Q: My gaura has leaves that are covered with maroon spots. Is something wrong with it?
A: Nothing is wrong. Gaura (Gaura linderheimeri) often develops maroon or wine-colored spots on its leaves. They are part of the nature of this flower. Evening primroses are in the same family as gaura and also may have these spots. Most people think they are attractive as they add a little more color to the garden. Think of them as spots on a leopard or freckles on your sweetheart’s nose.
Q: What are some ways to use pecans besides in pies?
A: Raw pecans make a great snack. So do those that are roasted with butter or oil and salted. Raw, roasted or toasted pecans are great additions to salads. Chop a few raw or toasted pecans and sprinkle them on your cold cereal or oatmeal. Combine roasted pecans with dried cherries and cranberries and pumpkin seeds for a tasty trail mix. Try pecans in chicken salad. Consider pecans for almost any menu item – entrée, appetizer, bread, dessert, side dish, salad, soup or snack – that could use a little more protein, vitamins, minerals, crunch or flavor. One of the best sources for ideas and recipes for using pecans is the Georgia Pecan Commission www.georgiapecansfit.org.
Q: Can thrift be used as a groundcover? Thrift is a type of creeping phlox.
A: Yes. Thrift (Phlox subulata) is sometimes massed as a groundcover. It is especially used on banks that are difficult to mow. This use is what probably led it to be a traditional favorite to plant as a strip at the front of the yards of homes along rural roads whether there was an embankment there or not. Because it is mat-forming and durable, thrift is often planted on gravesites, thriving as long as a careless groundskeeper doesn’t scalp the ground with the mower. Thrift is also suitable as a single plant in a rock garden or used at the front of a bed of perennials. Another favorite way of using thrift is to plant it at the top of a wall and let it spill over as it grows.
Thrift grows best in full sun to part shade and prefers well-drained soil. It is fairly drought tolerant once established. Fall is an excellent time to plant thrift.
Depending on the varieties you plant, thrift will become a carpet of pink, lavender, white, rose or purple when it blooms in spring. If planted in a sunny and sheltered spot, it may even produce a few flowers throughout the milder parts of winter.
Another plant, Armeria martima, also goes by the common name “thrift” or “sea thrift.” It does not perform very well in Georgia. If you are unsure about which plant you are seeing at a nursery, check its botanical name.
Q: Do you have a recipe for wilted lettuce? It is also known as scalded lettuce.
A: Wilted or scalded lettuce is an old-time recipe that is making a comeback. Pack lettuce leaves into a bowl and pour on a heated mixture of vinegar, bacon grease (or a liquid oil substitute), sugar, salt and finely chopped green onions (optional). Cover it with a lid for a few minutes to allow it to wilt. It is usually served warm, but leftovers are good served cold. The recipe is best with leaf lettuces rather than heading lettuces such as the iceberg types. There are plenty of variations to this recipe that you will find in old cookbooks and by surfing the internet. People who are only familiar with cold uses of lettuce will be intrigued and may warm up to a different way to use this leafy vegetable.
Q: Can hens produce eggs without a rooster being present?
A: Yes. Most eggs produced for human consumption are produced this way and are non-fertile.
Q: Can persimmon pulp be frozen for later use? I have so many ‘Sheng’ persimmons ripe now that I cannot use them all.
A: Yes. Persimmon pulp freezes well. You may want to freeze it in freezer bags in one-cup or two-cup amounts. That way you do not have to thaw more than you need for the recipes you use to make persimmon cakes or persimmon cookies. Also consider slicing very ripe persimmons and freezing the slices on wax paper on a cookie sheet. These frozen slices are a sweet, refreshing treat – like persimmon popsicles or slices of persimmon sorbet. People who do not care for the jelly-like texture of very ripe persimmons are more likely to give the frozen slices a try.
Q: What is a kitchen garden?
A: A kitchen garden is a garden in which vegetables, herbs and occasionally fruits are grown for household consumption. It is usually near the kitchen for quick and easy access. A cook who needs just one more sprig of dill for the fish doesn’t want to go far to get it.
Q: What determines whether a chicken egg is white or brown?
A: The breed of the hen determines the color of her eggs. For example, Leghorn, White Rock and Cornish hens lay white eggs. Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, Dominiker and Plymouth Rock hens lay brown eggs. Araucuna hens lay eggs that range in color from medium blue to medium green. For more information visit this Oklahoma State University website (www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/) and click on “Poultry Breeds.”
Q: What are tendergreens?
A: ‘Tendergreen’ mustard-spinach is commonly referred to as “tendergreens.” It is neither mustard nor spinach, but is a variety of leafy turnip that is milder than mustard greens. Tendergreens seeds are sometimes mixed with seeds of mustard, turnip, radish, rape and kale and sown as a “greens patch.”
Q: What is the most consumed meat in the world?
A: The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that pork is the number one meat consumed in the world.
Q: Where can I get more information about the “kudzu bug,” the little bug that was first noticed in Georgia last year? It looks like a small, glossy, greenish brown stinkbug and sometimes gets on the sides of houses in the fall.
A: The bug you described is Megacopta cribraria. It is sometimes called “kudzu bug,” “bean plataspid” or “globular stinkbug.” Visit your local Extension Service office and ask for Circular No. 991. You can find this online at the University of Georgia’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences’ publication website at www.caes.uga.edu/publications or by clicking on “Circular No. 991” at www.gabugs.uga.edu.
Q: Should I rinse or wash chicken or other poultry before cooking?
A: There is no need to wash or rinse poultry before cooking. Some people may think that rinsing or washing removes bacteria from the poultry and makes it safer, but in reality they are increasing the danger of cross-contamination by splashing and dripping on utensils, countertops and other food. Besides, bacteria present on the surface of the meat or in the meat are destroyed by cooking it to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Q: What causes the greenish gray area that sometimes appears on the surface of the yolk of a hard-boiled egg?
A: This greenish gray area is caused by a chemical reaction involving sulfur (from the egg white) and iron (from the egg yolk) which naturally react to form ferrous sulfide at the surface of the yolk. The reaction is usually caused by overcooking, but can also be caused by a high amount of iron in the cooking water. Eliminate the ring by avoiding overcooking and by cooling the eggs quickly after cooking. The greenish gray is not attractive, but it is harmless.
Q: My ‘Lady in Red’ salvia plants are so big and pretty that I hate to let the frost kill them. Can I dig them up, put them in pots and bring them inside to continue blooming?
A: You probably will not have good results with this. If you have a sunny window, try sowing some salvia seeds in pots for wintertime blooms.
--- Arty G. Schronce