Are You Prepared for a Power Outage?

Spring often brings unsettled weather.  This year has been no exception as Iowa and other parts of the country have already experienced unprecedented winds, powerful storms and tornadoes causing personal loss, major damage and power outages. While personal loss and damage are devastating, power outages can be a major inconvenience.  To prepare and stay safe, it’s important to know steps you can take before, during and after a power outage.

Power outages can be over almost as quickly as begun, but some can last much longer — up to days or even weeks. This depends on the severity of the storm and what damage has been done to power lines and systems. A power outage disrupts everyday life as it shuts down communications, water, transportation and services, closes businesses, causes food spoilage, and prevents use of medical devices.

Before a Power Outage – Prepare

Preparation can keep the most important people in your world safe when bad weather hits.  Here’s some quick tips on how to prepare:

  • Have a plan that all family members know and understand. 
  • Take an inventory of items in the home and keep it up to date.
  • Plan for alternative power sources and test in advance—batteries, portable generator (fuel), power banks.
  • Build an emergency kit that includes 3-days of non-perishable foods and bottled water; important medications; blankets; personal hygiene items; first aid supplies; flashlights.
  • Talk to your medical provider about medical devices powered by electricity and refrigerated medicines. Find out how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any medications that are critical for life.
  • Place thermometers in freezers and refrigerators to monitor temperature when power returns.  A container of water (or ice cubes) in the freezer is also a good indicator of temperatures going above 32ºF.
  • Remove or secure items outside of the home that can blow or become weapons.
  • Trim tree branches overhanging a house and clean gutters.
  • Get a weather alarm with battery backup (keep batteries fresh) and/or sign up for weather alert notifications from local radio or tv stations.
  • Have your phone charged.
  • Freeze jugs of water.

During a Power Outage Stay Safe

The lights are out, appliances, and all electrical equipment without battery or power backup have stopped running. Now what?

  • Report downed power lines. Do not touch down lines nor attempt to remove trees which may be tangled in downed lines.
  • Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment, including sensitive electronics. Leave a lamp or night light connected to indicate when the power does come back on.
  • Turn off or disconnect any appliances, equipment or electronics you were using when the power went out. When the power comes back on, surges or spikes can damage equipment.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Food is safe in a securely closed refrigerator for up to 4 hours. In a freezer it depends on how full it is — the fuller your freezer, the longer it can last. A full freezer can last up to 48 hours, and a half-freezer can last up to 24 hours. Place frozen jugs of water in refrigerator to help maintain coldness.
  • Avoid using candles and your phone more than necessary.
  • Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning when using generators, camp stoves or charcoal grills; these items should always be used outdoors and at least 20 feet away from windows. Never use a gas stovetop or oven to heat your home.

After a Power Outage – Assess

Recovery begins.

  • Throw out any unsafe food, particularly meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40-degrees F for two hours or more or that have an unusual odor, color or texture.  When in doubt, throw it out. For additional help with food after a power outage, visit Play It Safe With Food After a Power Outage .
  • If the power is out for more than a day, discard any medication that should be refrigerated, unless the drug’s label says otherwise. Consult your doctor or pharmacist immediately for a new supply.
  • Plug in appliances and electric equipment including sump pumps. Check to make sure each is working properly.  Note anything that is not working properly and report to your insurance agent.
  • Note damage done to home or property and report to your insurance agent.
  • Call AnswerLine at 800-262-3804 with food safety questions or water/mold clean up should water get into the home.

For more helpful information and tips, visit Ready.  For a quick visual reminder, see this short YouTube video prepared by Farm Bureau Financial Services. One can never be reminded too often or be too prepared when storms strike and the power goes out.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Eatin’ the GREEN in March and Beyond

St. Patrick’s Day is coming and green is the theme. Green is also the color of March and a good time to “go green” by adding more GREEN fruits and vegetables to our daily diet and reap the benefits of better health by eating GREEN —fresh green foods, that is!

Jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and healthy phytochemicals, green fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest produce nature has given us. Here’s why.

Green fruits and vegetables are:
– Nutritional power house foods, especially dark green leafy vegetables,
– Loaded with Vitamins—A (as Beta Carotene), B6, C, E and K*,
– Loaded with minerals—calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese and potassium,
– Contain antioxidants to fight free radicals and reduce cancer risk,
– Contain health-promoting phytochemicals (from the green color pigment chlorophyll) such as lutein for eye health and reducing age-related macular degeneration (AMD),
– Typically low in calories and high in fiber – dark green leafy vegetables top out at only 10 to 25 calories per half-cup serving, and
– Easily incorporated into diet raw or incorporated into soups, stews, salads, stir fries, casseroles, and so much more.

