Question: I ate a watermelon radish on a salad at a restaurant last week. It was beautiful as well as tasty. Do we grow these in Georgia?
Answer: Yes we do. Look for them now at local farmers markets. Watermelon radish is also known as beauty heart, roseheart or red meat radish. It gets its name from its interior of pink and rose and exterior of green and white. There are different forms with varying redness.
Generally, watermelon radishes will get sweeter instead of hotter as they get larger. Peel them before eating. They are excellent to slice thin with a mandoline. Also use them on a platter with cheese or dips or to make quick pickles. They are also good sautéed in butter.
Q: How tall does American holly grow?
A: A mature specimen of American holly (Ilex opaca) can reach 45-50 feet. Some people may only think of holly as branches for Christmas decorating, but this native holly can be a good specimen tree for office buildings, churches, government buildings, homes and schools. It is also a good choice to help block noise from freeways. It is a favorite of honeybees. Only the females will bear berries, but both male and female American hollies can be grand trees and should be considered.
Q: My potted basil has some sort of powdery mildew that is turning the leaves brown. I feel sure this has been enhanced by the rain and damp weather. If I bring it inside for the winter, will it clear up?
A: Do not try to overwinter the infected plant indoors as it will be a living host that will allow the disease to persist longer in your area. Start over with fresh seeds or plants from your local garden center.
Q: Can you tell me about mother-of-pearl plant?
A: Mother-of-pearl plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) is a small succulent with rosettes of gray leaves with a pinkish cast. Because of its coloring it is also known as ghost plant. It resembles the hen-and-dibbies (hen-and-chicks) plant but has thicker, larger leaves and is a different color. Leaves are brittle and may fall off when the plant is handled roughly. These easily root to form new plants. It likes full sun to light shade and well-drained soil.
Since it is a succulent, it does not need a lot of water. It is easy to grow. It can be grown as a houseplant in very sunny windows. Generally it survives outdoors all year in coastal and south Georgia but could be killed during a severe cold snap or spell of freezing weather. In Atlanta, sometimes the plants overwinter outside and sometimes they are killed by the cold. To be on the safe side, bring it inside on days when the temperature is expected to drop below 25 degrees F.
Ghost plant/mother-of-pearl plant is a good choice to grow in a strawberry jar with other succulents such as hen-and-chicks and echeverias. It also pairs well with our native prickly pear cactus and hardy agaves.
Q: I cracked a pecan that had three sections inside the shell instead of the normal two. Is this unusual?
A: It is unusual but not uncommon to find a pecan whose interior is divided into thirds instead of halves. This is not a desirable trait for commercial pecan growers and shellers due the nutmeats being smaller and because these non-standard tripartite nuts are more likely to be broken during the mechanized shelling process.
Q: Is Turk’s turban squash edible?
A: Most people consider Turk’s turban (also known as Turk’s cap or French turban) squash as a fall and Thanksgiving decoration due to its dark orange, green and white color combination and unusual shape. However, it is edible and may be prepared and used the same way as pumpkins and butternut squash. Some suggestions are in custards, pies, cookies, muffins, spice bars, soups and risottos.
Q: Where can I find a list of Georgia Christmas tree growers?
A: Visit the website of the Georgia Christmas Tree Growers Association (www.gacta.com). The association may also be reached by calling 478-919-TREE (478-919-8733). Subscribers to the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin will find a list of growers organized by county in the November 25th issue. Also check out the Georgia Grown website (www.georgiagrown.com/index.php) for Christmas tree growers and retailers and for gifts grown or produced in Georgia.
Q: I want to raise canaries to sell. Am I required to have a license?
A: In order to help prevent the outbreak and spread of avian diseases, as well as to insure humane care, bird breeders and dealers are required to be licensed and inspected. Please contact our Animal Protection Section at 404-656-4914.
Q: Is it safe to cook a turkey overnight at a low temperature?
A: It is not safe to cook any meat or poultry in an oven set lower than 325 degrees F. At lower temperatures meat remains in what food scientists refer to as the danger zone. The danger zone is the temperature range between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F in which bacteria can grow rapidly.
Q: I have heard that turkey prices are up. Is this true?
A: We have heard reports predicting this, but we do not monitor turkey prices, and some grocery stores may be offering good deals in spite of any possible overall price increase.
Besides, if you can’t find a turkey at a good price or are frustrated with the ongoing problem of dry turkey meat, there is nothing in the Constitution or the Mayflower Compact that requires every family in America to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving. Consider one or two juicy Georgia Grown chickens instead.
