2017-10-05 / 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: I am pulling up sweet potato vines. Is it safe to feed them to my goats?

A: It may be unsafe for you if you stand between the goats and the vines! The goats will relish them and not waste any time running to get to them. However, don’t overdo it by feeding your goats a lot of something they are not accustomed to eating. All things in moderation, even for goats…. And, of course, don’t feed anything that has been recently sprayed with pesticides. Contact your county Cooperative Extension agent for more specific information.

Q: Which is hotter – a Korean pepper or a Thai pepper?

A: On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the hottest, Korean peppers rate 6-7, and Thai peppers rate 7-8. Other common hot peppers rate as follows: cherry 1-5; ancho/poblano 3; wax 3-8; jalapeno 5-6; serrano 6-7; cayenne 8; tabasco 8-9; Scotch bonnet 9-10 and habanero 10. The heat in hot peppers can fluctuate depending on where and how they were grown and among different varieties within the type of pepper.

There are more differences be­tween peppers than just how hot they are, however. They have dif­ferent flavors. These flavors can also vary depending on how ripe the pepper is when harvested and whether it is fresh or dried.

If you are experimenting with hot peppers, keep milk nearby. Drink­ing milk or eating a dairy product such as ice cream or yogurt will help quell the burning if you are not used to eating hot, spicy foods or if you get a pepper that is a little hotter than you expected.

Q: When I was a child, an older person showed me how to make a “frog” using the leaf from a flower in her garden. The leaf was fleshy. She pressed the leaf and blew into it. It inflated like a frog’s throat. Do you know what kind of flower this was?

A: It was probably the showy sedum, also called showy stonecrop (Hylotelephium spectabile, former­ly Sedum spectabile). It could have been a similar sedum/stonecrop species such as Hylotelephium telephium.

The interior of the leaves is fleshy, but they have a cellophane-like skin. Gently press and rub a leaf between your fingers to get the skin and the interior to separate. Then blow into the torn part of the leaf. It will inflate like a croaking frog. This is also called making a “frog belly” and a “doll’s hot water bottle.”

These sedums are commonly available in garden centers and nurseries. Popular varieties include ‘Autumn Joy’ and ‘Brilliant.’ They are easy to grow.

Q: How long will a whole wa­termelon keep? We had a lot to ripen at one time. I set some in the basement and some under a shade tree. It has been several weeks. Do you think they are still good?

A: Fresh is best for flavor and overall quality. We don’t know of anyone who has conducted ex­tensive and conclusive scientific or taste tests on the storage life of watermelons. Generally, a whole melon will save longer than one that has been cut, however. Melons stored too long will rot as will any fruit or vegetable. Before rotting, there is a deterioration of the texture of the watermelon beginning in the area where the seeds are. The heart and rind area may still be palatable, but the experience is certainly not as rewarding as when fresh.

We know of people who have kept watermelons until Christmas and New Year’s, but they were not as good as at their prime. Also, you may not have a taste for watermelon in the season of egg nog and tradi­tional Yuletide treats, and water­melon is not as refreshing in winter as it is in the heat of summer.

Of course, if you have doubts about the safety of any food, it is best to throw it out than to get sick.

And why don’t you try shar­ing? We know lots of people who would like to have a homegrown watermelon! There is no need for a Georgia Grown watermelon to go bad!

Q: Is it possible to substitute pecans for pine nuts or walnuts in a pesto recipe? Pine nuts are ex­pensive, and I like to use Georgia products when I can.

A: Yes, it is possible to use Geor­gia pecans in your pesto instead of pine nuts or walnuts. The pecans may be toasted or used raw. Because pecans taste different than pine nuts and walnuts, make a small batch at first to see how it compares with what you are used to and to be sure you have just the right mix of basil leaves, nuts, Parmesan or Romano cheese, garlic cloves and olive oil.

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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