2017-09-28 / Editorial Page

Consumers get answers from Ga. Department of Agriculture

Consumer Q’s is a weekly ques­tion and-answer column by Arty Schronce at the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Please share your thoughts, questions and suggestions with him by phone, mail or email. Q: How long can I leave a raw, unshelled egg out of the refrigera­tor before I cook it?

A: Eggs should not be left out of the refrigerator more than two hours; one hour if the air tempera­ture is 90 degrees F or above. After eggs are refrigerated, they need to remain in the refrigerator. A cold egg left out at room temperature can “sweat” (become wet on the outside), facilitating the growth of bacteria.

Q: What exactly is pumpkin pie spice? Is there anything I can do with it besides make pies?

A: Pumpkin pie spice is not one specific spice but a mixture of spices usually consisting of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Some brands may include allspice and mace. Recipes may list pumpkin pie spice as an ingredient and others may list spices individually to allow the cook to have more flexibility and originality. Indeed, some cooks prefer buying and using individual spices rather than buying them pre- mixed.

Although you may think of pump­kin pie spice in a sweet dessert con­text, it can be used in savory dishes as well. Try it on roasted winter squash, parsnips, carrots or sweet potatoes. Use it on roasted Georgia Grown pecans; you can make them sweet or salty. Sprinkle a little on popcorn. Use it to top your creamed coffee or latte.

Experiment; don’t just leave that jar in the drawer until next fall!

Q: Is it true you can foretell the severity of the winter by looking at the bands on a wooly worm? Also, is it dangerous or a pest? Does it become a butterfly?

A: The wooly worm, also known as the wooly bear caterpillar or, more precisely, the banded wooly bear caterpillar is a familiar fuzzy caterpillar with a center brown sec­tion with black sections at the front and back ends.

According to folklore, if a woolly worm’s brown section is wide, the winter will be mild and if the brown section is narrow, the winter will be severe. This belief, while fun and interesting, does not hold up to scientific scrutiny.

The wooly worm can feed on many different kinds of plants, but is not a garden or agricultural pest. It is not dangerous although some people have reported experiencing dermatitis after handling them.

Caterpillars do not remain cater­pillars forever. The wooly worm/ wooly bear overwinters as a cat­erpillar and pupates in the spring to become the Isabella tiger moth. Although the adult form of the caterpillar has a regal name and is an attractive moth, it is not as well- known as its lovable, larval form.

Q: I have just divided my day­lilies and have numerous clumps that I hate to throw away or put on the compost pile. Do you know anyone who would want them?

A: Contact local 4-H clubs or garden clubs; the members may want them for their own gardens or for landscaping projects. Some clubs may be planting traffic islands, community centers or parks and could use more plants, especially something as beautiful and versatile as daylilies. Your county Coopera­tive Extension office may be able put you in touch with one or more of these clubs and offer other ideas as well.

Contact local schools; they may be starting a garden and would ap­preciate them. Churches are another option. If you are a subscriber to the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin, you can place a free ad announcing that you have daylilies to share.

Q: Are peanuts a root crop?

A: Not really. Although they develop underground, peanuts are not roots themselves and are not at­tached to the peanut plant’s root sys­tem. The peanut begins as a flower above ground. After pollination, the pedicel (flower stalk) begins to extend and a “peg” begins to form. This peg buries itself in the ground and becomes a peanut.

Peanuts have a fascinating life cycle. No other crop we grow is like it.

If you have questions about agri­culture, horticulture, food safety or services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agri­culture, write Arty Schronce (arty. schronce@agr.georgia.gov) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov.

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