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Georgia Department of Agriculture

Consumer Q's August 2012

Q: Do I need a license to sell honey from my hive at a farmers market?

A: Georgia beekeepers are not required to obtain a Food Sales Establishment License if they process and retail their own honey on their own premises, on a door-to-door retail route, or at an established place of business owned and managed by the producer and the honey is sold directly to a household consumer as the end user. This includes selling directly to consumers at fairs, festivals and farmers markets.  If you want to sell to a grocery store chain, you will need to be licensed. For more information contact our Food Safety Division at 404-656-3627.

Q: Will red okra keep its color when cooked? I know purple snap beans will turn green.

A: Red okra will also turn green when cooked. You can enjoy its color by slicing it crosswise and using it raw in salads with tomatoes, Vidalia onions, sweet peppers and other vegetables. 

Q: Do figs need to be peeled?

A: It depends on your preference and how you are using the figs. Some jam recipes, for example, may specify peeling. The skin is kept on for roasting or for hors d’oeuvres such as figs wrapped with prosciutto or bacon or stuffed with cream cheese or goat cheese. For fresh eating, most people eat the entire fig, often while standing next to their own fig bush or tree.
      If you do not care for the taste or texture of the skin, it is easily peeled away. When a fig is very ripe, you may be able to pull the skin away from one side of a fig starting at the stem end similar to the way you peel a banana. You then eat the exposed flesh. The ease with which the skin separates from the flesh can vary with ripeness and the variety of the fig. A paring knife or other sharp knife is all that is needed to slice or cut away the skin of a fig if you are taking that route. Practice makes perfect! If you feel clumsy, just keep at it. Fresh figs are healthy and delicious. However you choose to eat them is fine.
      Because of their short shelf life, you may not see many figs at supermarkets but can find locally grown figs at farmers markets, especially in late summer. Figs are easy to grow in a home garden setting. Georgia nurseries offer numerous varieties. Try growing them yourself.

Q: Why would anyone buy butterflyweed? I saw it for sale at a nursery. I see it growing beside the highway. Why not just dig it up?

A: With its intense orange flowers, butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is one of our most beautiful native perennials. The fact that you notice it while travelling down the highway is proof that it can grab people’s attention – and can grab it at practically any speed they are travelling. Butterflyweed also attracts the attention of migrating Monarchs and lures these magnificent butterflies into your garden. A plant thriving unaided on the roadside is also proof of its durability and drought tolerance, desirable traits in any flower. Nurseries sell, and people buy, butterflyweed because of these attributes.
       Digging up butterflyweed from alongside the road is generally not a good idea for several reasons. The plant has a tuberous root that, if damaged, greatly decreases the plant’s chances of survival. The plant is often growing in hard clay which is difficult to dig in and increases the chances of damaging the plant. You are taking something that doesn’t belong to you off public or private property. Depending on the traffic and the location, you or your vehicle could be hit by another vehicle.
Buying a butterflyweed is easier, safer and better than digging one up from along the road. Leave roadside flowers for everyone to enjoy. 

Q: What is West Nile Virus?

A: West Nile Virus (WNV) is one of several viruses spread by mosquitoes. Infection with WNV does not always result in clinical disease. Studies have shown that normally only a small percentage of humans infected with the virus will show symptoms of disease and even fewer will develop any serious complications. The disease caused by WNV is very similar to St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) but is generally milder. SLE has been in Georgia for many years and WNV for more than a decade. Human infections with these mosquito-borne viruses are rare and people can further reduce the risk by taking measures to avoid mosquito bites.
     To avoid getting mosquito bites, use mosquito repellent according to label directions. Repellents containing DEET are most effective. Minimize time spent outdoors when mosquitoes are most active (usually dusk and dawn.) Wear clothing to cover exposed skin when outside in mosquito-infested areas. Screen windows and doors to prevent mosquitoes from entering. Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed. Water in pet dishes and birdbaths should be changed every couple days.

Q: Will there be another Georgia Grown Farmer Showcase?

A: Yes. Due to overwhelming popularity, there will be a third Georgia Grown Farmer Showcase on Saturday, September 15th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Atlanta State Farmers Market. The first two in June and July brought dozens of vendors selling vegetables, fruits, vegetables, meats, multicolored eggs, meats, beef and pork jerky, apple juice and apple products, alpaca yarn and products, cheeses, plants and flowers, jams, jellies, honey, bread and more. Georgia Grown T-shirts (in an assortment of fruit and vegetable colors) will also be available for sale. For information contact Paul Thompson at 404-675-1782. The Atlanta State Farmers Market is at 16 Forest Parkway, Forest Park.

