Tuesday, October 30, 2018

It’s Apple Season!

It is Apple Season! These days, there are so many varieties of apples available that you may be wondering which variety to buy.  Which apple is best for a specific use, how to store apples for best quality, or how many apples are in a pound or bushel?

Apples are considered a great snack food as an average sized apple contains about 90 calories and is about 85% water. That makes them thirst quenching and a quick energy provider with their natural sugars, plus the bulky pulp makes the eater feel full.  They also make a great portable snack; take one along to work, school, or when you are running errands.

Apples may be displayed in a fruit bowl at room temperature for a short period of time but that will dramatically reduce their usable life. Apples will last the longest when kept close to 32 degrees. For most of us that would mean the refrigerator. Apples stored near 32 degrees in perforated plastic bags or covered containers will last 8-10 times longer than if stored at room temperature.

Here are some fun apple math facts:

3 medium sized apples equal approximately 1 pound
Pared and sliced, 1 pound apples yields 2 3/4 cups
A peck of apples weighs 10.5 pounds
A bushel of apples weighs 42 pounds
A bushel of apples will yield 15 – 20 quarts of applesauce
The best baking apples offer a balance of sweet and tart flavors as well as flesh that doesn’t break down in the oven.
·         Granny Smith apples are generally thought of as the go-to baking apples but there are others that hold up well under heat and balance the sweet-tart flavor.

·         The crisp texture of the Honey Crisp apple will hold firm when baked or caramelized.
·         Pink Lady apples will retain a distinct shape when diced and added to coffee cake or muffins. 
·         Jonathans are tart and tangy and have been pie favorites for many years.
·         Red Delicious are not good for baking. They are mild-flavored, sweet, and juicy.
·         Other apples good for eating fresh are Gala, Fuji, and Braeburn.  These apples also work well in salads.
Enjoy apple season this year and have fun experimenting with different variety combinations in your baking. Following is a favorite apple recipe. Enjoy.

Fruit Crisp

4 cups apples (peeled and sliced) or 1 can (29 ounces) sliced peaches in light syrup or juice, drained

1/2 cup quick or old fashioned rolled oats

1/3 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour

1/3 cup white or brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup margarine or butter, cold (cut into chunks)

1/4 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease or spray with cooking spray the bottom of an 8” round or square pan. Spread sliced apples or drained peaches over bottom of pan. Stir together the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in the margarine using a pastry cutter, knives, or by squeezing through your clean hands. (It will be easier to spread on the fruit with smaller chunks.) Add dried fruit or nuts, if desired. Sprinkle flour mixture over fruit. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes or until topping is golden and fruit is bubbly.

Source: Iowa State University’s Spend Smart, Eat Smart

Private Pesticide Applicator Training Class

Producers that want to spray for weed control and some insect control in the spring it is time to start preparing.  Obtaining a Private Pesticide Applicator License usually will take 6 weeks to 2 months to receive your license.  Now is a great time to start the process.  A Private Pesticide Applicator Training Class has been scheduled for Wednesday, November 14 at 8:30 a.m. at the Wise County Extension office located at 206 S. State St., in Decatur.  The $60.00 registration fee includes the study books. This class is for those individuals who do not currently have a pesticide applicator license, but would like to get one.

Individuals who have a license that has been expired less than 1 year are not eligible to take this class.

As defined by law, a private applicator is a person who uses or supervises the use of a restricted use or state-limited-use pesticide or a regulated herbicide for the purpose of producing an agricultural commodity.  The licensed private applicator is responsible for assuring that persons working under his or her direct supervision are knowledgeable of the label requirements governing the use of the pesticides they are using.

Licensing as a private applicator requires practical knowledge of pest problems and control practices associated with agricultural operations.

Licensed private applicators are required to re-certify every five years by obtaining 15 continuing education units (CEU’s) by December 31 of the year preceding license expiration.  That includes two (2) credits in laws and regulations and two (2) credits in integrated pest management or drift minimization. Check out the Texas Department of Agriculture’s website for more information. www.agr.state.tx.us/pesticide.

Space is limited for this class, please call the Extension Office or come by to sign up for the class. You can contact the Wise County – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at 206 S. State St. or call 940-627-3341.

