The American chestnut tree, (Genus: Castanea dentata, Species: C. sativa, Family: Fagaceae) is a large monoecious deciduous tree. This big, beautiful tree provides green shade in the summer, a stunning display of fall foliage, and a spinney cupule (bur) that holds and protects the chestnut during its growth and maturation. As the chestnut leaves fall, so does the bur. When the bur splits, it releases the chestnut.
The American chestnut was once a VERY important tree for food and forage as well as used as an impressive wood. Unfortunately, this important tree was largely decimated by chestnut blight, a fungal disease (Cryphonectria parasitica). It is estimated that between 3 and 4 billion American chestnut trees were destroyed in the first half of the 20th century.
Scientific research discovered that the Chinese chestnut tree (Castanea mollissima) is recognized as being highly blight resistant (but not immune). Many places in the United States have replanted the American chestnut tree with the Chinese chestnut and its cultivars. In fact, in this general region, there are several chestnut orchards.
The chestnut is classified as a nut… a dry drupe. However, the chestnut differs from most nuts, as it is low in lipid (fat), high in carbohydrates, and rich in vitamins and minerals. The mature chestnut (nut pulp) is more than 50 percent water; special care must be taken to extend its storage so it does not spoil. In fact, chestnuts are highly perishable and should be treated more as a fruit than a dry nut because of its high water content.
Locally, fresh chestnuts are generally only available in the fall. A good chestnut is large, firm to the touch, and feels dense. The USDA does not have any standards for grades of chestnuts, although sometimes size standards are based on the number of nuts per pound.
According to the American Chestnut Foundation®, if nuts are to be stored for eating, store fresh chestnuts in a paper grocery bag for up to two months. Leaving fresh chestnuts at room temperature for a few days helps their starches convert to sugar. For longer storage, put chestnuts in the freezer and use immediately after thawing or they will become mushy.
Chestnuts can be eaten in a variety of forms: • Fresh – dry roasted (no oil in the pan) or boiled • Frozen • Dried • Canned • Pureed • Ground into gluten-free flour
Cooking methods for chestnuts vary widely. Customarily, chestnuts are dry-roasted in the oven, over hot coals, on top of the stove in a skillet, or in the microwave. With the introduction of the Air Fryer and the Instant Pot, the internet is teeming with chestnut recipes for these appliances, too. Whatever method you choose, whether the chestnut is pureed, added to soups, stews, stuffings, and vegetable dishes or even turned into a decadent dessert, the chestnut is a tasty treat.
Traditional Dry Roasting Method for Chestnuts 1. Heat a skillet on top of the stove or preheat the oven to 425° F 2. Rinse the chestnuts in cold water. (Rinsing removes any bird droppings, etc….) 3. Using a sharp knife, score the round side of each chestnut nut with an “X” (the chestnut is FULL of moisture, the “X” keeps the chestnut from exploding due to expansion and makes it easier to peel). 4. Using a roasting pan or skillet, place the chestnuts in the oven, over an open fire, or on top of the stove, flat side down. 5. Dry roast, stirring every five minutes until the shells begin to split open (at this point, the shells are brittle and have curled back some at the X). 6. Remove from the heat when the insides feel soft (this will depend on the nut but usually about 15 – 20 minutes). 7. Wrap in a dish cloth and massage a bit. 8. When cool enough to handle, peel the shells off the chestnuts. 9. Enjoy warm or cold or added to your favorite recipe.
The internet contains a wealth of chestnut recipes. Pick one out to try.
Persimmons belong to the genus Diospyros. The name Diospyros is derived from the Greek Dio (divine), and the Pyros (grain), accurately interpreted to mean “divine food” or, as a more muddled understanding, “Food of the Gods.” Although it appears persimmons originated in China, they are more extensively cultivated in Japan. Persimmons grow well in our area, too, and as far north as Indiana and Ohio. California and Florida account for most commercial production in the United States.
There are two main types of persimmons, Fuyu and Hachiya. The main types differ in shape, too. Hachiyas are acorn-shaped and are ready when soft; before they are soft, the fruit is extremely astringent. The Fuyu is a firmer fruit, shaped like a medium sized, squat tomato and is a non-astringent cultivar. Both are delicious.
Persimmons are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and iron, are low in calories, and can be used a variety of ways. Persimmons can be eaten raw like an apple (the skin is edible) or peeled and cut, making for great additions to cereal, smoothies, salads, salsas, etc. Persimmons can be dried or frozen and are used in a variety of products from jams to tea, too.
Persimmons are perishable. They have a very short shelf-life at room temperature. What do persimmons taste like? Personally, I think they taste like honey, or sugar, sweet and delicious. Persimmons are seasonal. Seek out persimmons to try today. You will be glad you did!
