by Bethany Bachmann, Field Specialist in Horticulture, email@example.com
Additional information from Dr. Trinklein, MU Adjunct Professor, and Cathy Bylinowski, MU Horticulture Instructor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rhubarb is in season May to June in Missouri. It is rich in vitamin K which helps in blood clotting and bone formation. Rhubarb also contains vitamin C.
How to Grow Rhubarb-
Spring is a good time to plant rhubarb, a perennial vegetable that favors cool weather. It produces large leaves attached to succulent stalks or petioles that grow from short, thick underground rhizomes.
Rhubarb is a full-sun plant that needs at least six hours of direct sun each day. Since it favors cool weather, rhubarb benefits from some afternoon shade in Missouri. It does not grow well in most of southern Missouri because of higher summer temperatures.
It tolerates a variety of soil types but prefers those high in organic matter. Like most perennial plants, rhubarb needs excellent drainage. Do not grow rhubarb where water will stand at the base of the plant or in soils with high clay content. Garden beds with composted manure and other forms of organic matter improve poorly drained soils and create ideal growing conditions for rhubarb.
Add about 2 to 2.5 pounds of a complete garden fertilizer such as 10-10-10 per 100 square feet of garden area at the start of growing season. A light side dressing of a fertilizer high in nitrogen or application of 2-3 inches of compost or manure after harvest also helps rhubarb stay healthy.
Crown divisions of rhubarb become available in the spring at garden centers, nurseries, and from online nursery catalogues.
Plant rhubarb in a shallow trench. Each dormant growing point, or bud, should be about a half-inch below the soil’s surface. Mature rhubarb plants are large. Space plants 2 to 3 feet apart in rows separated by at least the same distance. Firm the soil around the crowns, then water. Keep plants uniformly moist during establishment and avoid overwatering. Do not harvest rhubarb the first year.
Do not use rhubarb leaf blades for cooking. They contain oxalic acid, which crystallizes in the kidneys. Only the leaf stalks of rhubarb can be eaten safely.
Harvest from healthy rhubarb plants lasts about two months. To harvest, grasp the leaf stalk near its base and pull it to one side while twisting the stalk. Since cuts encourage crown rot, avoid harvesting rhubarb with a knife. Remove the toxic leaf blade soon after harvest. Refrigerate in plastic bags and use the stalks within five to seven days or freeze. Frozen rhubarb lasts about one year.
Remove flower stalks when seen. This forces the plant to put its energies into the leaves and roots instead of flowers and seeds.
Selection of stalks for cooking- Choose stalks that are firm and crisp. Avoid wilted or very thick stalks which can be woodier than others. Unwashed rhubarb should be wrapped with a paper towel and stored in the crisper drawer for best results. Rhubarb stalks can last up to three weeks stored in this manner.
Recipe of the Month
Some people love the sour flavor of rhubarb, as in the recipe below. Others like to combine rhubarb with other fruit, such as strawberries, to lessen the intense sour flavor. You can experiment and see what you like the best.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients with a whisk.
3. In another bowl, mix the yogurt, butter, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the rhubarb.
4. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. If desired, sprinkling tops of each with sugar.
5. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Plants on Your Plate: Swiss Chard
by Denise Sullivan, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, MU Extension-Jackson County
Swiss chard is another leafy green that sometimes gets overlooked in the produce section or farmer’s markets. Chard is actually a member of the beet family (Beta vulgaris) that does not produce a root. The leaves are similar to beet greens, but have more crinkly, ribbed sections, more closely resembling kale. The center rib of the plant can have a range of colors from white to red depending on the variety. White stalks are commonly known as ‘silver chard,’ red varieties are commonly called ‘rhubarb chard,’ while ‘rainbow chard’ can have red, yellow, orange, or pale green center ribs.
Chard is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region near Sicily and was a popular food even before the days of the Roman Empire. It eventually grew in popularity across Europe, and was once grown in the south of France, where the center rib alone was enjoyed as a highlight of the Christmas Eve meal. Until the 1850’s, Swiss chard was considered a specialty plant produced mainly for European markets. After the Civil War, the United States began increasing production of the crop.
Most commercially grown chard comes from California, Arizona, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and Hawaii. Swiss chard is a biennial plant but is typically cultivated as an annual and can be easily grown in the mid-west in early spring and early fall. It prefers cool temperatures as high temperatures slow down leaf production. Chard tolerates heat better than spinach does and rarely bolts like spinach is prone to do. Chard grows best in full sun, although it tolerates partial shade and likes fertile, well-worked soil with good drainage. It can even be grown as an ornamental within flower beds or pots, which I have done.
Chard is a unique green because both the leaf and the colorful stalk can be cooked and enjoyed, unlike kale, where the tough center rib is usually discarded prior to preparation and consumption. The bright colors of Swiss chard bring a variety of nutritional benefits, including vitamins A, C, and K in addition to minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber. The mild, sweet, earthy taste with a touch of bitterness provides a unique flavor profile. The bitterness is reduced with cooking and can be complemented with herbs or a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking. Younger, more tender leaves are less bitter and can be blended into salad greens for a contrast in both flavor and texture. Both the leaf and the rib are utilized in this delicious summer frittata.
Swiss Chard and Squash Frittata
(makes 4 servings)
1 lb. rainbow chard
1 summer squash, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped onions
2 tsp. olive oil
3 Tbs. chopped fresh basil (optional)
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Ground black pepper
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Recipe adapted from Tufts University, analyzed by verywellfit.com
by Cathy Bylinowski, M.S. Horticulture, Horticulture Instructor
University of Missouri Extension- Jackson County, MO
Spring is here. If you are interested in gardening outdoors, now is the time to start.
Cool Season Vegetables, those that thrive in cooler temperatures can be sown into moist, crumbly garden soil now. Follow the planting information on the seed packet or use the MU Extension Vegetable Planting Calendar for successful planting:
Arugula- A nutty flavored salad green when it is young and tender; as the plants get older and the temperatures start to rise, the leaves become spicy hot. They are still good for stir fry dishes.
Beets- Wait until temperatures are above freezing to plant. Thin seedlings to 1-2 inches apart.
Carrots- Plant carrots seeds as soon as garden soil is workable. Seedlings take two weeks to germinate. Thin to at least 1 inch apart.
Collards- Some gardeners prefer to purchase transplants of collards, but you can direct sow seeds in the spring. If you keep the pests off the collards, you should be able to harvest leaves until a hard freeze.
Kale- Improved Dwarf Siberian Kale, a hardy cold tolerant variety with curly leaves, is a nutritious crop that can be directly sown. The plants continue to produce edible leaves throughout the growing season. It is also a great fall crop.
Mustard Greens- Do you like mixed greens? If you do, mustard greens are an essential ingredient. There are broad leaf and curly leaf varieties. It loves cool spring or fall weather, but bolts (goes to seed) in warm weather.
Onions- During April, you can plant onion sets, which are small bulbs, or onion plants. Be sure to plant onion sets with the pointy end of the bulb up and the fuzzy root end in the soil. Plant 1-2 inches deep.
Potatoes- Plant seed potatoes as soon as possible this month. Plant quarters of larger seed potatoes with eyes (small indentations where sprouts will grow) or entire smaller seed potatoes, 3-5 inches deep in furrows and 1 foot apart. Some gardeners like to rake soil around the base of the potato plant to keep the tubers from turning green. You can harvest early potatoes and leave the green plant to continue growing. And, you can harvest potatoes after the plant has died back. Consult MU Publication Vegetable Planting Calendar and MG5- the Vegetable Gardening Chapter of the Missouri Master Gardener Core Manual for more information.
Radishes- Radishes are another cool season crop that should be planted as soon as possible this month. If planted and harvested too late, they will get too hot to eat. They also will start going to seed as soon as the weather warms up. Radishes can be planted in the fall, too.
This is a short list of spring vegetable crops. Seed catalogues, the MU Extension Vegetable Planting Calendar, and gardening friends are sources of information on more spring crop possibilities.
Cool Season Flowers-
Pansies and Violas- While it is too late to start these flowers from seed now, transplants of these lovely flowers can be purchased. Both will flower until early summer. The plants wither during summer heat. Careful watering, as well as shade from surrounding plants may allow pansies and violas to survive until fall when they might bloom again.
California Poppies- These small yellow and orange cool season annual flowers are easy to grow from seed. They are native to the western United States. They do well in full sun, poor soil and droughty conditions. If allowed to flower and go to seed, they can reseed themselves the following year.
Bachelor Buttons- These hardy, cool season annual flowers are also called corn flowers. They come in a range of colors from white to dark blue. The light blue varieties are perhaps best known. Seed for Bachelor Buttons can be planted now in prepared soil. They prefer full sun. They will flop over if planted in too much shade.
For more information about cool season vegetables or flowers, contact MU Extension Horticulture Instructor Cathy Bylinowski, email@example.com or Master Gardeners of Greater Kansas City Hotline at 816-833-TREE (8733).
Red Radishes, Image by Matthias Böckel from Pixabay
Plants on Your Plate: Herbs and Spices
As I open my computer to prepare for my monthly column, I sometimes find myself struggling to think of a topic that I haven’t already discussed. That’s not to say that repetition is a bad thing…we typically need to say or do things more than once for them to become a habit. With a new vegetable or fruit, we also need repeated exposure and experiences. If we didn’t like the way something was prepared, a different recipe or preparation method might increase the appeal. This month, I’ve decided to focus on how herbs and spices can enhance your mealtime experience.
Though we tend to say herbs and spices in one breath, botanically speaking, herbs are leafy and plant-like, while spices come from the roots, buds, seeds, berries or fruits of plants or trees. Some plants produce both herbs and spices, like dill which produces both dill week and dill seed; and cilantro which produces the herb used in southwest cuisine and the dried seed known as coriander.
While herbs and spices are widely known for their culinary uses, they are also known for their cultural and economic roles in history. Spices in particular were valued for monetary and trade values when European and far eastern travel routes expanded. Both herbs and spices have also been important in healing and cultural rituals for centuries. Recent science has revealed that there indeed are specific health benefits for a great many herbs and spices.
One of the primary health benefits of incorporating more herbs and spices into culinary use comes from reducing excess salt and sodium. Simply replacing some or all of the salt with a complementary herb or spice in food preparation can have positive effects on high blood pressure, a condition affecting almost half of adults in America. Other spices, like ginger and turmeric can help with inflammation that accompanies many chronic health conditions. As with all plants, herbs and spices contribute a variety of phytonutrients that function as antioxidants, which can help prevent diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Spices tend to grow in tropical climates, hence, most of the spices we use are in dried form. Herbs, however, are widely available in both fresh and dried from. Herbs are also simple to grow, both indoors and outdoors. For information on growing your own herbs, MU Extension has a publication available here: http://bit.ly/3l97YKA
One of the biggest questions that people have when starting or expanding their culinary use of herbs and spices is "what flavors go with what foods"? While taste is a very personal thing, our colleagues at Arizona Extension have an excellent publication called Season for Health that gives some excellent suggestions; you can find it here: http://bit.ly/3DzLLvh
If you have eaten Mediterranean style food, you may be familiar with a salad known as Tabbouleh. The recipe below is a favorite at my house. Fresh parsley and mint are used in abundant quantities for flavor as well as bulk.
Bulgur Wheat Salad
(Makes 6 servings)
½ cup bulgur wheat
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon za’atar seasoning*
2 cups flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup mint, chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 English cucumber, seeded, and chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutrition information: Calories: 120, Total Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 20mg, Carbohydrates: 13g, Fiber: 2g, Protein: 3g
Recipe from North Carolina Extension Med Instead of Meds, analyzed by verywellfit.com
Denise Sullivan is a Nutrition and Health Education Specialist for MU Extension in the Urban West Region, serving Jackson and Platte Counties.
Spring Vegetable Gardening
by Cathy Bylinowski, M.S. Horticulture, Horticulture Instructor
University of Missouri Extension
It might be hard to believe now, but the cold winter weather will be over in the weeks to come. It is time to start thinking about spring vegetable gardening!
Begin the garden season with some planning. You can use the MU Extension Vegetable Planting Calendar to help guide you to success: https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/g6201
This publication will help you know what to plant when and other helpful gardening planning information.
If you want to start your own cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts transplants, now is the time to begin. These cold tolerant cole-crops (cabbage-related crops) take about 5-8 days to germinate when in a warm (75-77 degrees) conditions.
As soon as they germinate, move the seedlings to a well- lit location. You will need a sunny south window, fluorescent lights set up on shelving units to create a bright propagation area, or a greenhouse. Seedlings that do not get enough light, get too tall and often fall over. They will not mature into plants that produce good crops.
If you do not have adequate light to start your own transplants, you can wait and purchase cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower transplants at garden center stores soon. In Central Missouri, transplants for cole-crops can be planted outside in a sunny spot in the vegetable garden, from mid-March through mid to late April.
If temperatures below freezing are predicted, you can cover them with newspaper, sheets of plastic, even bed sheets overnight for protection. Or you can cover the plants with floating row cover that can be kept on the plants to help keep insect pests out. Floating row cover is a spun polyester fabric that lets light and rain in and creates a microclimate underneath next to the soil that is several degrees warmer than the outside temperatures.
When the snow and ice melts, and garden soil is moist and crumbly, you can direct-sow cold tolerant crops such as arugula, lettuce, radishes, and sugar snap peas outside. Onions are a good spring crop, too. They will be available at garden centers in early spring, as onion sets, which are small onion bulbs, or as onion plants.
Early spring is also a great time to plant ornamental cabbage and kale, pansies, and violas. These visually attractive plants love the cool weather and can be planted along flower bed borders, among the vegetables, and in containers. They will provide a wide range of color until the temperatures get hot in late June and July.
Do you have more gardening questions? The Gardener Hotline is another way to get reliable gardening information. It is staffed by trained Extension Master Gardener Volunteers of Greater Kansas City. The phone number is 816-833-TREE (8733). You can also email gardening, landscaping, and other horticulture questions to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, feel free to contact Cathy Bylinowski, MU Extension Horticulture Instructor, email@example.com, if you have more gardening questions or need more information on MU Extension Horticulture programs.
Plants on Your Plate: Mango
As we sit in the midst of winter (according to the calendar, though maybe not the weather) our options for local produce are limited, unless you have a greenhouse. Since most of the options in the grocery store don’t reflect seasonal prices, I find myself reaching for fruits or vegetables that just make me happy and one of those is mangos.
While I love the flavor of mangoes, I don’t like dealing with them, so I tend to grab them when I know my daughter will be around, because she is skilled at preparing them.
Mangoes were first grown in India some 5000 years ago and is a symbol of love. The paisley pattern, developed in India, is said to be inspired by the shape of the mango. As travel increased, mango seeds were shared across the Middle East and Africa between 300 and 400 AD.
In the 1600’s, Spanish explorers, brought mangoes to South America and Mexico. Commercial mango production in the United States started in the early 1900’s and the fruit are only grown successfully in California, Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. The major world-wide producers of mangos are Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil.
Mangoes are one of the most widely consumed fruits in the world. One of the six main varieties - Tommy Atkins, Honey, Kent, Keitt, Haden and Francis - are typically available year-round. Botanically, mangoes are a drupe, more commonly known as a stone fruit, due to their central stone which contains a single seed. When selecting mangoes, look for plump fruits that are slightly soft when pressed with a finger. Avoid those fruits that are wrinkled or sticky with sap on the skin. If a mango is not soft, it can be placed in a brown paper bag to hasten the ripening.
