Friday, June 23, 2017

What to Do with Zucchini

Whether purchasing or picking zucchini—choose firm, slender zucchini with a bright green color and free of wrinkled skin and soft spots. For best quality, harvest zucchini when it is young and tender, about 6 to 8 inches long and about 2 inches in diameter. As zucchini gets longer and bigger around, it becomes tougher and develops more seeds. These larger zucchini can be used in zucchini bread; scoop out seeds and pulp with the tip of a spoon.
Store unwashed zucchini in perforated plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator; wash zucchini just before preparation. “You can either purchase perforated plastic bags or make small holes with a sharp object in unperforated plastic bags (about 20 holes per medium-size bag. For best quality, use zucchini within about 3 to 4 days.
Wash zucchini just before preparation. Zucchini makes a quick addition to meals as it doesn't have to be peeled!  Before you give your zucchini away, here are some suggestions:
       Slice, marinate (try balsamic vinegar) and grill a variety of vegetables including zucchini, asparagus, green onions, eggplant, and mushrooms. They’re delicious!
         Cut up veggies like carrots, zucchini and potatoes. Add them to your favorite meatloaf or soup recipes.
      Take your favorite lasagna recipe and try adding different combinations of your favorite vegetables between the layers: mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, onions, or eggplant.
          Add raw zucchini to lettuce and pasta salads.
          Cut zucchini into sticks and serve with a dip.
         Slice zucchini, sauté in oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes until tender crisp; toss into  heated pasta sauce for a veggie-packed pasta topping.
Easy Cheesy Squash
4 small zucchini, sliced (option- a variety of different types of squash)
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup chopped onion
1 finely chopped jalapeno
1 teaspoon oil or non-stick cooking spray
   garlic and pepper to taste
1 can (16 ounces) kernel corn, drained 
½ cup reduced fat Monterrey
Jack cheese or other favorite cheese, shredded


Wash your hands and clean your cooking area. Clean the tops of canned food items before opening them. Wash zucchini, tomatoes, onion and jalapeno. Cut vegetables as directed. Heat skillet with oil or cooking spray over medium heat. Add zucchini; cook until firmly tender. Add tomatoes, onion, and jalapeno. Season with garlic and pepper to taste.  Cook uncovered until veggies are tender. Reduce heat and add corn and cheese. Mix well and cook until cheese is melted.

Nutrition Facts per ½ cup serving: Calories, 90; Total Fat-3.5g; Saturated Fat-1.5g; Sodium-210 mg; Total Carbohydrate-10g; Dietary Fiber-2g; Sugar-5g; Protein-3g.

The source for this information came from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Better Living for Texans program. For more information contact Wise County’s Texas AgriLife Extension office at 940/627-3341.

Americans Come Up Short on Fruits and Vegetables

This isn't the first time you've heard the advice to eat more fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and vegetables provides vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that help reduce your risk for many diseases, including heart disease, stroke and some cancers. These low-calorie yet high-nutrient foods can even help you manage your weight when consumed in place of lower nutrient, higher calorie foods.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention summarizes U.S. fruit and vegetable intake. Our report card isn't great. It's time to tune in and make some improvements to our diets. Adults who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily should consume 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruits and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily.
Here's great advice from the Mayo Clinic: Every time you eat, include a fruit or vegetable, or one of each. Sounds simple, and it is with a little planning. Here's how to make it happen:
  • Plan for it. Get more fruits and vegetables in the house. Get them on your plate.
  • Store smart. Put produce at eye level in the fridge or in a bowl right on the counter.
  • Pack it. Put 2 to 3 options in your lunch sack, purse, gym bag or briefcase.
  • Eat it. Enjoy fruits and vegetables simply or look for ways to include them in entrees and side dishes. Want dessert? Put more strawberries and banana than ice cream in a bowl — still delicious!
How will you plan, store, pack and, most importantly, eat more fruits and vegetables? For starters, try the following recipe for Spinach Berry Salad. From the Fit-I and Enjoy It! Healthy Cookbook, it has a sweet and nutty flavor and is an excellent source of vitamin C, folate and manganese.

