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Georgia Department of Agriculture

Consumer Q's May 2012

Q: How many calories do you burn while gardening?
A: The amount of calories burned for an individual weighing 150 pounds doing “general gardening work” is usually calculated at about 272 calories per hour. However, the actual amount depends on what specific things you do. Digging a hole in hard red clay is going to burn more calories than deadheading a few flowers.
     While you may burn more calories on the football field than in the garden, remember there aren’t many 60, 70 or 80-year-olds still trying to intercept passes and tackle opponents. There are many elderly gardeners, however. Gardening will keep you active for life. And with gardening you can produce fruits, vegetables and herbs to make your meals healthier. You can’t accomplish that on a treadmill or in the weight room! Making your corner of the world more beautiful is also bound to improve your mental and emotional health as well as your physical health.

Q: I want to open a store that sells pet supplies. Do I need a license from the Georgia Department of Agriculture?
A: No, but you will need a pet dealer license if you sell pets including fish, dogs, cats, reptiles and other animals. You will need a bird dealer license if you sell birds customarily kept as pets. Contact our Animal Protection Office at 404-656-4914 for more information.

Q: Do you have any suggestions on different, creative ways to eat Georgia peaches? I have several pie recipes. I’m looking for low-fat, healthy suggestions.
A: Add some peachiness to your morning juice. Puree ripe peaches in the blender and mix with orange or apple juice. There are recipes for peach jellies, jams and butters that use no added sugar or less sugar than traditional recipes. Instead of thinking of peaches as a topping for cereal, think of cereal as a topping for a bowl of peaches!
     For a satisfying lunch, mix peach slices with low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt. A fruit salad of peaches, blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupe and strawberries is good at any meal. Peach halves topped with blueberries and strawberries can be served as a non-fat dessert. 
     Try a peach-tomato salad. Toss tomato and peach wedges with Vidalia onion slices. Drizzle with cider vinegar and olive oil; season with sugar (optional), salt and pepper.
     Instead of a sugary soda, try peach iced tea. Blend one or two peeled, diced, ripe peaches and sugar (optional) in a blender until smooth. Bring your water to a boil, remove the pot from the heat and let your tea steep to the desired strength. Mix the tea with the pureed peaches and garnish with peach slices.
     Freeze peach slices and put them in a blender with low-fat plain or vanilla yogurt for a healthy and refreshing smoothie. Experiment by adding a peeled frozen banana and other frozen fruits. Top your smoothie with slices of fresh peaches. 
     Grill’em. Halve a peach and place it face down over medium-high heat on a well-oiled grill or indoor grill pan. Grill for three minutes or until grill marks form, flip peaches and continue grilling for an additional two minutes. There are numerous variations. You can coat them with brown sugar or honey and cinnamon for a low-fat alternative to peach pie. Grilled peaches are good on salads with balsamic vinegar and combine well with goat cheese or prosciutto.
     The past decade has brought many recipes for peach salsas that can be served with chips or as toppings for chicken, pork or fish.
      For more suggestions, visit where you will find tasty and innovative recipes including “Peach and Avocado Salad with Creamy Tarragon Dressing,” “Grilled Fish Tacos with Fresh Peach Salsa” and “Flank Steak Salad with Georgia Peaches & Lime Vinaigrette.”

Q: When my grandfather used to take me fishing, there was a tree from which we collected large worms (caterpillars) to use for bait. The caterpillars were black and white or cream. They were about three inches long. The tree had large leaves. I purchased land with a pond and I want to plant one. What is its name?
A: It sounds like you are describing a catalpa tree. The catalpa is also called Catawba tree, cigar tree (after its long seedpods) and fish-bait tree. There are two species of catalpa native to America. Both have been widely planted and have spread beyond their original ranges. They both have large leaves and trusses of beautiful white flowers, and both are food sources for the caterpillars of the catalpa sphinx moth. The caterpillars (sometimes called catalpa worms) look like what you describe, although they will vary in the amount of black.
     Fishermen may gather the caterpillars by hand or by spreading sheets under the limbs and whacking them with a long bamboo pole. You should never collect all the caterpillars as you want some to mature and reproduce. The caterpillars do not seriously harm the tree.
     You may find catalpa trees for sale in some nurseries or in the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin in which they are sometimes listed under the Fish & Supplies category (as some advertisers sell the frozen caterpillars in addition to the trees) or under the Flowers for Sale category where other ornamental trees are sold. If you don’t see any, you can place an ad in the Flowers Wanted category.
     Catalpa seeds germinate readily. If you have a catalpa tree, collect the seeds and sow them in pots. Cover the seeds lightly and keep them moist. Catalpa trees like full sun or partial shade.
     For tips on using the catalpa worms in fishing, contact your favorite angler.