Q: What are giblets?
A: Giblets are the heart, liver and gizzard of a chicken, turkey or other fowl. Many cooks use these along with the bird’s neck in making giblet gravy, a Thanksgiving and Easter favorite.
Q: All my life I have heard the phrase “as tall as a Georgia pine.” Is there a particular pine called ”Georgia pine”?
A: Technically, any pine native to Georgia could be called a Georgia pine. The phrase does not refer to one particular species but probably originated from the vast forests of tall pines in the eastern and southern parts of the state that were and still are prized for lumber due to their tall, straight trunks. Among the tallest and most prized pine species found in those areas are the longleaf pine (80-120 ft.), loblolly pine (90-110 ft.), slash pine (60-100 ft.) and shortleaf pine (80-100 ft.).
Q: How do you use kohlrabi? I see it for sale at farmers markets.
A: Kohlrabi may be eaten raw, roasted in the oven like carrots, parsnips and other winter vegetables, added to salads, grated and made into fritters, made into slaw, grilled, boiled, steamed and added to soups and stews. Talk to the grower the next time you are at the market, he or she will be glad to share their favorite recipes and ways of using their products.
Q: I was given a frozen turkey after I had already purchased one for the holiday. How long can I store it in the freezer?
A: For best quality, use a whole turkey within 12 months and turkey parts within nine months.
Q: Is rue edible? I have seen it sold in the herb section at nurseries but have never seen recipes using it.
A: We would not eat it. You can find reference books and online sources that mention using rue (Ruta graveolens) in foods. However, most of them use the word “sparingly” and mention numerous possible problems with eating or handling it. There are plenty of other herbs you can grow that are more useful in recipes and that you don’t have to worry about.
You don’t have to eat rue; you can grow it for its beauty and for butterflies. It is attractive with its blue-green leaves and yellow flowers. It is a larval host plant for black swallowtails and giant swallowtails.
Be cautious when working with rue in the garden. The oils in it can be phototoxic. That is, the oils you get on your skin from handling the leaves can damage the skin when exposed to light. Essentially, the oils act as the opposite of sunscreen. Some people report getting blisters and having reactions similar to poison ivy. Children should be instructed about not handling it.
If anyone has experience with using rue in the kitchen, we would be interested to hear about it. Please write Arty Schronce at email@example.com or at 19 MLK Jr. Drive, 128 Agriculture Building, Atlanta, GA 30334.
Q: Someone gave me a potted celosia as a gift. I have never seen these grown as a florist plant. How do I care for it?
A: We have also been seeing pots of celosia (cockscomb) along with the more familiar kalanchoes, chrysanthemums, orchids and other gift plants at florists and supermarkets. Celosia flowers are vibrant and long-lasting, and it is always good to see old favorites used in new ways.
If you are given the plant in the spring or summer, we recommend planting it outside in a sunny location or in a larger container. In the fall or winter, we recommend placing the pot in the sunniest window you can find. It is easy to overwater it when grown indoors. Water your plant just enough to keep the soil from drying out completely. Plant it outside in the spring.
Q: I have a tin of anchovies in my cabinet that looks like it might be bulging a little. I can’t read the use-by date. Do you think it is safe to eat?
A: Finding a bulging can of any kind of food is a serious matter no matter what the date says. Do not eat it. Do not even open it. Double-wrap it in plastic bags and throw it away. The product may even be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium that can cause life-threatening illness or death from botulism. A contaminated product may not look or smell spoiled. Better safe than sorry. Contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Division (404-656-3627) for more information and to make them aware of the problem in order to see if any action is necessary.
Q: There is a beautiful tree on my street that is a solid, pure yellow. Its leaves are shaped like fans and are somewhat thick. Do you know what it is?
A: It is almost certainly a ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), a unique tree known for its distinctive fan-shaped leaves. Fall color of the leaves ranges from a pure lemon to moderate yellow. An interesting fact about ginkgoes is that they are “living fossils.” They appear in the fossil record going back many millions of years. They might have been food for dinosaurs, but modern insect pests leave them alone.
One caveat about the ginkgo is that it is dioecious (has male and female flowers on separate trees.) The fruit (technically, not a true fruit though it resembles one) produced by female trees smells horribly when ripe. You cannot tell male and female apart until they bloom, which can take 20 years. For most purposes you want to select a male cultivar if you want to make ginkgo part of your landscape. Do not purchase or accept a seedling-grown ginkgo or you may be in for an unpleasant surprise in the future.
-- Arty Schronce
If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov.