2017-11-02 / 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: Do we raise any poinsettias commercially in Georgia?

A: We currently produce about half a million poinsettias annually in Georgia. Many of the poinsettias sold in Georgia come from other states.

Q: Do pecan halves stored in the freezer need to be thawed or brought to room temperature before using?

A: You can use them (or eat them) straight from the freezer.

Q: What are some evergreen trees and shrubs I can grow that can be used in making wreaths and decorating the windows in­side the church?

A: Georgia winter gardens may make Northern gardeners “ever­green with envy.” You have many choices. Here are a few: pines, Southern magnolia, red cedar, juni­pers, deodar cedar, Arizona cypress, arborvitae, rosemary, yew, box­woods, bay, English laurel, hollies, osmanthus, Leyland cypress, China fir and Norway spruce. Light or moderate judicious pruning of these in the winter will not harm them. However, be careful not to destroy the shape of the trees and shrubs, especially conifers. Variegated and gold-leaved varieties will add brightness for your decorating.

You can also decorate your wreaths and windows in the Della Robbia style with seed pods and fruits from your garden such as pine cones, seed pods of Southern magnolia, lotus seed pods, pomegranates, apples, crabapples, trifoliate orange, sumac, pyracantha, nandina and hawthorn. Muscadine vines make good wreaths. They are pruned in late winter or early spring and fashioned into wreaths at that time and saved until Christmas.

Q: Are pop-up timers in poultry reliable as an indication of safe internal temperatures?

A: The pop-up timer is an indica­tor device that pops up when a spe­cific temperature has been reached, not necessarily when the bird has been fully cooked. The pop-up timer helps provide an indication of when to actually start verifying the product’s internal temperature, instead of conducting temperature checks before they are necessary. Checking the internal temperature of the food with a conventional food thermometer is recommended. Poul­try should be heated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. for 15 seconds.

Q: What is a ‘Carolina Sap­phire’ tree? I saw it mentioned many times on Christmas tree growers’ lists.

A: ‘Carolina Sapphire’ is a variety of Arizona cypress. It is popular with Georgia Christmas tree grow­ers because it performs well in our soils and climate, and is popular with Christmas tree buyers because of its beauty, durability and versatil­ity. As its name suggests, its needles are silvery blue. It has a nice fra­grance.

Georgia Christmas tree farms grow numerous species and variet­ies of trees. Eighty-three farms from 56 Georgia counties are represented in the current list in the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin. Among their offerings are white pine, Virginia pine, Leyland cypress including ‘Naylor’s Blue,’ ‘Murray’ and ‘Silver Dust’ varieties, Arizona cypress including ‘Carolina Sap­phire’ and ‘Blue Ice’ varieties, red cedar, Scotch pine, Norway spruce and Fraser fir.

Georgia Christmas tree growers do an excellent job producing beau­tiful Christmas trees and the happy memories that come with them. Besides the cut-your-own option, some growers have trees already cut or trees you can plant in your yard after the holiday.

If you are not a Market Bulletin subscriber, you can view the list of Christmas tree farms by visiting the website of the Georgia Department of Agriculture at www.agr.georgia.gov. Click on “Market Bulletin” and then click “Articles of Inter­est.” You may also wish to visit the website of the Georgia Christmas Tree Growers Association at www.gacta.com to learn more about the many growers in Georgia.

Q: What are winter squash? Do they grow in the winter?

A: Winter squash is a term used for various squashes that are har­vested and eaten when they are mature instead of when they are young and tender. Winter squash will store for a long time into or even through the winter, hence the name. Different types of winter squash include butternut, buttercup, acorn, kabocha and spaghetti. Win­ter squash grow in the summer and are cultivated like summer squash such as yellow crookneck, pattypan or zucchini types. Depending on the type, winter squash can be used in various ways from roasting to bak­ing to making soups.

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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