Q: How many ants are in a fire ant colony?
A: The average mature fire ant colony contains 100,000 to 500,000 workers, up to several hundred winged forms and one or more queens as well as brood (eggs, larvae and pupae.)

Q: I bought some tomato plants at a nursery. The salesman suggested I take the ones that had been “toughened up.” They did not look as green and lush as the ones I bought that came out of the greenhouse. Did I make the wrong choice?
A: Tomato plants (and other plants) that have been “toughened up” or “hardened off” by being gradually exposed to strong sunlight, wind and extremes in temperature are usually better choices than those that have led the lush life protected in a greenhouse. They are less likely to suffer from windburn, sunburn or excessive wilting when planted out in the garden.

Q: Does mayonnaise cause most summertime cases of foodborne illness at picnics?
A: People often blame mayonnaise as the cause of foodborne illness from chilled foods such as chicken or tuna salad or when used with luncheon meats in a sandwich. However, because mayonnaise is acidic (made with vinegar or lemon juice), it tends to prevent bacterial growth. Usually it's the meat, poultry, fish or eggs kept out of the refrigerator for more than two hours that is the medium for bacteria to grow. Be sure to keep these items iced in coolers if you are going to keep them out of the refrigerator for picnics or barbecues.

Q: Is it true that stings from honeybees can help relieve arthritis pain?
A: The belief that honeybee venom relieves the pain of arthritis has been around for thousands of years. Scientists are studying the effects of bee venom to see if there is any conclusive proof that a bee sting helps arthritis and other medical ailments. Consult your physician before treating yourself or a loved one.

Q: I discovered some mounds that I think are fire ant mounds. How can I be sure without getting stung?
A: Here are some tips for identifying fire ants and their mounds:
     Most fire ant mounds are just a few inches tall, but they can reach 18 inches or more in height. Soil type can affect mound size. Mounds in clay soil are often larger than those in sandy soils. Mounds are often built up against posts or structures or may be located in spots such as fencerows where they are less likely to be disturbed from cultivation. The fire ant mound has no opening in the center like most ant mounds. Fire ants leave and enter the mound through underground tunnels, radiating from the mound. 
     If a mound is disturbed, usually hundreds of fire ant workers will swarm out ready to sting. They climb on vertical surfaces and vegetation, perhaps to better attack the creature that disturbed their mound. This mass response and aggressiveness are hallmarks of fire ant behavior.
Fire ants are about 1/8 to 1/4-inch long. Variation in size in the same mound is a distinguishing feature. Many other ant species are uniform in size.
Fire ants have two nodes on the connector (“waist”) between the abdomen (last section) and the thorax (central section.) These are seen under a magnifying glass so you’d have to use care in capturing and immobilizing the ants.  For photos and more information about identifying fire ants visit If you are unsure of the ant species you have, contact your county Cooperative Extension office for assistance with proper identification.

Q: I found a Luna moth in my garden. It was beautiful. What do they eat? I want to attract more of them.
A: Many people consider the Luna moth the most beautiful moth in America and one of the most beautiful in the world. Its coloration (like lime sherbet), large size (to 4.5 inches) and swallowtail wings make it unmistakable and unforgettable. Adult Luna moths don't eat; in fact, they don't even have a mouth. They only live for about a week, and their only purpose is to mate and lay eggs for the next generation. Here in the South, Luna moths like to lay their eggs on (and the hatched caterpillars feed on) black walnut, hickories, sweet gum, sumacs, oaks and American persimmon. Plant them to help ensure more Luna moths for the future. Luna moth caterpillars are large, green, accordion-like caterpillars that may look a little frightening but are harmless, and they are never sufficiently common to cause significant damage to their host trees.

Q: I bought a can of dried sage to make some sausage. It hardly had any flavor at all. Can I grow my own sage? Do farmers in Georgia grow sage? Are there any varieties of sage that have the best flavor?
A: Dried herbs that have been on the shelf or in your kitchen cabinet lose their flavor over time. Growing your own or buying direct from a farmer is a good way to insure you are getting the best quality. 
     Numerous small farmers grow herbs and sell them at farmers markets, so check out the ones near you. 
     Many Georgia nurseries and garden centers carry sage and other herb plants. A regular green-leaved sage will do just fine for sausage-making and other recipes. The variegated varieties of sage will work, but those are selected for their color and eye-appeal rather than their flavor. Two varieties that come highly recommend for their flavor are ‘Grower’s Friend’ and ‘Hybrid #4.’
     Give your sage plenty of sun. It must have well-drained soil. Plant it in a large terra cotta container or in a raised bed. A raised bed made of concrete blocks is excellent because the blocks leach out lime that the sage likes.

