Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Preserve Fruit & Veggies now, Enjoy later!!!

Wouldn’t some home-grown peas, tomatoes or squash taste good next January? While you’re too late to start a garden this year, shop for good buys on delicious seasonal fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or at farmers markets. Maybe you are lucky and have friends or relatives with extra fruits and vegetables to share with you.  Gardening and food preservation can pay off by promoting a healthier diet. Depending on the equipment you already have, you could save some money by preserving food at home.  Some studies report for every $1 spent on seeds, you get $10 worth of fresh produce. That depends on a good season and knowledge of gardening.

Canning and freezing are examples of food preservation. Canning requires the largest investment in equipment and supplies, such as a canner, jars and lids. If you have freezer space, freezing is easy to do and it requires little special equipment other than a stove, large kettle and metal basket. To freeze foods properly, remember these tips:

·         Choose containers made for freezer storage, such as freezer bags or plastic freezer containers. Good freezer containers keep moisture in and air out.
·         Blanch, or heat treat, as directed. Blanching is scalding vegetables or fruits in steam or boiling water for a short period of time. If you do not blanch, vegetables may discolor, toughen or develop off-color or off-flavors during frozen storage.
·         Label containers with contents and date.
·         For best quality, use frozen vegetables within 12 months.

If you would like to preserve food in jars for shelf storage, follow these recommendations for a safe product:

·         Always use research-tested recipes available from your Extension Service office. For safety, do not alter ingredient proportions. If you create your own recipe and want to preserve it, freezing is the safest option.
·         If you plan to can tomatoes for use in soup, spaghetti sauce or other recipes, be sure to acidify tomatoes with the recommended amount of lemon juice or citric acid prior to canning. Add 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice (or ¼ teaspoon of citric acid) per pint of tomatoes or 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice (or ½ teaspoon of citric acid) per quart.
·         Be sure to seal jams and jellies with a regular canning lid (not wax) and process them in a boiling-water-bath for five to 10 minutes, depending on altitude. Enjoy your preserves at their best quality. Store canned goods in a cool, dark place. For best quality, use home-canned goods within one year.
·         Pressure canning is required for safety when canning low-acid foods such as corn, beans, meat and many mixtures of foods. Do not can these in a boiling-water bath canner. Use a pressure canner and current U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines. Be sure to read the instructions that came with your canner. Have the pressure gauge tested every year to be sure it is accurate.

Information from “http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/foodwise/newsletters.htm.” For more information on this topic, contact Luella Morehouse, FNP Education Assistant, NDSU Extension Service Stutsman County,  at luella.morehouse@ndsu.edu.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Agricultural Consultant Discusses Summer Fertilization Needs

Recently, I received this news release from Noble Foundation concerning nitrogen fertilization recommendations in the hot summer months.  For those of you that have just finished baling your second cutting, I thought this would be beneficial to you.

ARDMORE, Okla. — Now that ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) prices have increased and supplies are more difficult to obtain, anyone who needs to apply nitrogen (N) during hot weather should evaluate the alternatives, according to an agricultural consultant at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.

“If you are in an area where ammonium nitrate is still available, it is still an excellent source of nitrogen,” said James Locke, Noble Foundation soils and crops consultant. “Although a 34-0-0 product may be available, make sure that it is actually ammonium nitrate. There have been many reports of urea and ammonium sulfate or other products being blended to make 34-0-0. If urea is used in these blends, it has the same volatility risk as using straight urea. Even if it is not available, summer fertilization is still necessary to maintain full productivity.”

While there are several available alternatives to ammonium nitrate, the most common choices are urea (46-0-0), UAN liquid (32-0-0 or 28-0-0) and ammonium sulfate (21-0-0-24S).

Urea is a dry nitrogen source that has long been used for fall, winter and spring application, but is quickly becoming the primary choice for summer use. Summer applications of surface-applied urea are typically avoided due to the risk of loss to the atmosphere; however, incorporation of urea by at least 0.25 inches of rainfall or sprinkler irrigation, or tillage within three to four days of application will keep volatilization losses to a minimum, Locke said.

“If there are no rain, irrigation or tillage opportunities, you can have up to 40 percent loss,” Locke said. “The ideal choice is to apply the urea when rainfall is imminent, although we all know that can be very difficult. One can also apply a nitrogen additive containing NBPT to keep the urea from converting to ammonia.”

UAN, or liquid urea-ammonium nitrate, is a nitrogen source produced by combining urea and ammonium nitrate. The ammonium nitrate portion retains all the advantages of its granular form; however, the urea portion has an equal, if not greater, risk of volatilization than its granular form, Locke explained. All of the procedures to limit volatilization losses from the granular form apply to the liquid form in UAN. Other disadvantages of liquid UAN include the potential for leaf burning and difficulty in blending with phosphorus and potassium.

Ammonium sulfate is a dry nitrogen source that has excellent agronomic properties, much like ammonium nitrate. It is non-volatile, the nitrogen is readily plant-available, and it is a good source of sulfur. The primary drawback of ammonium sulfate is the high cost per pound of actual nitrogen. Due to its high cost, ammonium sulfate is used primarily in high value horticultural crops or ornamental settings. Ammonium sulfate has a higher capacity to acidify soils, so Locke recommended paying close attention to soil pH and liming as needed.

Locke also warned consumers to compare prices against other sources and read labels to fully understand what fertilizer is being purchased. “There are some products on the market today that claim to be excellent sources of nitrogen,” Locke said. “But I advise everyone to make sure they look at the chemical makeup before purchasing.”

Break out knives and spoons

What a great way for kids to brush up on their kitchen skills and a way for 4-H age kids to see if this is a project they may be interested in.

Friday, July 20, 2012

New Feral Hog Website Provides National Expertise and Resources

As you know feral hogs seem to be a growing nuisance that will not go away.  I have producers always wanting more information on how they can control feral hogs on their land.  Recently I received an email from Noble Foundation on a website that producers can use to get some answers.  The following article should give producers a start for planning feral hog control on their land.

Ardmore, Okla. - The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation has joined several land-grant university extension entities throughout the United States to form a “community of practice” that will fight the growing feral hog problem.

This Feral Hog Community of Practice brings together a group of professional educators with expertise on a variety of feral hog related topics. Together, they have launched a new Web-based resource on www.eXtension.org to help provide agricultural producers, wildlife managers and landowners with critical information and expert application of knowledge to meet the growing demand for timely and accurate information.

“This community of practice is designed to deliver new ideas and strategies to reduce feral hog numbers,” said Russell Stevens, Noble Foundation wildlife consultant. “When you have a problem that is as significant as the feral hog issue is in the U.S., it requires a multi-institutional, multi-state, and multidisciplinary educational and informational effort. This resource will bring the best and most timely educational information to those who need it most, as well as accurate information to the public.”

The new Web-based resource (available at http://www.eXtension.org/feral_hogs) will focus on control, adaptive management, biology, economics, disease risks and human interface relating to feral hogs across the U.S.

“The eXtension.org website delivers objective, well-researched knowledge from some of the best minds within the nation’s land-grant university system and beyond,” said Dr. Jim Cathey, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist who has served as leader of the effort. “For the past year, our group has been developing educational resources for feral hog management and now those resources are available to the public.”

Through eXtension.org, there are already 35 communities of practice related to other important public resource areas. This website provides expertise and answers based upon research, creative solutions to today’s complex challenges and answers addressing users’ specific needs by field-tested data.

For more information on feral hogs, please call the Extension office at 940/627-3341.

Food Protection Management Course

Food Service Managers are encouraged to attend a food safety training program Wednesday, August 1 and Thursday, August 2 beginning at 8 am at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Wise County office, located at 206 S. State Street in Decatur.  This program includes training, materials, and the state approved food manager certification examination (ServeSafe).  Call 940/627-3341 for registration information.
The “Food Safety: It’s Our Business” course is designed to not only prepare food service managers to pass the certification examination; it will provide valuable education regarding the safe handling of food.  Almost 50 cents of every dollar Americans spend on food is spent on meals prepared away from home.  Therefore, careful attention to food safety will help keep customers safe and satisfied.
Food borne illnesses are estimated to cost thousands of dollars in lost wages, insurance, and medical bills.  With these statistics, knowledge of how to prevent food borne illness is essential.  The benefits of improved food safety include:
·                     Increased customer satisfaction
·                     Improved relationships with health officials
·                     Prevention of bad publicity and law suits due to food borne illness
By attending the course, food service managers will learn about:
·                     identifying potentially hazardous foods and common errors in food handling
·                     preventing contamination and cross-contamination of food
·                     teaching and encouraging personal hygiene for employees
·                     complying with government regulations
·                     maintaining clean utensils, equipment and surroundings
·                     controlling pests
Food borne illnesses can be prevented by following simple food safety practices.  For more information about the Food Manager Certification Training course of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service call the Extension office at 940/627-3411.  Registration is limited to the first 20 paid participants.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Last day to Register

Today is the last day to register for our 2 day event!! It is going to be a great way to network with other teachers from around the county as well as bring something new to your classroom!!! Please call the extension office for more information!

Celebrate Ice Cream Month!!!

Making Homemade Ice Cream Using Raw Eggs

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by a full 90% of the nation's population.
If you are planning to celebrate ice cream month with a batch of your favorite homemade ice cream it is important to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from the danger of possible Salmonella infection by using a homemade ice cream recipe made with a cooked egg base, made without eggs or made with commercial PASTEURIZED egg substitutes. Egg mixtures used in making cooked bases for ice cream are safe if they reach 160 degrees F when tested with a thermometer. At this temperature, the mixture should coat a metal spoon.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration you can still enjoy homemade ice cream without the risk of Salmonella infection by substituting a pasteurized egg substitute, or pasteurized shell eggs for the raw eggs in your favorite recipe. Egg substitutes, which may be liquid or frozen, contain only the white of the egg, the part that doesn't have fat and cholesterol, and are readily available at most supermarkets. These eggs look and taste just like regular shell eggs, though the white may be slightly cloudy, and they are nutritionally equivalent to their unpasteurized counterparts.
Even when using pasteurized products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) advise consumers to start with a cooked base for optimal safety, especially if serving people at high risk. Additionally, you should ensure that the dairy ingredients you use in homemade ice cream, such as milk and cream, are pasteurized.
If you are watching your weight and have put ice cream on your “don’t eat” list, think again! Instead of a big dish of ice cream topped by a handful of strawberries, enjoy a bowl of fruit topped with a small scoop (1/2 cup) of ice cream. One cup of strawberries provides about 50 calories and a generous amount of fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants. A half cup of light ice cream adds about 100 calories, as well as calcium. With a total of around 150 calories for the fruit plus ice cream, your taste buds and your waistline can be happy.
For more information on preparing homemade ice cream, contact the Extension office at 940/627-3341.