Persimmons: Food of the Gods

Persimmons: Food of the Gods

Persimmons are a versatile fruit. Photo source: Heidi Copeland, UF/IFAS Extension Leon County

Have you ever tried a persimmon?

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!

Meet Jefferson County’s New Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Meet Jefferson County’s New Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Melanie had a blast teaching kids about building a healthy plate at the 2022 Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, GA.
Photo source: Kendra Hughson

My name is Melanie Southerland, and I am the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for Jefferson County. I started in my position on August 1, 2022. I come from Taylor County, FL where I grew up and still live today. I love living and working in a rural community. I bring my passion for health and wellness promotion and knowledge of social determinants of health, aiming to reach all areas where people live, work, play, and worship. Health is comprehensive; it includes physical health, emotional health, mental health, and financial health. In Jefferson, I will be focusing on providing education and resources for improving healthy lifestyles and food safety practices as well as improving economic well-being.

I earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Science and Child Development and a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Florida State University. I bring experience from working with the UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program for the last five years where I served as the Nutrition Program Manager for five rural counties in northeast Florida.

When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my husband and our family. I enjoy walking my dogs, reading, and fishing!

Please feel free to reach out to me by email at melmcafee@ufl.edu, or call our office at (850) 342-0187.  Please follow our Facebook page: UF/IFAS Extension Jefferson County.

Have You Ever Thought About Entering Baked Goods in the North Florida Fair?

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 is a tasty way to use overripe bananas.

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.

DEPARTMENT 520 – BAKED GOODS – North Florida Fair – See CLASS 31 KING ARTHUR FLOUR at the bottom of the Baked Goods page for complete rules and recipe

2022 King Arthur Bread Company Baking Contest Prizes

Adult Prizes:

  • First place $75 gift card
  • Second place $50 gift card
  • Third place $25 gift card

Youth Prizes:

  • First place $40 gift card
  • Second place $25 gift card
  • Third place King Arthur Tote Bag

Let’s get baking and see you at the Fair!

Meet Gulf County’s New 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences Agent

My name is Anitra Mayhann, and I am excited to be Gulf County’s new 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences Agent. I started my position with UF/IFAS Extension Gulf County on August 8th.

I grew up in Monticello, Florida on an 80-acre horse & black angus farm.  I loved growing up in a rural area.  I spent a lot of time with animals and riding horses. I received my Bachelor of Science Degree in Communications from Florida State University, and I will be pursuing a Master of Science Degree in Family, Youth & Community Sciences from the University of Florida.

I have lived in Gulf County for over 25 years and have a strong bond with this community. It is my desire to see youth and family enrichment programs continue to grow in our county.

As Gulf County’s new 4-H Agent, I have a desire to educate youth by highlighting both animal and natural sciences and the life skills that accompany these topics. I look forward to continuing our longstanding horse club and our livestock & beekeeping clubs. I am excited about establishing a new Archery & Shooting Club, as well as a Youth Naturalist Program in the future. I also plan to add/expand programming focused on leadership development, civic engagement, and healthy living, as I feel these are all crucial to prepare our youth to make a positive impact in their community and beyond.

Open enrollment for Gulf County 4-H clubs begins September 1. Volunteers are crucial to our 4-H program; if you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please let me know!

I look forward to working in the community.  Please feel free to reach out to me by email, amayhann@ufl.edu, or call our office, (850) 639-3200.  Please follow our Facebook page: UF/IFAS Extension Gulf County.

September is Food Safety Education Month

September is Food Safety Education Month

Keeping your family’s food safe is critical for our health – that’s why September is designated as Food Safety Education Month.

Foodborne illness can occur when we eat contaminated food. In order to keep our food safe, we must follow safe food handling methods when storing and cooking foods.

Following proper food handling principles helps keep our foods safe from the contaminants that can cause foodborne illness. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends these 4 steps to protect your family from foodborne illness: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

woman washing handsClean: Wash Hands, Utensils, and Surfaces Frequently

  • Wash your hands and kitchen surfaces before you prepare any food. Always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, using soap and warm water.
  • Remember: Germs can survive on surfaces in your kitchen, including on your hands, counters, utensils, and on cutting boards.