Firm mangoes are easier to prepare than soft fruit. Start by slicing about ½ inch on each side of the stem, which should make the knife go just around the center stone. With each half of fruit, make cross cuts about ½ inch wide, but do not cut through the skin. Then use a spoon to scoop the cubes of fruit from the peel.
Nibbling the fruit from the center stone is your reward for your preparation efforts! If you have overripe mangoes that don’t cooperate with the above method, peel and remove the fruit in whatever way possible and puree in a blender or food processor with a small amount of lemon juice and freeze in ice cube trays to use later.
Mangoes boast an abundance of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K which are important for immune, vascular, and bone health. Minerals such as potassium and magnesium are beneficial in management of hypertension. The dietary fiber and amylase compounds in mangoes are beneficial to digestive health.
Mangoes make a delicious addition to a fruit salad or a smoothie, using frozen puree. Our favorite way to enjoy them is in salsa. The recipe below makes a wonderful accompaniment to fish or chicken, or just scooped up with some fresh baked corn chips.
(Makes 8 servings)
3 mangos, ripe but still firm
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
½ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup finely chopped jalapeno pepper
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Nutrition information: Calories: 48, Total Fat: .3, Saturated Fat: .1g, Sodium: 2mg, Carbohydrates: 12g, Fiber: 1.5g, Protein: .8g
Recipe adapted from Cooking Matters, analyzed by verywellfit.com
Plants on your Plate: Jicama
Jicama (pronounced with an ‘h’ not a ‘j’) might be another one of those vegetables that has not yet made it to your grocery cart. Jicama may also be referred to as Mexican potato, Mexican turnip, or yam bean. This bulbous root is a member of the bean/pea family Pachyrhizus erosus, that grows underground from a vine that can reach a height of 13 feet or more if given good support. The largest jicama on record reached 51 pounds, though when you shop, you will want to look for one in the two-to-three-pound range.
Jicama is believed to have originated in the Andes Mountain region, with evidence in archaeological sites dating back to 3000 BC. The Spanish introduced the vegetable to Asia in the 17th century. Cultivation and production continued to spread throughout South and Central America into Mexico where it is harvested from November to May. There is also jicama production in Texas, Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Jicama looks similar to a potato, with a rough brown exterior and crisp white interior. Though the interior texture may resemble a potato, jicama has a more broad palate of nutrients. Even with its slightly sweet taste, jicama has more complex carbohydrates and fiber, making it a good carb choice for someone monitoring their blood sugar. Jicama is also a good source of Vitamin C and numerous B vitamins, as well as the minerals magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and calcium. Inulin, a type of fiber found in jicama, works as a prebiotic to support gut health, and also works with minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium to support bone health.
When choosing jicama at the store, look for those that are firm and solid for their size. Avoid cracked or discolored vegetables and consider that any vegetable over 4 pounds may be more fibrous than desired. Once peeled, jicama make a nice addition to a salad with the crunchy texture and neutral flavor. They can also be cooked like a potato in mashed or fried methods or even in a stir-fry as a water chestnut substitute. A common snack south of the border is to cut jicama into sticks (like French fries) and eat raw with chili powder and lime juice. The salad recipe below adds those southwest flavors to a colorful array of vegetables, resulting in a dish that is pleasing to the eyes and the palate!
Jicama and Black Bean Salad
(makes 10 servings)
1 small jicama, peeled and diced – about 1 cup
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper (seeds removed)
1 can (15-ounces) black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 cup frozen corn
¼ cup mashed avocado
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and ground black pepper, if desired
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Nutrition information: Calories: 88, Total Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: .7g, Sodium: 65mg, Carbohydrates: 10.2g, Fiber: 2.9g, Protein: 2g
Recipe adapted from Iowa State University Spend Smart Eat Smart, analyzed by verywellfit.com
Plants on your plate: parsnips
Winter squash, tubers and root vegetables are in great abundance this time of year. Another not-so-common winter root vegetable is parsnips. A member of the Apiaceae family, parsnips are a ‘cousin’ to carrots and share their long taproot characteristic, though they tend to grow larger and thicker.