Every year, King Arthur Baking Company hosts baking contests in every corner of the country at county, regional, and state fairs. The North Florida Fair is no exception – King Arthur Baking Company is hosting a baking contest with cool prizes.
The name King Arthur stands for attributes of purity, loyalty, honesty, superior strength, and a dedication to a higher purpose (yes, the Arthurian legend, King Arthur). For over two centuries, King Arthur Flour has been providing baker’s flour. In 1790, King Arthur Flour began importing flour to Boston from Britain. King Arthur Flour has gone from using imported wheat to using USA-grown wheat – flour that, two centuries ago, was sold in wooden barrels to flour sold in pre-weighed bags at retail stores.
In 1996, to ensure King Arthur Flour would remain in good and caring hands after their retirement, owners Frank and Brinna Sands decided to sell the company to its employees. The original tenets of King Arthur flour are still intact… although the name of the company has been changed to King Arthur Baking Company, now selling dozens of flours along with baking supplies and equipment. The logo changed a bit too, but the flour remains a favorite of bakers everywhere.
The North Florida Fair (and King Arthur Baking Company) encourages bakers of all levels to enter the King Arthur portion of the baking contests using King Arthur flour and a recipe from King Arthur Baking Company.
Banana bread has been in the American recipe rolodex for nearly a century. Banana bread was originally promoted to encourage the use of chemical leaveners, baking powder and baking soda, and to use precious food, old bananas.
The quick bread recipe chosen for the North Florida Fair is not only easy to bake but is nutritious and delicious as well as planet-forward. Using VERY ripe bananas and ingredients mostly on hand is an undertaking in being sustainable. Those errant, aging bananas that more often than not get tossed in the composting bin can be used in this banana bread. In fact, the older, the better! Your wayward bananas can be frozen, thawed, and used in this banana bread.
Quick breads are easy. The King Arthur Banana Bread recipe only uses one bowl, and a few other measuring and stirring tools, plus flour, sugar, leaveners, and a few flavorings that are typical in most homes.
Show off your skills at the King Arthur Baking Contest! There are generous prizes for youth and adults.
Stock up on canned fruits, vegetables, meats, and heat-and-eat soups for your hurricane food supply kit. Photo source: UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.
Even during hurricane season. Yes, the Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1st and runs through November 30th every year. August and September are usually the busiest hurricane months in Florida. It is tempting to believe that danger will not be coming our way, however, the Sunshine State has already experienced Alex. Bonnie, Colin, Danielle… are sure to follow.
Planning for hurricane preparation takes time and money, however, planning can save you both time and money. Know, too, that your hurricane planning can accommodate other emergencies.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Build A Kit | Ready.gov suggests having enough provisions for two weeks in your basic emergency kit, whereas other sources state three days. Since Spring 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended people include additional items in their kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus or other viruses and the flu. (And don’t forget sanitation supplies and personal hygiene items. Poor hygiene can help spread disease, too).
A central step in planning for emergencies is to take advantage of what you have on hand and be mindful when adding to it. Taking an inventory of what you have is an important tool in managing personal resources. From your inventory, make a list of what you need to purchase. When shopping for nonperishable hurricane food items and supplies, use your list and stick to it. Adding a few items to each shopping trip can help spread the cost burden of stocking up on emergency supplies.
Being prepared means having your own food, water, and other related supplies (think home, yard, and even car). Now is also a good time to eat what is in your freezer (think power outages – frozen food has a time limit if your power goes out) and take stock of your pantry. It makes economic sense to plan to use what you have (think expiration dates – rotating pantry supplies), supplemented with nutritious, stocked hurricane supplies.
Additionally, one half of people in the United States take medication. Planning in advance for medical needs is as imperative as planning for food and other safety equipment.
Waiting until an announced, named storm hits the radar is often the wrong time to start your emergency preparation. Prices might be higher, and supplies might be harder to find. Plan and prepare now for whatever emergency may come your way. Personally, I went thirty years without needing anything but a flashlight on occasion to being without power for eight days during Hurricane Michael. Others in my area fared far worse.
Whether we want them or not, emergencies happen. Planning for one can save you both time and money.
Taxes, without a doubt, can conjure up responses from elation,” Yeah! I get a refund!,” to dread…” Darn, I owe!” The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted another response…What in the heck happened to my 2019- and 2020-income tax return?
While it is quite normal for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to face a bit of backlog every year, according to The Washington Post, the IRS closed last year’s tax season with an unprecedented large number of returns unprocessed due to budget cuts and staff issues.