Separate: Avoid Cross-contamination

  • Cross contamination is common in the kitchen. Cross contamination is caused by transferring dangerous bacteria from raw foods to other foods and surfaces.  
  • Remember: Separate any raw meat, along with poultry, seafood, and eggs and use separate, individual cutting boards. Make sure to wash cutting boards with hot soapy water in between uses.

Cook: Make Sure to Cook All Foods to the Right Temperature

  • Cook food to the proper internal temperature to eliminate germs and bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Use a calibrated food thermometer to get an accurate temperature reading.
  • Bacteria can rapidly multiply when food is held at room temperature.
  • Remember: The Temperature Danger Zone is between 40°F and 140°F. This is the temperature range that best supports the growth of microorganisms like bacteria.

Chill: Properly Refrigerate and Freeze Foods

  • Keep your refrigerator at 39°F or below and your freezer at or below 0˚F.
  • Perishable foods, especially frozen meat, should never be thawed on the countertop or in hot water. Leaving meat out on the counter or in the sink while it defrosts allows the meat to reach temperatures higher than 40 degrees, the Danger Zone.
  • Remember: It is important to refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours, or within 1 hour if food has been held at 90˚F or higher.

Anyone can get foodborne illness; however, older adults, children younger than 5, pregnant women, and those with a weakened immune system may be more likely to get sick from a foodborne illness.

To learn more about food safety, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/keep-food-safe.html.

The UF/IFAS Electronic Data Information Set or EDIS is a great place to find more information about food safety: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/entity/topic/food_safety.

It’s Okay to Talk About It

It’s Okay to Talk About It

WARNING: This article describes the signs, symptoms, and statistics of mental health challenges, particularly suicide, which may be triggering or unsuitable for some readers. Reader discretion advised. 

The United States is currently experiencing a mental health crisis. The isolation and confusion of the recent pandemic brought to light an astounding number of people living with depression, anxiety, and other mental health and substance use challenges. While many of these people have been dealing with these challenges since before the pandemic, the sheer scope of the crisis has been brought into sharper focus since the onset of COVID-19. 

One of the most difficult mental health issues to talk about is suicide. For many people who struggle with suicidal thoughts or for the families of those who die by suicide, it can be very painful and stigmatizing to discuss. Even for those outside those two groups, suicide is often a taboo subject. 

teamwork handshake

Supporting someone during a mental health challenge is just as important as supporting them during a physical challenge. By working together, we can help reduce the stigma of mental illness. (Photo source: UF/IFAS File Photo)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overall suicide rate in the U.S. decreased 3% during the pandemic despite the fact that calls to suicide hotlines went up nearly 800%. For me, what this shows is that when people suffering from suicidal ideation reach out to the resources available to them, they improve their chances for a better outcome. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shares these statistics on their website: 79% of all people who die by suicide are male; suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 and the 12th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.; 18.8% of high school students and 11.3% of young adults aged 18-25 experience suicidal ideation each year.  

When a person dies by or attempts suicide, those left behind often claim they did not see it coming, that they had no idea their loved one was having suicidal thoughts. In many cases, the person experiencing suicidal ideation conceals their thoughts and feelings from those around them. However, there are certain warning signs that may be observed in people experiencing suicidal thoughts. 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) lists the following warning signs: talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself; looking for a way to kill oneself; talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose; talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain; talking about being a burden to others; increasing the use of alcohol or drugs; acting anxious, agitated, or reckless; sleeping too little or too much; withdrawing or feeling isolated; showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and displaying extreme mood swings. 

(Please note this is not an exhaustive list, but these signs may be indicators that a person may be in acute danger and may urgently need help.) 

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. While suicide prevention is important every day of the year, I encourage everyone to take some time this month to learn more about mental illness and suicide. Taking the time to increase your awareness will help reduce the stigma of mental illness and suicide and may allow you to support someone experiencing a mental health challenge. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call or text 988 or text TALK to 741741. 

UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution.