snack foods.  Entries are judged on flavor, best use of Georgia ingredients and theme, unique or innovative qualities, commercial appeal and originality.
     Each product will be charged a $50 entry fee, and must be registered separately. For further information, call 706-583-0347 or register online at
     The Flavor of Georgia food product contest is sponsored by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development in partnership with the Center of Innovation for Agribusiness, Office of Gov. Nathan Deal, Walton EMC, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Agribusiness Council, and the UGA EAES Department of Food Science and Technology.

Q: I recently received a seed catalog. Several of the vegetables and flowers were All-America Selections winners. What does this mean?
A: An All-America Selections (AAS) award means the vegetables and flowers have been grown in trial gardens throughout the United States and Canada and found to have superior performance evaluated under home gardening conditions. Both vegetables and flowers are awarded points by professional judges at the trial gardens on the basis of certain quality factors. Vegetables must have superior taste and texture, produce abundant yields and be resistant to multiple diseases. Flowers must be uniform in plant size, exhibit good bloom formation, possess good color intensity and be resistant to insects and diseases. For more information about the All-America Selections program, visit
     When you plant an All-America Selections winner, you can be assured it is among the best in its class and will perform under a wide range of conditions. However, many excellent varieties may not be selected for an AAS award because they perform well in one area of the country and not another or because the seed company cannot produce enough seed to qualify for the program.    
     The AAS program began in 1933. Some of the most popular winners over the years include ‘Clemson Spineless’ okra (1939), ‘Torch’ tithonia (1951), ‘Champion’ radish (1957), ‘Green Comet’ broccoli (1969), ‘Stonehead’ cabbage (1969), ‘Waltham’ butternut squash (1970), ‘Sugar Snap’ pea (1979), ‘Purple Ruffles’ basil (1987), ‘Honey ‘N Pearl’ sweet corn (1988), ‘Tango’ impatiens (1989) and ‘Lady in Red’ salvia (1992). Winners for 2012 are ‘Cayennetta’ pepper, ‘Black Olive’ ornamental pepper, ‘Summer Jewel Pink’ salvia and ‘Faerie’ watermelon.

Q: What are salad herbs? What is a mesclun mix?
A: There is not one set definition for either. One definition of a salad herb is any herb that can be used in a salad or to make a salad dressing. Examples are basil, thyme, dill and parsley. Another definition for salad herb is any green leafy plant eaten as a salad. Today, we generally think of them as those plants other than the conventional salad greens, such as lettuce or cabbage. Some of these may be too peppery or intense to eat as the sole ingredient of a salad, or perhaps they have a shorter season or are not as productive as a bed or row of lettuce. In years past some were prized, not just for their flavor, but as spring tonics. Examples of salad herbs include arugula, dandelion, horseradish (the chopped leaves), mache or corn salad, Japanese mustard, sorrel, endive, lamb’s quarters and salad burnet.
     Mesclun is a mix of young salad greens. Some seed companies sell different kinds of mescluns to sow as a garden patch. These seed mixes may contain arugula, various leaf lettuces and some of the herbs/greens listed above. Mescluns are also sold at grocery stores as a mix of greens ready to eat. Often these mixes contain numerous kinds of leaf lettuces, young beet leaves and arugula. There is not set definition of what can be sold as a mesclun either in seed packets or as a ready-to-eat product at the grocery store.

Q: What are some sources of monounsaturated fats? I heard I should eat more of them.
A: Monounsaturated fats are found in the largest amounts in olive, canola and peanut oils. For help with your diet, see your doctor, a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

Q: What are chill hours? I heard peaches have to have a certain amount of them.
A: Some plants require a certain amount of cold weather in order to bloom properly in the spring. Among fruit trees and other horticultural crops this accumulation of cold is counted in “chill hours,” or hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit in the fall and winter. In most years, this cold requirement protects the plants from blooming too early. If plants bloom early, it is more likely that the blossoms or fruit will be killed by a late-winter or early spring freeze. Most peaches grown in Georgia need between 400 and 700 chill hours to break dormancy and bloom.