Trunk or Treat and Halloween Activities

Trunk or Treat and Halloween activities are festive days that kids enjoy, because they get dressed up and get treats. For health-conscious parents, these days can be tricky.  Do you set limits? Do you let kids decide how much to eat? I found advice on the KidsHealth.org and Clemson Cooperative Extension websites that I thought worthy of passing along.
There isn't just one right answer. Instead, use your best judgment based on your child's personality and eating habits.  Kids who generally eat just a couple of pieces and save the  rest might be trusted to decide how much to eat. But if your child tends to overdo it, consider setting limits. Here are some more tips for handling the treats:
·         Before kids go trick-or-treating, try to serve a healthy meal so they're not hungry when the candy starts coming in. 
  • Know how much candy your child has collected and don't store it in his or her bedroom. Having it so handy can be an irresistible temptation for many kids.
  • Consider being somewhat lenient about candy eating on Halloween, within reason, and talk about how the rest of the candy will be handled.  Candy and snacks shouldn't get in the way of kids eating healthy meals.
  • If a child is overweight — or you'd just like to reduce the Halloween stash — consider buying back some or all of the remaining Halloween candy. This acknowledges the candy belongs to the child and provides a treat in the form of a little spending money.
  • Be a role model by eating candy in moderation yourself. To help avoid temptation, buy your candy at the last minute and get rid of any leftovers.
  • Encourage your kids to be mindful of the amount of candy and snacks eaten — and to stop before they feel full or sick.
You also can offer some alternatives to candy to the trick-or-treaters who come to your door. Here are some treats (individually wrapped items are best) you might give out:
  • treats to promote physical activity like bouncy balls, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, or plastic/foam fliers;
  • snacks such as small bags of pretzels, sugar-free gum, sugar-free candy, trail mix, small boxes of raisins, and popcorn;
  • small boxes of cereal, cereal bars animal crackers;
  • non-food treats, like stickers, toys, temporary tattoos, false teeth, little bottles of bubbles and small games, like tiny decks of cards (party-supply stores can be great sources for these);
  • consider being a part of the Teal Pumpkin Project which has raised awareness of those children with food allergies and their struggles to enjoy trick or treating. You can take part in this project by providing non-food treats and displaying a teal pumpkin in front of your home/vehicle trunk to indicate to passersby that you have non-food treats available.
Steer clear of any snacks or toys — like small plastic objects — that could pose choking hazards to very young children.
And remember that Trunk or Treat/Halloween, like other holidays, are a single day on the calendar.  If your family eats sensibly during the rest of the year, it will have a more lasting impact than a few days of overindulgence.
For additional information on children’s health, contact Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Wise County Extension office at 940/627-3341.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Small Grains Off to a Start

You know early grazing didn’t work in our favor this year; however, those of you who were lucky enough to get your small grain fields planted before the rain may have a chance to have an excellent beginning and should be able to graze those fields much earlier than usual.  Of course we don’t need it washed out and we need it to stay warm a little while longer.  If these things fall into place early grazed forage should contain 28-32% crude protein. It is important to remember, each ton of forage harvested by livestock will remove 90-100 pounds of nitrogen. Small grain forage that stands a foot tall will easily yield one ton per acre. That means if you only applied 60 to 80 pounds of nitrogen per acre at planting, most if not all of your nitrogen will be harvested with the first grazing.
Don’t forget Armyworms in your small grain fields.  There is a good chance that you will have them, it is only a question of when.  Scout your fields daily because it can get away from you in a hurry.  Those of you that have wheat up, you should be in good shape with the recent and upcoming rain events.  It is worth your while to scout and spray for worms immediately.
We can also usually expect to see nitrogen deficiency symptoms before the first of the year. If you are able to graze early and remove the forage before then, nitrogen top dressing in December will surely help produce more winter forage. If you delay that nitrogen application until January or February, expect a forage growth loss.
In many cases, hay quality is below average, so a few pounds of nitrogen may allow your winter forage to economically supplement the hay.
According to Noble Foundation research, limit grazing your small grains may be the best bet to extend that small grains grazing and provide the necessary protein. Grazing steers as little as 15 minutes on small grains equals about 2.5 pounds of 20% breeders cube.  Using forage supplementation in place of feed can save money if managed correctly.  Producers should look at all winter feeding options to determine the cheapest source of protein and energy to sustain suitable body condition scores throughout the winter.

Kitchen Gadgets 101

Do you ever wonder if the newest gadgets or appliances in the kitchen will be a good fit for your family? Is an Air Fryer, Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot), or Sous Vide machine on your Christmas list but you just aren’t sure which one? It can be quite a challenge to keep up with the latest and greatest ‘as seen on TV’ item.  With these thoughts in mind our Texas A&M AgriLife Extension –Wise County program area committees and Leadership Advisory Board have been busy planning our first ever Kitchen Gadget 101 program.  Scheduled for Tuesday, November 6, 2018 beginning at 6pm in the Lecture Hall at Weatherford College Wise County, you will hear presentations from real people with samples of food from three alternative methods of cooking.
Before you splurge on another kitchen appliance, join us to learn more about pressure cookers, air fryers and sous vide cooking. We plan to provide information that addresses the advantages, benefits, versatility, ease of use, approximate costs and ways to prepare a healthy meal.
Cooking sous-vide is becoming a popular cooking technique and works by submerging vacuum-sealed food into a precisely heated water bath.   The food cooks evenly at a constant temperature without losing any of its original taste, aroma, color, or fat content.  Sous vide cooking claims to cook perfect meals that will impress your guests with an unconventional way of preparing meat, fish, veggies and even dessert.
Pressure cookers prepare food using steam that is tightly sealed in a special pot. Once the lid is closed, the correct amount of pressure is selected based on the recipe.  Many people eat pressure-cooked food because they believe it’s healthier, tastier, and easier/faster to prepare. Are the end results as great as the claims?
And finally, an air fryer cooks food with hot air instead of a lot of oil. It combines several different cooking methods in one convenient appliance. The convection action converts the small amount of oil you use into a fine mist that coats the food as it circulates making it a very healthy appliance to have in the kitchen. What makes the air fryer a great choice to add to your kitchen appliances?
Join us to find out if one of these products would make a great gift or should be added as a tool in your kitchen! The cost of the program, which helps to cover the cost of handouts and food samples, is $20 per person or $30 per couple. You may register and receive information on how to make payment by contacting the Extension office at 940-627-3341.  Space is limited.