Q: Someone told me fleas can lead to tapeworms. Is this true?

A: Cat fleas sometimes carry an intestinal parasite called dog tapeworm, Diphylidium caninum. The dog tapeworm lives in the intestinal tracts of dogs, cats and sometimes humans. These long, flattened worms consist of up to 200 body segments (called proglottids) and may grow to 12 inches long.
     When mature, these segments detach from the main body of the tapeworm and wriggle from the anus of an infected animal. Fresh tapeworm segments are opaque white or pinkish white, flat and somewhat rectangular. When dry, the segments are yellow or off-white, less than 1/16th inch long, rice-shaped sacs. Each sac contains tapeworm eggs. Tapeworm egg sacs are frequently seen attached to hairs around the pet’s anus, in feces or in the bedding of infested pets.
     Flea larvae feed on tapeworm egg sacs. Once inside the flea, the tapeworm eggs hatch and the flea becomes infested. Infested adult fleas carry a stage of the tapeworm that can mature and multiply if the flea is swallowed by a pet. During grooming, pets often ingest such tapeworm-infected fleas. Once released into the pet’s digestive tract, tapeworms mature into adult forms.
     On rare occasions, small children may ingest fleas and become infested in this way. If you see proglottids in your pet’s feces or bedding, take your pet to a veterinarian. A vet can prescribe pills or injections to safely treat for tapeworms in pets.

Q: Is it true that a termite has a living organism in its body to help it digest wood? 

A: Termites feed on wood, but the termites themselves do not actually digest it. Instead, there are microorganisms living inside the termite's digestive system. These microorganisms break down the wood inside the termite into products they both can digest.

Q: Will watering plants on a hot, sunny day scorch the leaves?

A: No. The notion that you will burn, scorch or otherwise harm plants if you water them while the sun is shining on a hot, summer day is a myth. If wet plants, heat and sunshine were a dangerous combination, the tropical rainforests of the world would be filled with damaged plants.
    Probably the ideal time to water your garden is in the early morning since you will lose less water due to evaporation than watering in the heat of the day (especially if you are using a sprinkler), and watering in the evening can encourage fungal diseases. However, you will not hurt your plants by watering them when it is hot and sunny, and a plant that is wilted needs to be watered immediately, no matter what the time nor weather.

Q: Do we grow pears in Georgia?

A: We are not a major commercial pear producer, but people grow pears in their home gardens, and you may find some locally grown pears for sale at farmers markets. You can eat Georgia pears fresh, baked, grilled or poached or use them to make relish, chutney, marmalade, pear butter and various desserts. 

Q: I can’t get impatiens to re-seed. They used to re-seed all the time. Have the growers bred the seed pods out of them? Where can I find durable, old-fashioned impatiens that (I hope) will set seeds?

A: Growers and plant breeders have not bred the ability to produce seeds out of impatiens, although double-flowered impatiens may not set seed readily and hybrid varieties will not come back looking like their parents. Most, if not all, of the impatiens sold at garden centers are raised from seed, and impatiens remain a popular item in seed catalogs.
Impatiens often re-seed themselves, especially if there is moist ground available and the seed pods are allowed to mature. Too much mulch could keep seeds from sprouting. A thick coat of pine bark mulch can help prevent weeds, but it can prevent some of our flowers from sprouting, too.
    Seed pods on impatiens look like fat, green bananas with ribs like a cantaloupe. Leave some of these on your plants. It is always a good idea to collect some seeds and sow them in the spring in case the plants you have do not self-sow where you want them to. Be sure you are not accidentally weeding out any of your baby impatiens when you cultivate the area.
You might want to become a Market Bulletin subscriber ($5 for an online subscription and $10 for the print version.) Subscribers can place free advertisements to sell or request items. There is one category named “Flowers Wanted.” If you place an ad for “re-seeding impatiens,” you will probably find numerous gardeners willing to share their impatiens with you.  Here is the link for more information:

Q: What are lady peas? I saw some at the farmers market. The farmer described his other peas as crowder peas. I was unfamiliar with that term as well. I have seen dried peas, but never any sold fresh like these.

