Question: Is it true I can no longer purchase a ‘Bradford’ pear tree? Someone told me this at a nursery.
Answer: You can still find ‘Bradford’ for sale as well as other varieties of Callery pear. However, you should not buy or plant any of them. They have problems and cause a lot of problems.Georgia nurseries have other trees that are beautiful without the headaches these pears cause.
Here is some information to consider and to help you understand what someone may have told you: The 'Bradford' variety of Callery pear has been popular for many years. In fact, the name is so common that some people call all Callery pears "Bradford pears" whether they are the actual 'Bradford' variety or not.
Other varieties of Callery pear include 'Artistocrat,' 'Capitol,' 'Cleveland Select,' 'Holmford' (also sold under the name 'New Bradford') and 'Redspire.' All have the same white flowers that 'Bradford' is known for but vary in height, width or fall color. Some are noted to be less likely to break apart in winds and ice storms than 'Bradford' is. (That is a real drawback with 'Bradford.') Perhaps these newer varieties were what the person was referring to when he told you 'Bradford' was no longer available -- that his nursery is no longer carrying ‘Bradford.’
Even though they are popular, however, 'Bradford' and other Callery pears are not the best trees to plant. As noted above, 'Bradford' is prone to break apart in storms. Even relatively young specimens can split in two.
Another problem that has become painfully apparent is that the trees are invasive and hard to get rid of. Although originally touted for bearing little or no fruit and as being thornless, people have now discovered the different varieties of Callery pear cross-pollinate to produce copious fruits with viable seeds that sprout into dangerously thorny thickets of wild pear trees.
The thorns are long and sharp enough to put out an eye. If you have ever faced a patch of these trees or tried to remove them, it is a painful struggle. If you have the herculean task of removing wild pears, invest in goggles, leather gloves, long-handled loppers and antiseptic.
'Bradford' and other Callery pears can be beautiful in bloom, but there are alternatives that hold up better in the landscape and do not spread into areas where they are not wanted. Here are a few alternative white-flowering trees to consider: redbud/Judas tree (there is a white form as well as the more common reddish purple), Japanese flowering apricot (Prunus mume), sarvisberry/serviceberry, flowering dogwood, star magnolia, fringe tree/grancy graybeard, Carolina silverbell and blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium).
Q: Why do Red Delicious apples I see in the supermarket look different from the ones I saw at the orchard?
A: Perhaps the apples you saw at the supermarket were grown in Washington. Both Georgia and Washington grow the same variety, but when grown in the South it looks different than it does when grown in the cool Pacific Northwest. Our Red Delicious apples are rounder than and not as elongated as those from Washington. Also, ours are not as dark red.
If you are only familiar with Washington State apples, try some of the ones grown here in Georgia. You will not be disappointed!
Q: What kind of walnut is sold in the grocery store? It does not taste the same as the black walnuts I grew up with.
A: The ones sold in grocery stores are usually English walnuts (Juglans regia). They are also called “Persian walnuts” because they originally come from Iran. Sometimes you may hear them called “California walnuts” because most of the ones in this country are grown there. We do not know of anyone growing them in Georgia.
The black walnut (Juglans nigra) is native to Georgia. It has a thicker and harder shell than its Persian cousin. It also has a stronger, bolder flavor that makes it a favorite to make distinctive cakes and ice creams. Black walnut meats can sometimes be found for sale in the Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin. The black walnut is also noted for its beautiful and highly-prized dark wood. It is a handsome, distinctive and long-lived tree in the landscape.
The butternut (Juglans cinerea) is another native, but less common, walnut you may be lucky to come across. It is noted for its buttery-tasting nuts. Both black walnut and butternut have long been used as a source of dye for fabric.
Q: Do you have any food safety pointers for packing bagged lunches for schoolchildren?
A: It is critically important not to overlook food safety in the morning hustle and bustle to get out the door and to school on time. Take precautions and choose foods that will not create problems in a packed lunch that may sit at room temperature for several hours before lunchtime rolls around.
One of the easiest tips is to get your child an insulated lunchbox, with a reusable cold pack that can be refrozen overnight. And don’t forget that food safety isn’t just for parents. Take time to educate children on the importance of hand washing before eating and properly storing the lunchbox (i.e. in a shady cubbyhole versus a sunny counter.)
Our Food Safety Division recently put together a comprehensive list of simple tips, available online: http://georgia.gov/blog/2014-07-31/gearing-school-food-safety or by writing Jessica Badour, Georgia Agriculture Department, 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Room 309, Atlanta, GA 30334.
Q: What is the difference between cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses? Which is fescue? When do I sow fescue?
A: Cool-season grasses grow well during the cool months of the year. They may go dormant or be injured during the heat of summer. Cool-season grasses include tall fescue (sometimes people will simply say “fescue”), perennial ryegrass, annual ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass.
Warm-season grasses grow best during the warmest months of the year. They grow vigorously during this time and become brown and dormant in winter. Warm-season grasses include Bermuda, zoysia, St. Augustine and centipede.
September and October are the ideal months to sow or plant tall fescue.
Q: When is apple season in Georgia?
A: The bulk of Georgia’s apple harvest is in the late summer and fall (August–December), but a few varieties ripen in early summer.
Q: Is it safe to eat raw okra?
