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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Garnishes

Since Spring has officially arrived, I am already looking forward to warmer weather and Summer! Smoothies are a favorite at our house in the Summer. They are something we, along with our children and grandchildren, all enjoy.

One of the fun things about smoothies is the many fun ways you can garnish them. There are the usual little umbrellas, plastic animals, and fancy straws. Flavored salt is another pretty common garnish. You can use your food processor or a mortar and pestle to grind coarse salt. Moisten the rim of the glass with lemon, lime, or orange juice, or even water, and dip it in the flavored salt. This works with flavored or colored sugar as well. Or try powdered drink mixes or finely chopped coconut for something different.

The idea behind garnishes is to complement or contrast flavors to hint at what’s in the recipe or bring out the flavor. If you use ice as part of your garnish you can freeze colored juices or sodas in cubes which will not dilute your drink. Or freeze berries or slices of fruit in ice cubes. You can also purchase spherical ice cube molds which look unique and attractive in the glass.

Other popular garnishes for fruity drinks are maraschino cherries, pineapple wedges, fruit kabobs, shaved coconut, and candied strips or wheels of zest. It is fun to experiment using a few different citrus zests and twisting or tieing them together.

If you are serving a vegetable smoothie, you can use a mandolin or vegetable peeler to make long, thin strips of cucumber, carrot, or radish to garnish with. Fresh herb leaves or sprigs also add a nice touch. Or try threading sprigs of hardy herbs (rosemary or thyme) through cranberries, blueberries, and raspberries. My favorite vegetable smoothie uses fresh spinach, frozen bananas, avocado, protein powder, and almond milk. I like to garnish it with fresh fruit such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

Sometimes in place of smoothies my granddaughter likes a “mocktail” which we often like to make layered. To accomplish this you need to use ingredients with contrasting colors and different weights. For a Layered Shirley Temple, mix together 1/2 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup lemon-lime flavored carbonated beverage. Pour the mixture into a tall glass then pour 1 Tablespoon grenadine in and let it sink to the bottom. Maraschino cherries make a nice garnish for this drink. Another layered drink that looks pretty is the Italian Cream Soda. To make this one, mix the fruit flavored syrups you are using with the soda water and pour into a glass. Float half-and-half on top for the layered look and top with whipped cream.

Homemade lollipops are a fun activity to do with children and the lollipops can serve as a stirrer in their smoothies and a snack.

Happy Summer! I hope it will be a long one after the extended Winter we have had!

 

 

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Lettuce!

 

This year, it seems like winter has a grip on us and just will not let go. One thing that does make me feel like spring is coming is looking at the lettuce at the grocery store and dreaming about planting some out in my garden.

When I look at the variety of lettuce available at the store, it seems like there must be almost endless number of different types. Actually, there are really only five different types of lettuce.

    • Leaf lettuce (sometimes called loose-leaf lettuce)
    • Romaine (sometimes called Cos lettuce)
    • Crisphead lettuce
    • Butterhead Lettuce
    • Stem lettuce (sometimes called Asparagus lettuce)

Leaf lettuce has crisp leaves arranged loosely on a stalk.   Most home gardeners that grow lettuce have leaf lettuce in their gardens. It is the most widely planted salad vegetable.

Cos or Romaine

Cos or Romaine lettuce can be easily recognized as it has an upright rather elongated head. It is great as an addition to tossed salads.

Butterhead lettuce

Butterhead lettuce may be less familiar but are typically smaller, loose headed, and have soft and tender leaves. This too makes an excellent addition to tossed salads.

Stem lettuce is not always available at our local grocery stores. It is actually an enlarged seed stalk often used in Chinese dishes. Sometimes it is stewed or creamed.

The lettuce that everyone seems to be familiar with is the Crisphead lettuce. This type is found in nearly every grocery store—think iceberg lettuce. It seems odd to me that this most common lettuce is actually one of the most difficult to grow. Start this in the garden very early in the spring, as it is very sensitive to heat. If the lettuce is not mature before the hot weather arrives, the lettuce will often die.

Sometimes callers want to know why the lettuce they grew in the garden is bitter. This often happens when the weather turns warmer and stalks for seeds begin to grow. If you wash the lettuce and store it in the refrigerator for a couple of days, the bitterness will dissipate.

Store your lettuce in the coolest part of your refrigerator. The first shelf near the back wall of the refrigerator is usually the coolest spot. Avoid placing the lettuce near pears, bananas, or apples. These fruits give off ethylene gas, which can cause the lettuce to develop brown spots and decay. Discard any lettuce that has black spots or seems slimy.

Due to the composition of lettuce, (94.9% water) there is no way to successfully preserve it. Enjoy lettuce fresh and often.  And remember that spring will be here eventually.

 

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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Gardening for Food Pantries

Food insecurity exists to some extent in nearly every community.  People who are food insecure not only experience food shortage, but they usually are unable to include fresh fruits and vegetables for a healthy diet because they are out of reach.  Either produce costs too much or is not available.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  By sharing our garden or orchard surplus or planting a dedicated giving garden, home, community, and school gardeners can help food banks, pantries, and community food distribution programs provide fresh produce to ease this problem.