A: You saw two types of field peas. Field peas are also called Southern peas and cowpeas. They have long pods and are more closely related to beans than to English peas. The most familiar field pea is the black-eyed pea.
       You may find canned, frozen or dried field peas in grocery stores or fresh ones at farmers markets. You may see them for sale already hulled or be able to buy a bushel and shell them yourself. The main harvest season for field peas in Georgia runs from June through October. We grow numerous varieties in the state. Field peas are a traditional favorite in the South because they are nutritious, versatile, easy to cook, filling and delicious.
       Lady peas are smaller and sweeter than other field peas. Because of their smaller size, they cook quicker. They are a refined and highly-prized vegetable. 
      Crowder peas are believed to get their name because they are large and crowded together in their pods. There is also a type of field pea called cream peas. They either get their name from their color or creamy texture.
       A few varieties of field peas are ‘Pinkeye Purple Hull,’ ‘Zipper Cream,’ ‘Colossus,’ ‘Whippoorwill,’ ‘Mississippi Cream,’ ‘Knuckle Purple Hull,’ ‘White Acre,’ ‘Big Boy,’ ‘White Lady’ and ‘Red Ripper.’
Fresh field peas do not require as long to cook as dried ones. Cover them with water and cook until tender. To add more flavor you can cook them with a cube of vegetable or chicken bouillon, a piece of pork, chopped onions, a hot pepper or a clove of garlic. They may be garnished with chow-chow, chopped tomatoes, scallions or Vidalia onions. Try some.  

Q: After being away for a month due to a family emergency, weeds have taken over my daylilies and other flowers. What is the best way to begin getting rid of them? Is there a spray that will kill the weeds and not the flowers?

A: There is no herbicide that will kill the unwanted plants (weeds) that would not kill or harm your wanted plants (flowers).
       Here are some tips to help you attack the problem:
If you can’t remove all the weeds right away, remove all the seed heads on the weeds. Cut them off and throw them in the trash. This will help prevent an ongoing infestation.
       If you see any perennial weeds like common Bermuda grass, pull them or dig them out as soon as possible. The longer they grow undisturbed, the better established they will become. They are more difficult to remove when they are growing among perennial plants you want to keep. For example, you could easily damage daffodil bulbs or peonies trying to dig out some of these weeds.
       It will be easier to pull weeds after a good rain or a thorough watering.
       If your annual flowers are overrun to the point that you do not think you can pull all the weeds out without destroying the flowers, go ahead and pull them all up, remove the weeds and replant in the fall with pansies, violas or other winter annuals.

Q: An article in a garden magazine recommended coral honeysuckle. Why would anyone plant honeysuckle?

A: You are thinking only of the invasive Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) with its bad habit of taking over fields and woodlands. Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is native to Georgia and is not the least bit weedy. Although it is native, it is not as common and well-known as its infamous cousin. Coral honeysuckle has coral to red flowers that are attractive to hummingbirds. There is also a yellow form.

Q: Who inspects the food trucks that cook and serve meals? These have become very popular in my neighborhood.

A: Food trucks that perform food service activities such as cooking and preparing foods are inspected by your county health department. A truck that serves only prepackaged items (e.g. canned soft drinks, wrapped ice cream products, prepackaged sandwiches) would be inspected by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Q: Is there one variety of watermelon known as the icebox watermelon? I have seen different-looking ones called icebox melons recently.

A: “Icebox watermelon” is a term used to describe numerous varieties of watermelons that are small enough to easily fit into a refrigerator. They are very popular. Larger watermelons are sometimes called “picnic watermelons” and the smallest ones are sometimes called “personal watermelons.” We grow all types in Georgia.

Q: I heard someone at the Olympics in London talking about the lime trees lining streets there. How can they grow limes in London when they are not even hardy here in middle Georgia?

A: The lime trees you heard about are not the trees that bear the citrus fruit we call limes. In Great Britain, trees in the genus Tilia are sometimes referred to as lime trees. In America we call them linden trees or basswood trees. Two of the most common ones are our American basswood (Tilia americana) and the littleleaf linden (Tilia cordata). American basswood is a good choice for a large and grand shade tree. The littleleaf linden is native to Europe and is widely planted as a street tree there. It and other lindens are also grown in hedgerows in Britain. Littleleaf linden is a good tree for American streets and landscapes as well. Both littleleaf linden and American basswood have flowers that are a favorite of honeybees.

Q: Is it true that you can fry bell peppers?

A: Yes. In the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen we have used bell peppers to make fried bell pepper rings along with Vidalia® onion rings. Place your bell pepper flat on its side and slice it to create rings. Batter and deep-fry them as you would onion rings. You can use bell peppers in the green or ripened stages.
     You can also pan-fry or deep-fry other sweet and hot peppers. While Georgia Grown peppers are in season, now is a good time to try a new recipe with them.

If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, visit our website at,write us at 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Room 218, Atlanta, GA  30334 or e-mail us at To learn more about agricultural issues, get garden tips and find sources for flowers, livestock and other products, consider a subscription to The Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin. Subscriptions for Georgia residents are $10 per year for the print version and $5 for the online version. To start or renew a subscription, send a check or money order payable to Market Bulletin at the address above or subscribe online at our website.

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