Saturday, July 11, 2009

Thanks for plant ID! Jersusalem Cherry it is...

Thanks to the person who identified the plant in a previous blog... it is a Jerusalem Cherry. Turns out the berries are highly poisonous so I am considering getting rid of it. I kind of hate to do it though as I like it AND it's not supposed to thrive in Georgia. Not only does it come back every year without any help, but it's thriving. So there experts!

I need to make sure somehow that visiting children don't have access to it if I keep it. I was even tempted to try it myself... it looks just like an orange tomato or edible fruit. I wouldn't do it, but if it tempts me, I know a young child wouldn't hesitate.

Good luck in finding your plant!

Have you tried your local extension service? I was told recently that they're a great resource when it comes to identifying local plants. They were next on my list of places to try.

I'll be happy to post a photo and description on here if you'd like to send a link.

Thanks again.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

ID Plant? Orange "berry", white flower...

I have a mystery plant that pops up each year in a shady part of one of my flower beds. I love the colors and the way it is so hardy (which means it's probably a weed ;-).

I had one plant, now I have two, which I "assume" means one of the berries seeded. With all the berries it produces I'm surprised I don't have a hundred of them, but maybe I'm pulling them up as weeds unaware.

I've lived here five years and a fair percentage of my garden was here when I arrived so it could be something planted by the previous owner or it could be a wild plant.

I've asked my plant friends, the lawn guy and made countless searches on the Internet but haven't been able to identify the plant. My Mom, who knows a lot about plants couldn't identify it either (however, she only had my verbal description to work with... maybe when she sees these photos she'll go "a-ha, I know what it's called...").

I'm sure it's something simple, something common, and someone out there in blog or Twitter land will know the answer... right? please?

The plant is about 2 feet high and is located in the Atlanta, Georgia area (southeast US).

It has pretty small white flowers during early summer that hang upside-down. They have a dark yellow or orange center. I think the petals come to a point, but after looking at so many photos on the Internet I could be remembering incorrectly.

I thought it might be in the Fairybell family because of the flowers, but didn't see any located in the Southeast.

I took a photo of the flowers earlier this year, but can't find them now (of course). They're tiny, not as large as the fruit / berry.

It has 3/4 inch dark shiny fruit or berries that turn a gorgeous orange. I cut one open this morning to see what's inside. It rather looks like a tomato but it's not soft.

It has a familiar smell to it, but for the life of me I can't quite attach it to whatever it's reminding me of from the garden (or maybe the wilds).

Hopefully the plant isn't in the poison sumac family (read that some have an orange berry it seems...) given the fact that I pulled off one of the berries, took it into the kitchen to cut and photograph! That's going to be my next Internet stop. Making me itch just to think of the possibility.

I have searched for "orange berry" and "white flower". Could be I need to change "berry" to "fruit" in my Internet search efforts.

I also tried a search on "Fairybell" and while I found similar flowers, none of the photos showed the fruit.

Any ideas? Anyone know what my mystery plant is named?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Preserve your summer bounty

More and more, people are planting gardens and preserving its bounty. For some, the draw is self-sufficiency and quality control.

“I have an organic garden, and I want to keep my organic produce,” said Ken Davis. “I know I could buy organic at the store, but I know exactly what I used to grow and can my food.”

Some people can food to preserve family traditions.

“Growing up, my mom always had a jar of something around the kitchen,” said Stephen Crae. “I want to keep up what she started.”

Crae and Davis recently attended class, offered by University of Georgia Cooperative Extension in Oconee County, on the proper way to can food to preserve it.

Canning fresh food isn’t easy. You can’t just put it in a jar and stick the lid on. And it isn’t fast. It takes several hours to can foods safely. It’s a scientific process that requires following instructions, said Denise Everson, the UGA Extension agent in Oconee County who taught the class.

“Food preservation does not allow for personal variations,” she said. “Creativity happens after you open the jar.”

You can’t leave ingredients out, add extras or double recipes. Recipes must be followed exactly, one batch at a time.

Process and cooking times are exact. Use recipes tested and approved by the United States Department of Agriculture or other food preservation specialists such as with Cooperative Extension, she said. Recipes tested and approved by the University of Georgia are available in the book, So Easy to Preserve or online at the National Center for Home Food Preservation Web site.


Canned foods need to be processed or cooked to a temperature high enough to destroy dangerous bacteria like Clostridium botulinum. Botulism is a potentially deadly illness caused by consuming the nerve toxin produced by bacteria found in dirt. According to Everson, nearly 80 percent of botulism cases occur from food preserved at home.

Numbness in fingers and toes, upset stomach, blurred vision and difficultly speaking, swallowing and breathing are signs of botulism that usually occur within 12 hours to 72 hours of eating tainted food. Once it starts, the nerve damage is permanent.

Processing jars also stops enzymes that can cause changes in color, flavor and texture.

There are two methods for processing jars: in a boiling water bath or pressure canner.

“The food you choose determines which method you use,” Everson said.

High-acid foods like fruits, pickles and tested salsas can be processed in a boiling water bath. Boiling water should completely cover the jars and sit at least one inch on top. Add jars when water is simmering, and start timing once the water boils.

“Table salt can make foods cloudy,” Everson said. “Acid levels are important in canning, so don’t use homemade vinegar or fresh lemons in canning recipes.”

Most vegetables, soups and meats are low-acid foods that need to be processed in a pressure canner. Start timing a pressure canning process once the correct pressure is reached. Dial gauges on pressure canners must be accurate and operated correctly to prevent injury or illness. Dial gauges should be tested each year. Many local UGA Extension agents can do this.

Canning 1-2-3

Use mason-style canning jars, lids and bands. Canning jars and rust-free bands can be used for several years. Lids, however, only create one safe seal and must be tossed once used.

To can properly, follow these steps:

• Prepare food as directed in recipe.

• If required, sterilize canning jars in a hot water bath.

• Fill hot jars with hot food. Leave correct amount of headspace listed in recipe.

• Remove air bubbles in jars using a plastic knife. Readjust the liquid and headspace if needed.

• Use clean, damp paper towels to clean jar rims before adding lids.

• Center lid over the jar. Screw bands down just enough to close finger-tip tight. (Do not overtighten.)

• Process in a boiling water bath or pressure canner for the required time listed for each food.

• When the process time is over in a boiling water canner, turn off the heat, carefully remove the canner lid, and let the jars sit for 5 minutes before taking them out. At the end of the process in a pressure canner, turn off the heat, let the canner cool naturally to 0 pounds of pressure. Remove the weight, let the canner cool another 10 minutes, then remove the lid carefully.

• Remove jars by lifting them straight up and placing them on a towel. Don’t move the jars for 24 hours.

• After they cool and seal, remove bands and wash jars with soapy water to remove any food residue.

• Store in a cool, dry, dark place.

• Enjoy canned foods within a year for best quality.

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia