2018-11-08 / 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: 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: 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 arty. schronce@agr.georgia.gov 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.

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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