 Spinach Berry Salad.
 4 packed cups torn fresh spinach
 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh, or frozen, blueberries
1 small sweet onion, sliced
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Salad dressing:
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2  teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder (can be omitted)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
In a large salad bowl, toss together spinach, strawberries, blueberries, onion and pecans.  In a jar with a tightfitting lid, combine dressing ingredients. Shake well. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Nutritional analysis per 1 ½ cup serving: carbohydrates-25grams; dietary fiber- 4 grams; sodium-198 mg; saturated fat- .5grams; total fat- 5 grams; added sugars- 19 grams;  protein- 4 grams; calories- 158

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Pond Weed Control

With summer in full swing everybody wants there stock tanks to look nice.  We haven’t had as much rain as we would like but we can still pray for it. Even without rain we still see the effects of moss and algae in our stock ponds.  Treating earlier would be better, but it is not too late to think about pond management.  When we do have runoff of rains our tanks are sure to show new plant growth.  This article has some age but is still relevant for today, Dr. Michael Masser, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service fisheries specialist wrote a couple of years back and thought it would be important for pond owners this year.

            "Aquatic vegetation are the 'yin and yang of ponds," said Dr. Masser. "It would be nice to have some aquatic plants for esthetics and wildlife, but too many are a nightmare."  But control of moss and other aquatic plants need not be expensive or complicated, he said. Such vegetation can be controlled by mechanical, biological or chemical methods – either singly or in combination – in an integrated pest management approach.

            Pond moss and aquatic weeds can not only turn a pleasant day of fishing into a perpetual snag, they can make swimming and boating impossible too.  "Ten to 15 percent pond coverage of rooted aquatic vegetation would probably be good from a fish and wildlife standpoint, but ponds typically start out with almost none and after a very few years are almost entirely covered," he said.  There's a misconception, Masser said, that ponds and lakes can't be cleared of all rooted vegetation without critically reducing the food chain. True, plants are the beginning of any food chain, he said, but rooted vegetation tends to take over small ponds.

          Too many rooted plants not only disrupt recreational activities, but also increase sedimentation, disrupt the oxygen balance and prevent largemouth bass from finding prey fish, such as sunfish.  And also contrary to popular belief, bass do not need rooted vegetation to spawn.  "No, actually bass have to remove weeds to build their nests," Masser said. "In fact, scientific research has shown that the most productive bass and sunfish ponds are actually those that have little or no rooted aquatic vegetation and instead have green water or planktonic algae blooms."  Other research has shown that the same stringy, filamentous algae – what most would call "pond scum" – produces a more constant food supply than rooted vegetation, he said.  Counter intuitively, one of the easy ways to prevent root vegetation from taking over a pond is to fertilize, he said.

            "Note, that I said ‘prevent’ not ‘control,’" Masser said. "Proper fertilization creates green planktonic algae blooms. The algae blooms shade the pond bottom in areas over 2 or 3 feet deep and keep rooted weeds from getting started along the bottom."   Because fertilizing promotes algae growth, it also builds the food chain and enables the pond to support more fish, he noted.  An option is to use non-toxic chemical dyes to shade the pond bottom. The dyes do not promote green algae growth as does a fertilization program, however. So the treatment will promote higher fish populations.

            There are mechanical methods to control rooted vegetation, but they all require considerable industriousness on the part of the pond owner, Masser said. Weeds can be pulled or grubbed by hand or hoe. Some suppliers of mechanical cutters use a sickle wire or blade to shred the weeds. The cutters are usually hand-held and are labor-intensive. And like a home lawn, the vegetation is continually growing, so cutting has to be done again – and again. The heavy, water-laden cuttings have to be removed from the pond.  "If you like mowing your lawn, you're going to love mowing your pond," Masser said.  There's only one biological method of pond weed control in Texas: the triploid grass carp, he said.  Sometimes called the white amur, grass carp eat most submerged aquatic weeds. They cannot eat weeds that are on or project above the water surface, such cattails and lily pads.  Because it is feared the species might take over ponds and streams and crowd out game fish, only sterile, triploid grass carp are legal.