The creamy white vegetable also has a central ‘core’ that can become tough as it grows to full maturity and may need to be trimmed down prior to preparation. Parsnips have a sweet, earthy flavor that is not fully developed until the roots have been exposed to near-freezing temperatures for 2 to 4 weeks in the fall and early winter. This cold-weather growth results in the starches changing into sugar.
Parsnips are believed to be native to the eastern Mediterranean region. In Roman times the parsnip was regarded to have medicinal as well as food value. While there is no evidence that the Greeks and Romans cultivated parsnips, they commonly used wild ones for food. The British colonists introduced parsnips to North American in the 1600’s. Parsnips are grown primarily in northern states, with Michigan, New York, Washington, and Oregon leading in production in the US.
Parsnips, bring a variety of nutrients to the table, including Vitamins C, E, and K, folic acid, potassium, magnesium and both soluble and insoluble fiber. These nutrients support cardiovascular, immune, and digestive health, aid in wound healing, and reduces the risk of neural tube defects in developing babies in utero. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.
Before the cultivation of sugar beets and cane sugar, parsnips were commonly used as sweetener. Roasting parsnips brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetable and is a common preparation method. Cutting parsnips into strips (resembling french fries) and combining with similarly cut carrots makes for a tasty side dish when tossed with olive oil and roasted in a 400-degree oven.
Boiling parsnips with potatoes and mashing them together will give your mashed potatoes a tasty surprise for your holiday table. For a sweet and savory combination, try this roasted ‘root and fruit’ combination.
Maple Roasted Parsnips
1 ½ cups parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 ½ cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup apple, chopped (Fuji or Gala are good)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Nutrition information: Calories: 120, Total Fat: 2.5g, Saturated Fat: .2g, Sodium: 7mg, Carbohydrates: 25g, Fiber: 3.5g, Protein: 1g
Recipe adapted from Seasonal and Simple, analyzed by verywellfit.com
Take poinsettia off Santa's naughty list
by Linda Geist, University of Missouri Extension
A century ago, poinsettia was added to Santa’s “naughty” list, but the plant’s reputation for being poisonous is unfortunate, says University of Missouri Extension horticulturist David Trinklein. Its pretty bracts and leaves pose no danger to people and pets, other than possible allergic reactions.
The myth that poinsettia is toxic can be traced back to a 1919 incident in Hawaii involving the death of a 2-year-old child, presumably after eating poinsettia leaves. Later, it was revealed that the child died from other causes and poinsettia was not involved. However, the damage to poinsettia’s reputation was done and word of its toxicity spread quickly.
“You cannot un-ring a bell,” Trinklein said. “Once a myth gains traction, dispelling it becomes quite a challenge.” Modern-day media unfortunately often continue to include poinsettia on lists of toxic holiday plants, he said.
In a 1971 study funded by the Society of American Florists, scientists at Ohio State University fed lab rats “extraordinarily high doses of various portions of the poinsettia.” A human would have to devour several pounds of poinsettia to get an equivalent dose. Yet the rats appeared to be fine. Scientists observed “no mortality, no symptoms of toxicity nor any changes in dietary intake or general behavior pattern.”
In the 1990s, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh analyzed almost 23,000 cases of poinsettia ingestion reported by poison control centers. More than 92% of patients showed no ill effects at all, and no one died or became critically ill.
However, Trinklein notes that poinsettia’s sap, which has several proteins in common with natural latex rubber, can cause allergic skin reactions. Therefore, the plants should be kept out of the reach of children.