There are plenty of green fruits and vegetables to choose from. Some of the best nutrient-packing greens to incorporate into your diet to feel your ‘green’ in a good way include:

Kale
Spinach
Avocado
Green Peppers
Asparagus
Green Beans
Peas
Broccoli
Leafy green lettuce
Collard greens, Swiss Chard
Bok Choy
Green grapes
Kiwi
Green apples
Honeydew melon

Fun tips to get green foods into your diet:

  • Add bright green vegetables to a party tray.
  • Add a green salad as a side dish to lunch or dinner using lots of greens, green peppers, green onions, etc.
  • Make the color pop in broccoli and green peas by blanching them briefly in boiling water, then put them into ice water to stop the cooking process. This enhances the green color to make those vegetables more appetizing.
  • Include kiwi fruit, green grapes and/or honeydew melon in your fruit salad.
  • Add avocado slices to toast, salads and sandwiches. To maintain the green color, eat avocados immediately or sprinkle them with lemon or lime juice. 2 tablespoons of avocado have about 5 grams of fat which is mostly heart-healthy Omega-3 monounsaturated fat.
  • Enjoy your favorite veggie dip with broccoli florets, pea pods, and celery or a favorite fruit dip with green apple slices.
  • Make a vegetable pizza with green peppers, asparagus, and/or spinach.
  • Serve thinly sliced green onions over rice, pasta, broiled or baked fish or soups.
  • Add sautéed spinach and kale to egg dishes or fresh spinach and kale to smoothies.
  • Stir-fry with bok choy, collard greens, or Swiss chard.
  • Roast broccoli and/or asparagus with other veggies.

Additional green ideas include spinach noodles, green vegetable soufflés and omelets; parsley garnish; pesto; cream of broccoli, celery, or spinach soup; finely diced spinach, kale, or green onions in chicken noodle, rice or orzo soups; or glazed kiwi over cake. For recipes and other tips, visit UNL Extension.

March is a good time to start the “go green foods” trend and enjoy the many health benefits from eating something GREEN!

*Limit intake of greens containing Vitamin K if you are taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin®). Eating too many foods rich in Vitamin K reduces warfarin’s effectiveness and may cause more clotting in the body.  [1]

Sources:
Go for the GREEN on St. Patrick’s Day, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, UNL Food
1Warfarin Diet:  What Foods Should I Avoid?, Mayo Clinic, 2021
Eat Green for a Healthy St Patrick’s Day and Beyond, Utah State University Extension, 2016

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Let’s Go Maple Syruping!

When you think of Iowa, maple syrup probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind. However, maple syrup is one of the state’s oldest agricultural crops dating back to pioneer times.  Native Americans were the first to tap Iowa’s maple trees followed by early pioneers who also tapped maple trees for their annual supply of sweetener. 

Today, Iowa has a small number of commercial producers mostly located in the northeastern part of the state and several small commercial or home-use only producers scattered across the state. According to the USDA 2017 Agricultural Census, Iowa reported 53 farms with 13,808 taps.[1] Producers use a variety of methods to collect and boil sap into syrup.  However, the methods are much the same today as used by our ancestors.  Small holes are drilled into the tree trunks (taps), sap drips into buckets or tubes below, and evaporators boil the clear sap into delicious maple syrup.  The color of maple syrup varies depending upon when it was tapped.  Late winter tapings yield a light brown syrup with color deepening as spring advances.  Color is not an indicator of quality; maple syrup is graded by color with color affecting flavor.  Grade A syrup is a light amber color, while Grade B is darker and thicker. Grade A is mild in flavor with Grade B syrups having a deeper, more robust maple flavor. 

On the average, it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of pure maple syrup.  A tree will produce 10-20 gallons of sap per tap on the average.  A tree may have more than one tap depending upon its size/circumference.