           To purchase the fish, pond owners must get a permit from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The species is only legally available from certified dealers.  Though sterile, the grass carp live as long as 10 years. Typically, Masser said, they control weeds for five to seven years, but are not effective for all species of weeds.  "This type of biological control is inexpensive from the standpoint of labor and chemical costs," Masser said. "Many pond owners, after years of frustration of trying to control aquatic weeds by other means, have found grass carp to be a simple and effective answer to their problems if stocked in sufficient numbers." 

            And then there's chemical control, Masser said. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has registered only nine active herbicide ingredients for aquatic weed control. All have been extensively tested and are safe if properly used.  "However, many of these herbicides still have water-use restrictions of a few days to several months for uses like livestock watering, fishing, swimming and irrigation that may make them unacceptable to many pond owners," Masser said.  And there is also the risk of killing too many weeds too fast with chemical controls. Rapid decomposition of plant material in a small pond or lake can cause oxygen depletion and kill fish.

            Masser offered these guidelines when using chemical controls.

            – Treat early in the year, April or May.
            – Treat a small section of the pond – about a quarter at most – at one time.
            – Allow time for the decomposition process to complete before treating the next section.
          – Follow herbicide labels that state the entire pond must be treated at once to get effective    control.
        Always read and follow label instructions to letter.

            For more information contact the Wise County Texas AgriLife Extension office at 940-627-3341.           

Importance of Fathers

Father’s Day is Sunday, June 18, 2017.  You may say why should there be a day set aside for fathers?  After all they didn’t go through nine months of pregnancy, then labor and delivery and to top it all off, moms usually get the raw end of the deal with diaper changes, runny noses and the like. However, most of us know fathers who really do pull their weight in the parenting department.

In honor of all fathers, this week’s article will focus on the importance of a father and how he plays a critical role in the development of children. Children need fathers who love and care for them on a consistent basis. 

Here are just a few current trends that would indicate their importance. The latest research indicates that fathers who are actively involved in raising their children can make a positive and lasting difference in their lives. In contrast, research reveals a number of potentially negative outcomes for children whose fathers are not involved. Children who grow up with absent fathers are at greater risks for poverty, school failure, child abuse, suicide, criminal behavior, emotional and behavioral problems, early sexual activity, and drug and alcohol abuse. These risks diminish substantially when children grow up with an active and loving father in the home.

The latest research indicates that kids who grow up with warm, nurturing and actively involved fathers:

    do better in school
    have higher self-esteem
    build better relationships with other kids
    develop healthier ideas of how they should behave as adults
    grow into more successful adults       
            Fathers can have a powerful impact on their children’s success in school. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, when fathers took an active role in their children’s education (like attending school meetings, volunteering in school) the kids were more likely to make A’s, participate in activities like sports and clubs, and enjoy school, and they were less likely to repeat a grade. 
A child’s potential for success in school starts long before he or she walks into a classroom. An easy activity fathers can do with their young child, which is consistently linked with better school performance, is reading. Why is reading so good for kids? Educators believe that reading and storytelling stimulate children’s imaginations, enhance their vocabularies and help them learn about the world around them. It is also an activity that is very child-centered and creates warm and positive interaction between parents and children.

          Fathers! I encourage you to be a hero by reading with your children on a regular basis and they will reap the benefits that last a lifetime! There is no real “right” or “wrong” way to read to your child, but these tips might help you both have more fun while you read.

· Begin reading to your child as soon as possible.
· Chose books your child likes.
· Set aside a special time for reading.
· Focus on the 3 R’s: Rhythm, rhyme, and repetition.
· Read and re-read books that are predictable and contain repetitions.
· Point to words as you read.
· Talk about the story as you read.
· Read slowly enough for your child to build mental pictures.
Happy Fathers Day!  You do deserve a day set aside just to honor you and recognize the positive impact you make on our children.

         For additional information concerning the importance of reading to children or to obtain a recommended reading list for young children, contact Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Wise County office at 627-3341.