A giving garden can be a whole garden, a row or two as championed by the Garden Writers Association’s Plant a Row for the Hungry, or even one container dedicated to growing healthy (organic if possible) vegetables or fruits for those in need. Or it can be a planned effort such as a Master Gardener garden program done alone or in conjunction with another organization. Every donation, no matter how big or small, makes a difference to someone in need.  Besides helping to fill food banks, pantries, and programs, raising vegetables and/or fruits to donate is rewarding for everyone involved, including children, so it can be a family affair.

Before planting, you will want to do a little research.  Contact local food banks, pantries, or distribution programs to find out if they will accept local produce, what fruits and vegetables they prefer, and when and where to drop off donations.  Once you know the details of donating, purchase seeds or plants for the preferred produce, plant, and tend your garden.  Often the most sought after produce is some of the easiest to grow.

Harvest your produce at its prime as you would for yourself and practice safe-handling.  Many who are served by food banks and pantries are at a higher risk for foodborne illness as they include children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.   Here are a few tips from Michigan State University Extension to minimize food safety risks when donating produce:

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water before handling produce.
  • If pesticides were used on the product, be absolutely certain that you have followed the instructions on the pesticide label for application and safe harvest times. If you are unsure, discard the produce in the garbage—do not compost, eat or donate it.
  • Inspect each item of produce carefully. Discard any items that have signs of insects, bruising, mold, or spoilage. If you wouldn’t buy it, toss it!
  • Brush off as much mud and soil as possible from the produce.
  • Only use clean, food-grade containers or bags to store and transport produce.
  • Keep different types of produce separate.

If you have to wait a day or two to deliver your produce, refrigerate the produce so that it will stay as fresh as possible.

Some food banks offer donation receipts that you can use at tax time so remember to ask for a receipt if that is something you want. Gardeners who donate produce from their gardens or orchards to nonprofit organizations for distribution to people in need are protected from criminal and civil liability by the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Under terms of the act, donors are protected from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient.

For additional help on donating and handling produce, download this free fact sheets from Michigan State University: Donating Produce. If you are interested in a Master Gardener program, contact your county extension office.

Mother Teresa said it best, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  Donating garden surplus or harvesting from a giving garden can do just that.

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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Tick Season Has Arrived

Spring is a season I look forward to.  It brings green grass, flowers, leaves on the trees, and lots of outdoor time.  And unfortunately, ticks are also part of spring.  Because of mild winter temperatures and another wet spring, ticks may again be abundant in some locations.  Tick populations vary greatly from place to place and year to year. Ticks are most active from March to September with peak activity in April, May, and June. Ticks live and crawl on low-lying vegetation and attach to small mammals, pets, or people as they pass by.  Ticks crawl upward to find a place to bite.

There are more than a dozen different tick varieties throughout our area; however, there are three main types usually encountered:  the American dog tick, the lone star tick, and the blacklegged tick.

The American Dog Tick is also known as the wood tick.  These ticks are found predominantly in grassy fields as well as along walkways and trails.  They feed on a variety of warm blooded animals.  Without a host, they may survive up to two years but need a host to move to the next stage of their development.  They can transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever;  however, this disease is not common in Iowa, Minnesota, or South Dakota.

The Lone Star Tick is abundant in the south central and southeastern US and in recent years has become common in Iowa as well.  It is recognized by the white dot on the back of the adult female.  The adult feeds on large mammals while the immature ticks prefer birds and small mammals.  These ticks are usually found in bushy and grassy areas and can transmit the bacteria of several diseases but not Lyme Disease.

The Blacklegged Tick is also known as the deer tick or bear tick and is the known carrier of Lyme Disease.  This tick takes two years to complete its life cycle and is found predominately in woody, brushy areas.   Both the nymph (about the size of a poppy seed) and adult (1/8” or smaller) stages are capable of transmitting Lyme Disease.

If you are unsure about a tick, you can submit it for identification to the Iowa State University Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic. Please click here for submitting information. ISU does not test ticks for pathogens.  According to the CDC, testing ticks for pathogen presence is not useful. (https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/removal/)

After being outdoors, make it a routine to check clothing and your body.  A good tip is to disrobe in a dry bathtub where ticks that might fall off and can be easily seen and disposed of.  If a tick has attached, it is important to remove it quickly and correctly.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend this method:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  4. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers. (Folk remedies such as burning or coating with polish, detergent or petroleum jelly are of no benefit and may promote transmission of pathogens.)

Clothing should be laundered in as warm of water as possible.

This blog was prepared with the help of Dr. Donald R Lewis, Professor and Extension Entomologist, Iowa State University Department of Entomology.

Tick images are courtesy of and with permission of John Van Dyk, Iowa State University Department of Entomology. http://www.ent.iastate.edu/
A dime is included in the photos to give perspective of size.