While maple syrup is a sweetener, the nutritional benefits of maple syrup are numerous.  One tablespoon of maple syrup contains 50 calories along with the following vitamins and minerals:

  • 20 milligrams of calcium
  • 2 milligrams of phosphorous
  • 0.2 milligrams of iron
  • 2 milligrams of sodium
  • 5 milligrams of potassium [2]

Maple syrup can be used as an alternative to sugar in cooking and baking in a 1:1 ratio. When used in baking, decrease the liquid by 3 to 4 tablespoons per 1 cup substitution.  If no liquid is called for in the recipe, add about 1 tablespoon of additional flour for every ¼ cup of maple syrup.  [3]

Iowa’s maple syrup season generally begins in late February or early March and runs 4 to 6 as six weeks. Warm daytime temperatures and cold nights are needed for the sap to flow; the season ends when the trees begin to bud. If you are looking for some early-spring family fun, a number of groups have planned events and demonstrations across the state to allow nature lovers of all ages to take part in this unique agricultural activity. Below is a listing of a few.  Registration and fees may be required and pancakes and maple syrup might be included with some events.

Botna Bend Park, Hancock, March 5, 2022

Hartman Reserve Nature Center, Cedar Falls, March 11-13, 2022

Mahaska County Environmental Learning Center, Oskaloosa, March 8, 2022

Indian Creek Nature Center, Cedar Rapids, March 26-27, 2022

Sharon Bluffs State Park, Centerville, February 24, 2022

Events are also planned in Minnesota.  For a complete listing, check out the Minnesota DNR website.

Resources:

1 United States Department of Agriculature, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Iowa, Table 40. Woodland Crops Sales: 2017 and 2012.

2 Neff, Michelle, Maple Syrup Nutritional Facts, Michigan State University, MSU Extension

3 Ameden, Kye, Baking with Liquid Sweeteners, King Arthur Baking, 2017

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Tips for Preventing Gardening Injuries

I love spring and can’t wait to get my hands in the soil to start gardening.  I love being outside and moving again after a winter siesta.  The healthy benefits of gardening are many with physical exercise being at the top of the list.  Whether gardening to grow food or flowers or landscape and maintain a yard, gardening offers low- to moderate-intensity exercise depending on the task according to the American Heart Association.  Digging, lifting, raking, mowing, pruning, and planting all produce whole-body movement increasing endurance, strength, balance and flexibility as well as burning calories. Getting out in the yard for just 30-45 minutes can burn up to 300 calories. Other benefits of gardening include lowering of cholesterol, blood pressure, and mortality, better hand function, higher bone density, and better psychological wellbeing.   

For the most part, gardening is a safe, beneficial activity but can lead to injury if precautions are not taken.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that ERs treat more than 400,000 injuries each year related to gardening.  Therefore, it is important to take note of garden safety to prevent injury.

Regardless of age, experts [1], [2], [3], in an AARP article, warn against jumping into gardening activities without preparing and warming up a little bit.  Rather, they recommend pre-gardening preparation to build strength, stamina, and aerobic power to prevent injury as well as talking to your doctor before beginning any new regiment.   The following exercises are recommended to strength garden muscles prior to gardening:

  1. Walk to warm up the muscles and build core strength.  Stand tall and concentrate on core muscles as you move to support the back.
  2. Sit-to-stand exercises (raising from a chair to stand position without using hands) help to strengthen the thigh muscles and the core muscles for stability and improve mobility.  Set a goal to see how many can be done in 30 seconds several times daily.
  3. Hamstring stretches help to keep the muscles loose and prevent lower back, knee, and foot pain.There are numerous ways to stretch hamstrings so it is best to find the stretching exercise that is personally best.
  4. Planks are great for building body strength as well as stretching and building strength in the arms, fingers and hands.  Planks can be done on the floor or against a wall.
  5. Practice balance by standing on one foot to build stability and prevent falling.

Once one has properly prepared for gardening, safety should always be first and foremost in the way we use our body and tools in the garden. For your comfort, safety, and the good of your back and knees, keep these tips in mind: 

  • warm up and stretch prior to activity;
  • begin with light movements;
  • stand tall occasionally to stretch the legs and roll the shoulders to relieve tension;
  • lift with one’s legs instead of back to prevent back injury;
  • avoid repetition; switch up activity every 15 minutes;
  • practice caution when raking and shoveling; learn safe use of rakes and shovels from the University of California Agricultural Resources [4] to prevent strain to the back, shoulders, and wrists;
  • kneel instead of bending; consider wearing knee pads or using a cushion;
  • apply sun screen with a SPF of 30 and ultraviolet A and B protection;
  • consume plenty of water while working to stay hydrated;
  • wear a hat or other protective clothing as needed; mask when using chemicals;
  • wear gloves to protect hands from blisters, chemicals, sharp tools, etc.;
  • use the correct tool for the job;
  • maintain your tools and use them properly.