Q: What can you tell me about star-of-Bethlehem? Is it easy to grow?
A: Several species of plants in the genus Ornithogalum are called star-of-Bethlehem. The one you are most likely to see growing in Georgia is Ornithogalum umbellatum. It is a bulbous plant that produces star-shaped, silvery white flowers on stalks four to six inches tall in late spring (alas, not Christmas or Epiphany.) It is very easy to grow. In fact, it will naturalize in lawns or in other places in the garden. Some people like this trait, while others consider the plant weedy. Its durability makes it a good choice for cemetery plantings and sidewalk strips. Its thin, grassy foliage is attractive. It is a good companion for azaleas, rhododendrons, daffodils, ferns and Lenten roses. Although easy to grow, star-of-Bethlehem is more difficult to find for sale than other bulbs such as daffodils or tulips. At some nurseries you may find it for sale in pots like a perennial plant. You should also look for it in the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin, a good source of many pass-along and old-fashioned flowers.

Q: My eucalyptus up and died for no reason. Why? I saw no signs of disease or any insect pests. I live in Atlanta.
A: Eucalyptuses, even the hardiest species, are not considered long-term plants in north Georgia. They have a difficult time adapting to our cold weather and temperature swings. Also, when it is warm and water is available they want to grow, even if it is a warm spell in December. When a freeze comes, it is damaged or killed because it is more susceptible to cold due to not being fully dormant. Root rots caused by fungi may have led to your plant’s demise. Because the damage is happening underground, you don’t always notice it.
     A Georgia Department of Agriculture employee planted one of the hardiest species of eucalyptus 17 years ago in Atlanta. It survived and eventually reached past the top of a three-story building nearby. This summer it also died suddenly. While 17 years can be a long time, your grandchildren will be able to sit under the oak you planted this fall and perhaps even cut flowers from the peonies you planted. They’ll probably have to plant their own eucalyptus, however.
     All that being said, eucalyptuses, with their fragrant and silvery blue foliage, can be interesting and beautiful additions to a garden. Although they may not live as long as an oak or a peony, they can live as long as some other perennials and shrubs. Site yours in an area where it is protected from winter winds. Make sure it has well-drained soil. Mulch it. Do not give it any fertilizer or extra water in the fall – you do not want to encourage it to be actively growing when a freeze comes. 
     Two of the hardiest species are believed to be Eucalyptus gunnii and Eucalyptus nivalis although there can be much variation considering the provenance of the seed or cuttings. Often no species name is given when a eucalyptus plant is sold. Lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) is commonly sold in nurseries because of its lemony fragrance. It is considered hardy to 20 degrees F.
     There is much experimentation to be done by home gardeners to find the best eucalyptuses for our gardens and the best way to grow them throughout Georgia.

Q: Will there be another Youth Equine Champions Day at the Capitol like last year?
A: Yes. The celebration is scheduled for February 7th, 2012. The event will honor young people (19 and under) who qualified and participated in regional, national and world championship horse shows as well as Georgia State Champions. Georgia State Champions include all first-place winners in the Pony, 1-12 and 13-19 age groups from the Georgia Federation State Show. Those interested in attending need to contact John Clements, Georgia Equine Commission, at or call 404-863-2173.

Q: What exactly is the “danger zone” that cooks refer to when discussing food safety?
A: The danger zone is the temperature range between 40 and 140 degrees F. in which bacteria can grow rapidly. To keep food out of the danger zone, keep cold food cold, at or below 40 degrees F., and hot food hot, at or above 140 degrees F. Keep cold food in the refrigerator, in coolers or in containers on ice. Keep hot cooked food in the oven, in heated chafing dishes or in pre-heated steam tables, warming trays and/or slow cookers. Use a food thermometer to verify temperatures. Never leave food in the danger zone more than two hours or one hour if the outside temperature is above 90 degrees F.