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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Prevent Clothing Moths

The warm weather makes me want to finish up cleaning and storing winter items. I typically wash all our winter coats, hats, mittens, and scarves.  The flannel sheets and heavy blankets are clean and stored away.  The next thing I need to do is wash or dry-clean all our woolen sweaters and shirts and store them to prevent damage from clothing moths.

I did a little research on clothing moths since it has been a while since we had any questions from AnswerLine callers on this topic. These moths like to lay eggs on woolen and other animal fiber articles of clothing.  There are actually two different species of clothing moths.

The case making clothes moth and the webbing clothes moth both appear very similar.  They are both yellowish in color and about ¼ inch long.  They look a bit fluttery when flying and both avoid the light.  Their fully grown larvae are about ½ inch long and white when brownish-black heads.  Both will spin a feeding tube or protective case into the fabric that they are feeding upon.

This larval stage is the only life stage when the insect feeds; the eggs and adult moths do not damage clothing. The clothing moths prefer quiet dark areas like closets, attics and seldom used drawers or trunks.  If you store an item for a long time in one of those quiet spots the item is particularly at risk.  Moths typically will not damage anything in a high traffic or use area.

You may be wondering how to prevent a clothing moth infestation. The best answer to this is to be meticulous in keeping both the storage area and the garments clean.  Vacuuming will remove eggs and laundering or dry cleaning will also destroy the eggs.  Cleaning items will also remove food stains and body oils which will also attract moths.  You may need to brush or leave items in the bright sunlight to get rid of larvae or eggs.  Remember to brush the items outdoors so you don’t re-infest your home.

Freezing is another alternative to control the larvae or eggs in an item that you cannot wash or dry-clean. You must leave the item in a freezer set at 0F for at least 48-72 hours. This will be great if you have stuffed animals or items with feathers on them.

After your items are cleaned, store them in a tightly sealed container. You may want to choose a tightly sealed plastic tub.  Cedar does contain oil that acts as an insecticide but is only effective if tightly contained.  A cedar closet is not typically tight enough to actually kill the moths.  Moth balls can be effective if placed inside a tightly sealed container but they are toxic and you may want to avoid using them.  The odor of the mothballs is very long lasting so you may choose to just use the tightly sealed tub alone.

It looks like I have a project for this weekend, but once I get everything cleaned it will be safely stored for the summer.

 

 

 

 

 

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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Garage Sale tips part 2

Last spring at about this time we published a blog with some suggestions of items to avoid when buying or selling at a garage sale. That advice seems timely again but we also have some suggestions for those who want to make smart purchases at a sale.

  • It is important to know what an item is worth to know if you are indeed getting a bargain. If it is a collectable item, brush up on prices by looking at collectors’ magazines or webpages. Even eBay can be a quick resource.
  • Look for brand names that you trust for high quality items. Avoid overpaying on the strength of the brand name alone.
  • Be sure that your really need the item. A bargain is not worth it if it is something that will just take up space at your home but not be useful.
  • If you’re eyeing a big-league investment—be it a sleek car, a swanky boat, or a hefty appliance—pump the brakes and give yourself some room for contemplation. Think of it as checking out the Invest Diva reviews for your financial decisions. You may even want to consult a mechanic or repair person for advice. The repairman may know what part of the appliance wears the fastest and the expected life of the appliance.
  • Be realistic about the actual price of the item. If it requires a lot of repair before it is useable, it may not be a bargain after all.
  • Try to arrive at the sale early as you will have more of an opportunity to evaluate the item.
  • Don’t assume that the price marked is firm; be willing to negotiate for a lower price. Be realistic about true value of the item.

Taking some time to do a bit of research should help you know a bargain when you see one. Happy shopping.

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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Disaster help

Dealing with Flooding

flooded fieldThe resources on this page and on the Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Finding Answers Now page provide information Iowans can use to plan before a flood situation, recover and clean up from flood water damage, and conserve water.

To find current conditions in Iowa, visit the DNR Current Disasters in Iowa website and follow flood and drought conditions in the state; find resources and assistance information. The national Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) provides additional resources for county extension offices on the Floods and Flooding webpage.

Hotlines

  • Iowa Concern Hotline: 800-447-1985
    Help and referrals for dealing with stress, crisis and loss in times of disaster.

Clean Up

Crops

Iowa State University Resources, Fall 2016

Additional Resources

Health and Safety

Livestock

Private Wells

Stress Management

Stress

Before Flood Preparations

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Gardening to Attract Butterflies

SwallowtailWe have been thinking and talking a lot about gardens this fall at AnswerLine.  One topic we don’t always think about is planting things in the garden that will attract butterflies.  I seem to remember seeing many more butterflies when I was young.  Even when my children were young, I remember seeing butterflies more often than I do now.

This fall, while my garden efforts are still fresh in my mind, I want to plan what I will do next spring to attract butterflies to my yard.  I KNOW that my grandchildren will really enjoy watching and trying to catch them.  Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has a new publication that explains everything you need to know to plan your garden.  Butterflies and bees will also help pollinate other garden plants, so planting to lure them to my garden will help the rest of the plants and fruit trees in my yard.  I’m going to get to work on my new garden plan this weekend.

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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