Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Poinsettias

This is the time of year many people have poinsettias. What to do with them after the holidays?

Care 
  • Poinsettia plants prefer indirect light, six hours daily is ideal.
    • Poinsettias require daytime temperatures of 60 to 70°F and night time temperatures around 55°F for best growth; high temperatures will shorten the life of the plant.

    • Standing water can be harmful for the plant. Remove any wrappings from around the pot or punch holes in the foil so water can drain into a saucer; discard excess water.  
    • In some climate zones poinsettias can be planted outdoors.
    Yet, some are concerned because they think the plants are poisonous. Are poinsettias poisonous? No, this myth has been around since the early 1900’s. The American Society of Florists has been trying to dispel the myth for a long time. They say that no other commercial plant has been tested for toxicity more than the poinsettia.

    According to the American Medical Association’s Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants, ingestion of the poinsettia plant has been found to produce no ill effects except an occasional case of vomiting. According to the POISINDEX information source, a child who weighs 50 lbs. would have to consume over 500 leaves before he reaches a potentially toxic level. Since the taste of poinsettia leaves is reportedly unpleasant, it is unlikely that a child or animal who attempts to eat or chew the leaves, will continue to do so after the first taste. Some people, however, can develop a skin and eye irritation from contact with the milky sap of the plant.



    Saturday, December 1, 2018

    Citrus - Ripe or Not

     In tropical regions of the world, some gardeners patiently wait for their citrus fruit, such as tangerines, to turn orange before picking them.  When using color as an indicator for ripeness, the fruit can easily pass its prime, which is characterized by dry fruit segments. 

    Coloration can be an indicator for ripeness in temperate and subtropical climates like California. But in the tropics, color is not a good guide for harvesting. Large temperature differences, such as 85 F. in the day and 45 F. at night, is the condition which produces the orange coloration.  This is also true in other fruit such as apples. 
    In contract, temperatures in the tropics do not significantly vary; thus fruit tends to stay at least partially green.
     
    If you know the variety of the fruit, you can find out the harvest period. If you don’t know the variety, then when the fruit first begins to show color, pick one and taste it. If it’s not ripe, or not sweet enough, wait a week or two and pick another. Fruit will sweeten when left on the tree. Eventually you’ll discover the right time and know the approximate picking schedule for next year. 

    Once citrus fruit is picked, it will not continue to ripen and become sweeter unlike other fruit such as the banana.


    Thursday, November 15, 2018

    When Is a Yam a Sweet Potato?


    While enjoying the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, some people may ask, "What is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?"  Are they the same by a different name? 

    Many years ago orange colored sweet potatoes were introduced to the Southern United States. In an effort to distinguish these from the traditional white-fleshed potato, producers called them yams, which is the Anglicize African word, nyami.  Today, most of the starchy tubers consumed in the US and labeled as yams are in reality sweet potatoes. Yams and sweet potatoes however, are not the same; in fact, they are quite different from each other. 

    As far as botanical order is concerned, they are at opposite ends. The sweet potato is a dicot, set in the morning glory family. Yams, on the other hand, are a monocot, closely related to grasses. The sweet potato, whose sweet and moist flesh varies in color from white to yellow and orange, is native to South America; the skin is typically smooth. In contrast, yams are dry and starchy and rather bland. While yellow or purple in color, the skin is rough and a bit shaggy. Yams are native to North Africa and Asia. They range in size from that of a small potato up to 150 lbs. Yams are a primary agricultural crop in West Africa, where 95 percent of the world's yam crop is grown. 

    Garnet, Jewel, and Beauregard are orange fleshed sweet potatoes that  masquerade as yams in the local supermarkets.