Most recently, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement, “The pandemic continues to create challenges, but the IRS reminds people there are important steps they can take to help ensure their tax return and refund don’t face processing delays.”
Know that having all the information needed to file an accurate return helps the whole process and helps to avoid delays. The US 2022 (2021 tax year returns) income tax season will:
Begin on January 24, 2022. This is the day the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2021 tax year returns.
The deadline to file 2021 federal taxes for most people is April 18, as April 15, Emancipation Day, is a holiday in Washington, D.C.
Maine and Massachusetts residents have until April 19 to file their federal returns, as April 18 is Patriot’s Day in those two states.
The deadline for filers requesting an extension is Oct. 17, 2022.
The IRS is urging to file your tax return electronically and, if you are due a refund, to choose direct deposit.
The IRS anticipates that most taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days if they file electronically and choose direct deposit.
Please, do not be influenced to apply for a tax refund anticipation loan, typically known as an RAL, if you are not in an emergency for the loaned money. An RAL is a loan based on the anticipated amount of your federal income tax refund. Many tax filing services will offer you a RAL if… you file with their service. Know that your loan amount will be based on the value of your anticipated refund minus fees and/or interest charges.
Know, too, that your loan will be deposited directly to the lender once the IRS processes your income tax return. Be VERY careful with refund anticipation loans. An obvious positive attribute of the loan is you get money quickly – before the season even opens. Another benefit is that, once the lender receives your refund, the loan is paid. But what happens if your tax refund is smaller than the anticipated income tax refund? You now will have an outstanding loan that will need to be paid back.
As with many income tax seasons, there are changes to the tax code. Important changes for the 2022 income tax season include:
The standard deduction for taxpayers who do not itemize deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A, has increased. The standard deduction amounts for 2021 are:
Married Filing Jointly or Qualifying Widow(er) – $25,100 (increase of $300)
Head of Household – $18,800 (increase of $150)
Single or Married Filing Separately – $12,550 (increase of $150)
Taxpayers who are 65 and Older or are Blind
For 2021, the additional standard deduction amounts for taxpayers who are 65 and older or blind are:
Single or Head of Household – $1,700 (increase of $50)
Married taxpayers or Qualifying Widow(er) – $1,350 (increase of $50)
Earned Income Credit (EIC)
By law, the IRS cannot issue your refund before February 15. This includes your entire refund, not just the part that’s related to the credit you claimed on your tax return. This law change, which took effect in 2017, helps ensure that taxpayers receive the refund they are due by giving the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud.If you claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), you can expect to get your refund by the first week of March if:
More taxpayers without qualifying children can qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The maximum EITC credit is nearly tripled for these taxpayers and, for the first time, is made available to both younger workers and senior citizens.
EITC is available to both taxpayers without qualifying children and families with qualifying children. (Taxpayers filing married filing separately can claim this credit in 2021.)
EITC can be figured using 2019 income, as long as it was higher than 2021 income. In some instances, this option will give a larger credit.
For 2021, the maximum EITC credit increased to:
$6,728 with three or more children
$5,980 with two children
$3,618 with one child
$1,502 with no children
$51,464 ($57,414 if Married Filing Jointly) with three or more qualifying children
$47,915 ($53,865 if Married Filing Jointly) with two qualifying children
$42,158 ($48,108 if Married Filing Jointly) with one qualifying child
$21,430 ($27,380 if Married Filing Jointly) with no qualifying child
Taxpayers whose investment income is more than $10,000 cannot claim the EITC.
For 2021, the following rates are in effect:
56 cents per mile for business miles driven
16 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations (no change)
American Opportunity Tax Credit for 2021 is gradually reduced (phased out) if taxpayers’ MAGI (Modified Adjusted Gross Income) is between $80,000 and $90,000 ($160,000 and $180,000 if Married Filing Jointly). Taxpayers cannot claim a credit if their MAGI is $90,000 or more ($180,000 or more if Married Filing Jointly).
Lifetime Learning Credit for 2021 is gradually reduced (phased out) if taxpayers’ MAGI is between $80,000 and $90,000 ($160,000 and $180,000 if Married Filing Jointly). Taxpayers cannot claim a credit if their MAGI is $90,000 or more ($180,000 or more if Married Filing Jointly).
Student Loan Interest Deduction begins to phase out for taxpayers with MAGI in excess of $70,000 ($140,000 for joint returns) and is completely phased out for taxpayers with MAGI of $85,000 or more ($170,000 or more for joint returns).
The IRS announced that convertible virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, would be treated as property and not as currency, thus creating immediate tax consequences for those using Bitcoins to pay for goods and services. Taxpayers having transactions in virtual currencies are out of scope for the VITA/TCE programs.