A: Absolutely! Raw okra is crunchy, healthy and easy to eat. Select small, tender pods. Older, larger ones can be too tough and, in some varieties, too spiny. Dip the young pods in salt (or sprinkle them with salt and/or black pepper) and eat them as a snack or as hors d'oeuvres. Try dipping them in hummus or buttermilk ranch dressing. Serve them whole or slice the pods in two lengthwise. For a colorful crudité platter, serve pods of red okra along with green ones. You can also slice the pods crosswise and use them on lettuce and tomato salads.
Growing your own is the best way to get a fresh supply of young okra pods. If you don’t have your own garden, check farmers markets for Georgia Grown okra. It is now in season. If you have been turned off by fried or stewed, try crunchy raw okra.
Q: Can roses be planted in the fall?
A: Many hybrid tea roses are sold bare-root and are available only in late winter and early spring. However, some nurseries and garden centers now sell potted roses all year. These can be planted any time, and fall is an ideal time to plant them and other shrubs, too.
Q: A friend shared a huge, pinkish red (and delicious!) tomato with me he called ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter.’ Can you tell me more about this tomato? I want to find more or grow some of my own next year.
A: ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’, or sometimes simply ‘Mortgage Lifter’, was developed by M.C. Byles in the early 1930s in Logan, West Virginia. Mr. Byles, affectionately known as "Radiator Charlie,” a nickname he received from the radiator repair business he opened at the foot of a steep hill on which trucks would often overheat, created this now-legendary tomato by cross-breeding four of the largest-fruited tomatoes he could find: 'German Johnson', 'Beefsteak', an Italian variety and an English variety. One of the four varieties was planted in the middle of a circle. Using a baby's ear syringe, he cross-pollinated the center plant with pollen from the circle of tomatoes. The pollination and selection process was repeated six more years until he had a stable variety. After Byles developed this large, tasty tomato, he sold plants for $1 each (in the 1940s) and paid off the $6,000 mortgage on his house in six years. Each spring, gardeners drove as far as 200 miles to buy his seedling tomatoes.
In the 1980s Byles donated seeds to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (P.O. Box 460, Mineral, VA 23117, Phone: 540-894-9480, www.southernexposure.com), a company specializing in preserving old vegetable varieties. ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’ is still carried by that company and others as well. The variety gained popularity for its large size, flavor and meatiness. You may find this variety for sale now at farmers markets. If you want to grow your own from seed next year, don’t delay ordering because seed companies may sell out of this popular variety.
‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’ is a tomato with great flavor and a great story to match!
Q: My annual flowers are looking ragged. I just came back from the beach and some of them look terrible. Is there anything I can plant now (August 6) to replace them with?
A: Your local garden center or nursery may have marigolds, zinnias and other annual flowers you can plant to replace any that are looking ragged or otherwise showing ill effects from bad weather, age or neglect. There is still plenty of time this summer and fall for these to grow and bloom. In fact, nurseries and garden centers may have gallon or larger containers of replacement annuals already blooming that can immediately brighten any bare spot in your garden. Garden centers and nurseries may soon, or already, have cushion mums to plant.
Another option is to remove any annuals that are past their prime and prepare the area to sow seeds of hardy annuals such as California poppy, cornflower and larkspur in September, October and November. Remember, too, it will not be long before you can plant hardy annuals such as snapdragons, pansies and violas.
Q: When will there be another auction of rehabilitated horses?
A: The next auction will be Saturday, September 13, 2014, at the Mansfield Impound Barn, 2834 Marben Farm Rd., Mansfield, Ga. 30055. The horses may be inspected beginning at 10 a.m. The sale will start at approximately 11 a.m. For more information, visit the Georgia Department of Agriculture website (www.agr.georgia.gov) or contact the department’s Equine Health Office at 404-656-3713.
12 horses are scheduled to be auctioned. If you can provide a good home for Patrick, Sara, Slendie, Gertrude, Spunk, Agnes, Sugar, Ellie, Lucy, Buddy, June or Maggie, please come to Mansfield on September 13.
Q: Do you eat the skin on a fig? Is there a proper way to eat fresh figs?
A: To eat or not eat the skin is up to you. Your decision may vary with the fig variety, with some having thicker skins than others, or the state of ripeness of the fig. The “proper” way to eat a fig depends on the situation.
If you do not care for the taste or texture of the skin, it is easily peeled away. When a fig is ripe, you may be able to pull the skin away from one side of a fig starting at the stem end similar to the way you peel a banana. You then eat the exposed flesh. The ease with which the skin separates from the flesh can vary with ripeness and the variety of the fig. A paring knife or other sharp knife is all that is needed to slice or cut away the skin of a fig if you choose that option.
If served a fresh fig at a formally set table, quarter the fig with a knife and eat it with a fork. Eating the skin is a matter of preference. For an example of the formal and less formal way of eating a fig, watch the fruit course in the heartwarming and Academy Award-winning movie Babette’s Feast.
You may find Georgia Grown figs now at farmers markets. If you feel clumsy in your eating methods, just keep at it. Practice makes perfect! Figs are tasty and healthy. They are also easy to grow and fit into many home and commercial landscapes. Visit a nursery or garden center and learn more about growing your own.
-- Arty Schronce
For more information, please write Arty Schronce, 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Agriculture Building, Room 128, Atlanta, GA, 30334 or call 404-656-3656.