Gardening not only provides physical activity but can also be a great source of happiness. You may garden to grow nutritious fruits and vegetables or beautify your world. Whatever your reason, enjoy your gardening chores but keep your body fit and work safely to prevent injury.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Time for Spring-Dug Parsnips

This past week, we dug the last of our parsnips.  Spring-dug parsnips are characterized as ‘the cream of the crop!’ and I couldn’t be more of an advocate.  The seeds, sown nearly a year ago, grew into healthy plants over the summer and were left to die back in the fall.  After a frost or two, a few were dug; the remainder of the row was left to winter over in the ground. They are a great roasted vegetable in the fall, but nothing like those left in the ground for a winter deep freeze.  The extreme cold converts the starches into sugar and allows the flavor to mellow.  The timing is critical for spring-dug parsnips; they need to be dug as soon as you can get into the ground with a shovel or fork and just as their tops start to show new growth.  If they are left in the ground too long in the spring and the tops start to grow out, they become woody. 

Never had parsnips?  Some mistakenly refer to them as white carrots, but while they may be related to carrots distantly, they are actually part of the parsley family.  They are a cream-colored, gnarled, carrot-shaped root vegetable.  They can be eaten raw but are best prepared by roasting, frying, grilling or steaming to bring out their distinct succulent flavor and nutty sweetness.  They have a tan peel that is typically removed before use; peeling also removes their gnarly surface.  The flesh is cream-white.  They are a very versatile vegetable with recipes ranging from roasted side dishes, soups and stews, mashed, turned into fries, and even made into wine.  They pair well with other root vegetables, too.  Like potatoes or an apple, parsnips oxidize when exposed to air after their peelings are removed. If not prepared right away, cut parsnips should be placed in water to reduce the effect.

Being white in color, one would tend to believe that they offer little nutrition.  Quite the opposite is true.  According to the USDA [1], a half-cup serving of parsnips are high in heart-healthy fiber providing 3 grams of fiber and only 55 calories. They are a low-fat food yet a good source of numerous vitamins (especially C and K), minerals (especially folate and manganese), and antioxidants.  (Note that the level of vitamin C is somewhat reduced with the cooking.)

Besides the home garden, parsnips are available at the supermarket and likely can also be found at the late fall and spring farmer’s markets. Spring is the best time to give them a try if you are new to parsnips.  If you are lucky enough to find this once-a-year spring treasure, choose fleshy, fresh, firm, medium-sized and even surfaced roots.  Avoid woody, over-matured, long, thin, and tail-like roots as they are off-flavored and have tough fiber.  Also avoid soft, pitted, shriveled, knobby, or damaged roots. 

Fresh parsnips should be stored in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator where they should last three to four weeks [2]. Use cooked, refrigerated parsnips within three days.  Parsnips can also be frozen [3] for later use by cutting into 1/2-inch cubes, water blanching for 2 minutes, cooling promptly in cold water, draining, and packing and sealing into containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Fully cooked parsnip puree may also be frozen for up to 10 months for best quality.  Drying is another method for preserving parsnips as well.

For more information on parsnips, check out Growing Carrots and Parsnips in Home Gardens by the University of Minnesota Extension [4].

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Millipede (and Friends) Invasion

Recently the following question came to the AnswerLine inbox: I have little worm-like bugs, both dead and alive, in my basement; they are especially found in the corners and damp areas. How do I get rid of these?

AnswerLine replied: Without a picture, we cannot be certain. However, something that is common and fits your description is a type of millipede. They are found in damp areas around foundations, basements, etc. Here is an Extension publication from the University of Minnesota that has some photos and management instructions: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/sowbugs-millipedes-centipedes/

Reply: It is Millipedes.  Thanks for the help.

With the unusual wet conditions that the Midwest is experiencing this year, it is quite possible that many will be seeing millipedes and their counterparts (sowbugs, centipedes, pillbugs, roly-polys) in basements and crawl spaces, around foundations, and damp places in the yard this year.

Spirobolid millipedes gathered on a piece of tree bark

Millipedes and company are unusual arthropods or a many-legged relative of insects. Millipedes, usually dark brown in color, have worm-like bodies with two pairs of legs per body segment and a pair of antennae. When they die, they usually coil because coiling is their first means of defense. Dead or alive, they can simply be swept or vacuumed and disposed of outside.

While they do frighten people, they are more of a nuisance than harmful. They do not bite or pose any danger to humans, transmit diseases to plants or animals, or cause damage to the home or food per information provided by Colorado State University Extension. They often move into the home in the spring and fall but unless they find moisture, they will usually die within two days.