Of bracts and cyathia
Poinsettia remains the nation’s top-selling potted flowering plant. The fact they are sold only in a narrow span of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is testimony to Americans’ admiration for the plant, Trinklein said.
The colorful part of the poinsettia that we enjoy isn’t a flower. What look like petals are specialized leaves called bracts. The true flowers, called cyathia (from the Greek for “cup”), are the small, yellow structures in the center of the bracts.
When choosing a poinsettia plant, look closely at the cyathia. Their presence indicates the plant is still young. If the cyathia are missing, it’s likely the plant is past its prime.
Also, check leaves and bracts for wilting, which could indicate root problems, Trinklein said. Examine the underside of the leaves for insect infestation or damage.
Sun, little water
Proper care helps the poinsettia stay vibrant throughout the holiday season. Two things are key: Place them in bright, indirect light and avoid overwatering.
If your plants came wrapped in decorative foil, make sure there’s a hole in the foil so water can drain. Water if the pot feels light when you pick it up. If the soil’s surface is clammy or moist to the touch, wait to water. Fertilizer and plant food are unnecessary.
Poinsettia plants can bloom another holiday season for those up to the challenge, said Trinklein. For information on how to save and rebloom a poinsettia plant, visit-
The poinsettia's small flowers are surrounded by colorful leaves called bracts. Photo by Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service.
Plants on Your Plate: Apples
Apples and autumn go together like peanut butter and jelly—or maybe apple butter? I have many fond memories – as a child and as an adult – that coincide with apple harvest. Growing up in south-central Kansas, we had a couple prolific Jonathan apple trees on our farm were usually ready to pick in September. There were many years during my adolescence that my brothers and their friends would load up their pockets with apples while they were loading up livestock to go to the Kansas State Fair. Decades years later, as a mom, my own children looked forward to apple picking at local orchards in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas.
Apples, like many fruits, are a good source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. The antioxidant properties of Vitamin C help to reduce your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Vitamin C also helps in reducing bruising, aids in wound healing and helps in overall skin and gum health. Potassium is an important mineral in regulating blood pressure. Apples contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which is beneficial in controlling cholesterol as well as digestive and bowel health.
Some of the more common fall apple varieties for our region are Braeburn, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Winesap. When selecting Braeburn apples, look for large, firm red fruit. These apples have a well-balanced flavor and are best for fresh eating. While Fuji apples might not always be the most attractive red apple, they are very sweet and juicy, making them a great choice for fresh eating. The ever-popular green Granny Smith apple is known for its firm, crisp texture and sweet-tart flavor and is good for fresh eating, salads, or processing. Winesap apples are considered by some people to be the red equivalent to Granny Smiths, as they are equally crisp and tart, making them good choices for fresh eating, salads, or processing.
A fun way to celebrate apple harvest this fall is to join in the Missouri Crunch Off, a collaborative event between MU Extension, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Senior Services, and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This event commemorates Farm to School month and promotes locally grown produce. While this effort started with schools, it has grown beyond the educational sector and even has a multi-state competition of sorts. Gather your students, coworkers, community members and local food enthusiasts to crunch into Missouri Grown apples or other produce during the month of October. You can learn more at https://dese.mo.gov/media/pdf/missouri-crunch-2022
If you are simply looking for new ways to enjoy apples, you might want to try this muffin recipe. Full of whole grains, fruit, and nuts, they are a great ‘grab and go’ breakfast or even a treat for the teacher’s lounge or breakroom at work.
Apple Oatmeal Muffins
(9 servings, 2 muffins each)
2 ¼ c water
2 ½ c rolled oats
2 tablespoons canola oil
¼ c skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
¼ teaspoon cloves
2 medium apples, finely chopped
¼ c chopped dried cranberries
¼ c chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
Nutrition information: Calories: 215, Total Fat: 8.5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 30mg, Carbohydrates: 29g, Fiber: 4.5g, Protein: 6g
Recipe adapted from Seasonal and Simple, analyzed by verywellfit.com
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