Q: Have kudzu bugs been reported in Telfair County?
A: Since the first confirmed case of kudzu bugs (Megacopta cribraria) in Georgia in 2009, they have been reported in almost all of our counties with the exception of a few in the northwest and southwest corners and some on the coast. They have also spread into all of South Carolina, most of North Carolina, and a few counties in Alabama and Virginia. Because they are good hitchhikers and can be spread by the wind, their range is expected to continue to expand.

Q: What are some ways to use beets besides in beet pickles? I have a big (and early) crop this year.
A: Try roasting or microwaving them.
     Here’s an easy roasting recipe: Preheat your oven to 400°F. Peel the beets. This may be best done in the sink to keep staining to a minimum. Cut the beets into wedges. Coat the wedges with canola oil or olive oil by tossing them in a large bowl. You can also add minced rosemary or thyme if you wish, as well as some salt and pepper. Place them in a shallow baking dish, cover and cook them for 30 minutes or until tender. (Some people do not peel the beets beforehand, but remove them after cooking has loosened them. If you are serving the beets warm straight out of the oven, it is best to peel them before. If you are going to use the roasted beets in salads, you may opt to slip the skins off after roasting and the beets have cooled.)
     Some people roast beets with carrots and other root vegetables and cloves of garlic. Covering the pan during cooking is also optional. Roasted beets combine well in a salad of mixed greens with goat cheese.
     To microwave them to use as a side dish or on salads, cut away all but an inch of the beet leaves. Place the beets in a deep microwave-safe pan with an inch or so of water at the bottom. Microwave them for two to four minutes per beet. It is best to start with less time and check for doneness along the way as you don’t want to overcook them. 
     Beet greens can also be used in salads or omelets or sautéed like spinach.

Q: What are some good baits to use in a rat or mouse trap?
A: Peanut butter, a peanut or nut, dried fruit, hazelnut chocolate spread, cheese or combinations of these come highly recommended.

Q: What is tropical soda apple?
A: Tropical soda apple (TSA) is a noxious, foreign weed that can overwhelm pastures and cropland. TSA is native to South America but has spread to the United States where it has become a major weed problem, primarily in the Southeast. It grows three to six feet tall with thorny prickles on both the top and bottom of the leaves, the leafstalks and the stem. Its flowers have five white petals and white-to-cream stamens. TSA produces berries that are green-and-white-striped when immature and yellow at maturity.
     TSA grows on roadsides and in fields, pastures, citrus groves, ditch banks and other areas. It is spread by the movement of livestock and wild animals that feed on the fruits and then pass the seeds through their digestive tracts in new areas. Infestations also occur when manure, hay and seeds are relocated to uninfested areas.
     If you have TSA, contact your county Extension agent for suggestions on control measures for your specific situation. Prevent the further spread of TSA by stopping the transfer of livestock that have eaten TSA berries to uninfested areas and stopping the movement of infested items to uninfested areas. The seeds can be viable for years, so prevention is paramount. There are enough weeds causing problems, let’s try to prevent this one from spreading further.

Q: Would you tell me how to get my bird’s eye pepper seeds to sprout?  I have been trying to do it ever since February.
A: Hot pepper seeds are slower to sprout and more erratic in their germination than those of sweet peppers. One common problem is cold temperatures. Hot pepper seeds must be kept warm while they are sprouting. Some professional growers use a special heating mat under the trays where they are sown. Some home gardeners keep an incandescent light source close over the trays to provide warmth as well as light. Water the pepper seeds with warm water, never cold. When you sow the seeds, water them several times in the first hour with warm water, each time removing the water that collects underneath the container in which the seeds are sown. This will get the seeds good and warm and start them on their way to absorbing water and beginning the germination process. Then keep the seeds moist by watering them one or more times a day, always with warm water. You do not want the seeds to dry out or sit in water so always remove any that collects under the container in which you sowed them.
     Here are some more tips that will help with your seed-sowing: Make sure the seed is fresh. Store your seeds in sealed containers in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain freshness. Sow your pepper seeds in vermiculite or in a sterile seed-starting mixture. Do not use topsoil, potting soil or soil from your garden. These can be too coarse, hold too much water, contain diseases that could harm tender seedlings or contain fertilizers that could burn tender roots.

                                                                                                                                                              -- Arty Schronce

       If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce ( or visit the department’s website at                                                                                                                                              


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