These many-legged insect relatives are actually beneficial in the landscape. They feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insect pests and, like worms, recycle decaying organic matter.

If infestation is a problem, the University of Minnesota and Colorado State University Extension publications linked above provide management information.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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How to Store Fresh Ginger

Fresh ginger, also known as ginger root, adds a flavorful punch to many foods and beverages.  However, usually only a small amount is needed to season and that leaves one with, “what do I do with the rest?”

To begin, 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger is the equivalent of 1/8 tsp dried ground ginger.  Keep this equivalency in mind when purchasing fresh ginger.  Since it is usually sold by the pound, choose a rhizome that fits your needs as closely as possible.  That aside, the piece that you have may still be more than needed.  Ginger will be okay on your kitchen counter for a day or two but it is better stored in the refrigerator.  To store in the refrigerator, place the rhizome in a storage bag or container; it will keep 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator.  Do watch the rhizome for molding, softness, discoloration or off smell or appearance; these are signs of spoilage and if detected, the rhizome should be disposed.  Like other fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh ginger contains enzymes that break down its starch and pectin over time.

If longer storage is needed, fresh ginger can be frozen.  To freeze, peel the skin off the rhizome if desired (peeling is done more for aesthetics than need).  Removing the skin may be easier by scraping with the edge of a spoon or knife rather than with a vegetable peeler due to it’s gnarly and irregular shape.  Ginger may be frozen in pieces, grated, or finely chopped.  Pieces should be wrapped tightly in foil or a freezer bag with as much of the air removed as possible.  Grated or chopped pieces freeze better by making small piles on a parchment lined baking sheet or in an ice cube tray and placed in the freezer for a couple of hours; once frozen, put the small piles in individual freezer bags or into a freezer bag, again removing as much air as possible.  Fresh ginger will maintain its best quality in the freezer for about 3 months but will remain safe well beyond that time; in fact, ginger that has been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep indefinitely.

Another method that some use to preserve fresh ginger is to submerge pieces in alcohol.  Cooks Illustrated experimented with this process by using vodka and sherry and compared the flavor and texture to frozen ginger.  After four weeks, the submerged samples were grated and cooked in a stir-fry.  The samples retained their ginger flavor and grating ease as well as the frozen ginger; however, the ginger stored in sherry picked up sherry flavor.  The takeaway on the experiment was that fresh ginger stores as well in vodka as freezing.  A note of caution here as the same may not be true beyond the four weeks used in the experiment.

Even though we have ginger year-round in our markets, ginger has a season.  Young ginger is usually more readily available in the spring (April and May) and is not as strong flavored or as tough and fibrous as ginger that has been stored for year-round availability.  It is juicy and plump, has a fresh lively taste, and a pink blush; the skin is so thin that peeling is generally not necessary.  If you are a fresh ginger fan, this would be the time to pick up a large quantity and freeze it for future uses.

 

 

 

 

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Asparagus and Rhubarb tips

When should I stop cutting my asparagus?  How long can I harvest my rhubarb?  Is rhubarb that I pull in the summer poisonous?  We will be getting these questions from callers very soon.

Allow a new planting of asparagus to grow for a year at least, before the first cutting.  During the second spring, it is safe to cut asparagus for three to four weeks.  After that time has passed, allow the plant to grow.  During year three, it is safe to harvest asparagus until mid-June.  The safety factor we mention is safety for the plant.  Overharvesting will weaken the plant and may cause plants to be less productive in the future.  Harvest asparagus by cutting or snapping the spears when they reach a height of 6 to 8 inches.  An asparagus bed that has been cared for well can last 15 years or even longer.  Mine has been productive for 38 years and is still going strong.

Harvest rhubarb when the stalks are between 10 and 15 inches tall.  Simply hold a stalk near the base and pull it up and to one side. Another option would be to cut the stalks off level with the ground using a sharp knife.  Remove the leaves from the stalk right away.  After that, rhubarb can be stored in a plastic bag for at least two weeks.  Remember that over harvesting rhubarb can damage the plant; never remover more than half the fully developed stalks at one time.

Start a new rhubarb patch by dividing an older, existing patch. It is best to delay harvesting the new patch for the first two years.  During the third year, harvest only for four to six weeks; stopping harvest in mid-June.  If your rhubarb sends up flower stalks, remove them as allowing the plants to flower will reduce production the next year.  Stopping harvest in mid-June also allows the plant to feed the roots and keep the plant strong. You may fertilize the planting with some all-purpose fertilizer in the spring. Use about ½ cup of 10-10-10 fertilizer early in the spring. Remembering to water the rhubarb during long dry summers will help the planting have a long life.