Q: My neighbor has a potted Christmas tree he bought that is a variety of Arizona cypress. He says he plans to plant it outside. Will this tree from Arizona grow in Georgia?
A: Yes. Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica) is native to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico, but it grows just fine in the Peach State. Georgia nurseries and Christmas tree farms sell varieties of Arizona cypress for cutting and for planting in the landscape. Three popular varieties are ‘Carolina Sapphire,’ ‘Blue Ice’ and ‘Silver Smoke.’ The names give you some idea about their color – a beautiful silvery blue like the finest Colorado blue spruce. Generally, Colorado blue spruce doesn’t perform well in Georgia, so Arizona cypress can be used in its place. In fact, the Georgia Department of Agriculture is using a Georgia Grown Arizona cypress as its Christmas tree this year.
Q: How many hollies are native to Georgia?
A: Numerous hollies occur naturally in Georgia. They are American holly (Ilex opaca), yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), winterberry (Ilex verticillata), smooth winterberry (Ilex laevigata), possumhaw (Ilex decidua), inkberry or gallberry (Ilex glabra), large gallberry (Ilex coriacea), dahoon (Ilex cassine) and sarvis holly (Ilex amelanchier). Of these, American holly may be the most well-known; it is the most “traditional” from a Christmas point of view with its evergreen, prickly leaves and red berries. In Georgia landscapes, yaupon is the most widely planted native holly. It is beloved for its translucent red berries and lustrous, dark green foliage. It has weeping and dwarf forms. ‘Savannah’ holly is a hybrid between dahoon and American holly. There are also hybrids between our native winterberry and the Japanese winterberry (Ilex serrata).
    Some of our native hollies are deciduous and some are evergreen. Some have red berries and some have black berries. All are worth considering for the home landscape (although sarvis holly is not commonly available at nurseries) and all are suitable for yuletide decorating.
    Numerous non-native hollies also thrive in Georgia and are valuable in our gardens and for decorating our homes. Among them are Japanese holly (Ilex crenata), Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta), lusterleaf holly (Ilex latifolia), longstalk holly (Ilex pedunculosa) and numerous hybrids such as ‘Nellie R. Stevens’ holly (a cross between English holly and Chinese holly.) The popular ‘Burford’ holly is a form of Chinese holly with single-prickle leaves that was discovered in Atlanta’s Westview Cemetery around 1900.
    Although both native and non-native hollies normally have red or black berries, there are varieties of almost every species with yellow or orange berries. A few of the evergreen varieties have variegated leaves if you are looking for even more color.
    Hollies are different from most flowering plants in that they have male and female flowers, and the flowers are on separate plants. Berries are borne on female plants after they have been pollinated with pollen from a male holly plant. A few varieties of hollies are self-fruitful. Another interesting thing about hollies is that they can be pollinated by the pollen from an entirely different species of holly. A horticulturist at a nursery or garden center will help explain the pollination needs of your particular holly.
    Happy hollydays!

Q: Does the Georgia Department of Agriculture test kerosene?
A: Yes. Our most important test of kerosene is the flashpoint test. This test makes sure the kerosene has not been accidentally mixed with gasoline and become potentially unsafe. A small amount of gasoline will lower the flashpoint substantially and can make the kerosene too volatile to use. We also test for water, sulfur and other impurities.    

Q: What are the main dairy cow breeds in Georgia?
A: We have a little of everything including crossbreeds, but Holstein and Jersey are the two main breeds.

Q. For the past two weeks (mid-November) I have been finding these flat, red and black bugs in my office. A co-worker identified them as boxelder bugs and a reference book confirmed the identity. How can I get rid of them? Will removing any boxelder trees nearby help?
A: When cool weather arrives, boxelder bugs start looking for a warm place to spend the winter. Your office, as dreary as it may seem to you on Monday morning, is the boxelder bug’s idea of Miami Beach. The same is true of your home or garage. Boxelder bugs may become a nuisance during autumn when they cluster in large numbers on the sides of buildings and often find their way inside. The bugs are not dangerous, but if crushed they may stain walls and carpets and produce a foul odor. The main solution is exclusion. Seal windows, doorframes and any openings the bugs can crawl through. Sweep or vacuum the bugs. Make sure to empty the bag immediately so they don’t crawl out. Boxelder bugs feed primarily on seed-bearing boxelder trees, but they feed on many other plants as well. Also, they can fly up to two miles, so removing a boxelder tree is probably not going to offer much relief and can be costly if it is a large tree.

Q: Are poinsettias poisonous?
A: Poinsettias are not considered poisonous and are not dangerous to have around the house. Every year someone starts the untrue rumor that they are. You can buy a poinsettia and enjoy its beauty without worrying about it harming you or your pets. Place a poinsettia anywhere that could use some floral holiday cheer: churches, schools, kindergartens, nursing homes – even as the centerpiece on your dining room table. Although the poinsettia is not considered poisonous, it is not edible either. So don’t think of using one in a colorful Christmas salad. Here is a link to more information from the Mayo Clinic:
     Here’s another bit of good news. There are more varieties of poinsettias than ever. If you only think of red poinsettias, visit a nursery, garden center or florist. You can even find some new and unusual varieties at your grocery store. Poinsettias available from Georgia growers may be red, pink, salmon, white or cream. Some are speckled or marbled or have other patterns on their bracts (the colorful structures that look like petals.) A few even have variegated leaves. Other recent introductions include ones with serrated bracts or with curled bracts that make the poinsettia look like a giant rose.