2018-01-11 / 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: What are kumquats and how do you eat them? A friend brought me some from Thomasville. Are they grown commercially in Geor­gia?

A: The kumquat is a close relative of oranges and other citrus fruits. The fruit looks like a small, oval to oblong orange. (There are round kumquats, but they are not common­ly available here.) Kumquats may be eaten fresh, pickled, candied, as a garnish or used to make marma­lades, jellies, chutneys and sauces. The fruit goes especially well with chicken and ham. Kumquats are also used to flavor bread, cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream, sherbet and cheese­cake. They are a popular gift for the Chinese New Year.

The entire kumquat is eaten. In fact, the rind is the sweetest part, and the center flesh of a raw kumquat would be too tart to eat on its own.

Most commercial kumquat or­chards in the United States are in Florida, Texas and California. We know of no commercial growers in Georgia, but kumquats are grown in gardens in the milder southern part of the state and may be grown in greenhouses and sunrooms any­where.

Q: Is it true that leftover on­ions are poisonous? I received an e-mail that claimed they are. It seemed legitimate.

A: No. It most certainly is not true. We received the same e-mail or one similar to it. It has been making the rounds for several years. The adage “Believe half of what you see; some or none of what you hear” needs to be updated to include e-mail.

Q: Is it true that bumblebees should not be able to fly?

A: No, it is not true. There is a misconception that bumblebees should be unable to fly due to their large body and small wings. The bumblebee is aerodynamically sound. However, the false belief that the bumblebee is defying nature and physics still arises occasionally.

Q: What is wrong? I am seeing some shrubs, trees and flowers in bloom and it is only early Janu­ary.

A: Nothing is necessarily wrong. Sometimes spring-blooming plants with relatively light dormancies will throw open a few blooms during warm periods in the winter. Also, there are many garden plants for which winter is the main season of blooming. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned to believe that winter is supposed to be constantly frozen and plants are supposed to be barren or brown between November and March. While we do have bit­terly cold days in Georgia, we also have many open days in winter. During these mild days, winter- flowering plants can really put on a show.

A few of the winter-flowering plants you can include in your landscape are pansies, violas, pa­perwhites, Algerian iris, snow­drops, wallflower, snow crocus, wintersweet, winter honeysuckle, mahonia, camellia (both sasanquas and japonicas), Clematis cirrhosa, winter-flowering Higan cherry (Pru­nus x subhirtella’Autumnalis’), rosemary, Daphne odora, witch- hazels, hellebores and Japanese flowering apricot (Prunus mume). Thrift (Phlox subulata) has its main period of bloom in the spring but will sometimes produce flow­ers throughout winter if planted in sunny, protected spots. Also, fall- flowering or long-blooming plants will continue to produce blooms into December or January if a hard freeze is late in arriving.

Sadly, many people are unaware of winter-flowering plants and how beautiful Georgia gardens can be in winter. Visit the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens, At­lanta Botanical Garden, Calloway Gardens, Massee Lane Gardens in Fort Valley (home to the camellia collection of American Camellia Society) or other gardens in fall and winter to see the plants that put on a show in what most people consider the “off season.”

Don’t be alarmed by winter- flowering plants; embrace them. Let us, in the words of poet Richard Crashaw, “crown old Winter’s head with flowers.”

Q: What are ornamental pep­pers? Are they edible?

A: Ornamental peppers are pep­pers grown for their beauty rather than for their culinary qualities. They have numerous small pods. Some varieties may have pods in several colors on the same plant. The leaves may be variegated, deep purple or green like regular peppers. They can be as attractive in a garden as a flower or any other bedding plant. The peppers are not bred for flavor and, though technically ed­ible, are often so hot and strong they may make you want to stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole.

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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