Callers often ask if they can harvest a bit of rhubarb later in the summer. We tell them that if the patch is an older, well-established one then they could pull enough small, tender stalks to make a pie or a crisp. Harvesting more than that can damage the planting. And, no, the rhubarb is not poisonous if pulled mid-summer.

Enjoy those first foods from the garden.

 

 

 

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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‘Shrooming in the Woods or Supermarket – It’s a Good Thing!

Common morel fungus growing in the forest

As spring creeps in this year, mushroom enthusiasts are just itching to get out into the woods and search for the highly prized, morel mushroom.  This elusive mushroom is prized for its tastiness and can only be wild-crafted as no one has figured out how to grow and farm them as of yet.

Besides being prized for their taste, morels are loaded with all kinds of nutrients.  Because they tend to grow in rich soils they come packed with vitamins and minerals such as iron, copper, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin D, folate, niacin, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, calcium selenium, thiamin, vitamin E and vitamin B6.  However, their nutrient value varies with the soil where the moral grows.  Morals are also loaded with antioxidants, help to balance blood sugar, and provide protein and fiber.  Morals can be used in any way that farmed mushrooms would be used.

While the wild moral mushroom is high prized, its’ farmed mushroom cousins—white, shitake, cremini, oyster, maitake–are equally as nutritious and offer delicious and unique flavors, too.  They are also readily available at the supermarket.   Even though there are more than 2000 varieties of edible mushrooms in the world, most people cook with only one or two.  Here is a quick summary of those most commonly found on produce shelves:

White Button Shitake Cremini/Portobello Oyster Maitake
 
Most common mushroom.
Mild flavor, very versatile.
Protein-rich.
Deep woodsy flavor especially if dried and
re-hydrated.
Calcium rich.
Baby bella = Cremini; larger, mature form = Portobello.
Makes dark sauces and great for grilling.
Delicate, mild flavor.
Stays firm when cooked; excellent for stir-fry.
Iron and antioxidant rich.
Also known as hen-of-the-woods.
Earthy flavor.
Excellent for stir-frys.
Antioxidant rich.

The enemy of any mushroom is moisture in its packaging.  Fresh morels will keep about a week in the refrigerator provided they were harvested in good condition.  Place them in paper bags and store them in the refrigerator with plenty of air circulating around them.  Drying is an excellent storage option, too.  A paper bag is also a good way to store purchased mushrooms; this allows them to breathe.  Moisture build up inside the packaging is the fastest way for mushrooms to break down.

Mushrooms need to be cleaned before use. The best way to clean most fresh mushrooms is to wipe them with a clean, barely damp cloth or paper towel. Washing mushrooms is usually not necessary. If you must rinse them, do it lightly and dry them immediately, gently with paper towels. Never soak fresh mushrooms in water, which will cause them to become soggy. Morels need to be cleaned differently.  Begin by cutting a thin slice off the bottom of each stem.  You may also cut the mushrooms in half from stem to tip. Rinse them in cool water to remove dirt and insects. If heavy dirt, bugs and worms are present, it may be necessary to soak them in lightly salted water for a short time to bring out debris. Rinse the morels well and pat dry.

Cleaned mushrooms can be wrapped loosely in damp paper towels or a damp clean cotton cloth, placed in a container, and stored in the refrigerator for up to three days; the mushrooms may darken if stored this way.

Mushroom nutrition can be enhanced by placing them in the sun for 30 minutes prior to use.  Since most mushrooms are grown in the dark, they need sunlight to bring up their vitamin D content.  Exposure to sunlight significantly improves vitamin D.  If the mushrooms are chopped prior to exposure, vitamin D is maximized.  Some packaged mushrooms are marketed as vitamin D enhanced.

For those that do not care for fresh mushrooms, dried mushrooms may be an option.  Dried or powdered mushrooms pack the same nutritional punch as fresh mushrooms.  Mushroom powder can be included in sauces, homemade bread, casseroles, soups, etc., to add nutrition.  There are now a number of mushroom powder “enhanced” products and foods on supermarket shelves.

So whether it is the wild moral mushroom or farmed, store bought mushrooms, mushrooms are an excellent food for both flavor and nutrition.  Take good care of them to maximize both the flavor and nutrition.

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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