Thursday Odds and Ends

The sun was shining on the ice covered branches of my walnut tree, and even though I hated the idea of walking out to get the newspaper, it wasn't the brutal exercise I expected.  I took a deep breath and felt -- spring!  Seriously, one breath and something in the frigid air stirred my senses and made me think of green sprouts and budding branches.  Even when confronted with snow and ice, it can feel like spring is just around the corner.  While we're all waiting for that happy event, here are some Thursday odds and ends:

I see you - There's a good chance your spring garden will see at least a little predation by pesky insects.  Although it can be frustrating, it's a part of gardening.  When you've seen a culprit snacking on your asparagus but don't know how to identify the little X&%@, a quick visit to the National Gardening Association's Pest Identification Library will help.  With the site's handy photos and suggestions for controlling common pests, you'll be better prepared for the inevitable showdown -- and better equipped to come away from the battle victorious.    This information is free.

Uses for honey - Bees have had a rough time over the last few years, and that struggle is reflected in the cost of honey. Honey deserves a spot in your kitchen anyway, though, if only as an herbal remedy.  Beyond providing an energy boost, it's an effective antibacterial agent.  If you can't come up with at least 10 reasons to invest in a little honey, this article is sweet inspiration:  13 Surprising Uses for Honey

Food fraud at the market - You may already know there's a problem with misidentified fish in many markets across the country.  You can be deceived by more than just Tilapia in a red snapper suit, though.  Food fraud is apparently rampant.  From iffy honey from China to turmeric cut with rice flour, it's "buyer beware" at the grocery store.  It pays to know your suppliers, remain vigilant, and in the case of many herbs and some spices, grow your own: Food Frauds Lurking in Your Supermarket 

Meat marinades reduce cancer risk - Grilling has become one of the most popular ways to prepare meat, with grilling hobbyists braving ice and snow to bring some char to the table four seasons a year. A dedication to fire kissed food may put you at greater risk for some types of cancer, though.  Many experts recommend marinating fattier cuts of meat in order to keep flare-ups -- the biggest risk factor for added carcinogens on grilled foods -- to a minimum.

Marinating has been around for centuries, and for good reason.  The process adds plenty of flavor as it tenderizes meats. Marinating typically uses a mild acidic ingredient like wine, soy sauce, vinegar or fruit juice in combination with spices and herbs. Together they get deep into meat, tenderizing tough fibers and depositing flavor in places a surface rub just can't go.

Herbs are popular marinade ingredients, and many are easy to grow.  Here are a few favorites: garlic, ginger, mustard seed, coriander, cilantro, hot chilies, mint, marjoram and rosemary. If you grill, saving a little garden space for an herb patch is an example of culinary landscaping at its most delicious.

Frosty the sprout killer - Knowing the likely frost free date for your area can mean the difference between planting a flourishing early garden and watching your efforts wilt and perish overnight. Whether you're new to an area or an old hand at reading seasonal indicators, it never hurts to consult the experts.  The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), maintains a 50 state educational network to help folks like us better understand the natural environment we live in.  These facilities are referred to as Cooperative Extension offices. They provide free information on everything from native plants to seasonal bird migrations.

Whether you want to learn about your soil or the best type of deciduous tree for your backyard, the Cooperative Extension office for your area can help. The following link has a drill-down map where you can find the phone number for the office near you: Cooperative Extension Offices   There is a quick link to this map on every blog post I publish. You'll find it at the bottom of the page with other useful reference links.

1 comment:

  1. I have wondered about food fraud. Is nothing scared? Thanks for sharing this.


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