You’ve likely seen them in the grocery stores, and you’ll see them now through April. A large, lumpy (some may say ugly) piece of orange fruit with a bump near the stem. But what exactly is this special looking fruit? It’s a Shiranui mandarin!
The name ‘Shiranui’ is the generic term for this variety of citrus. You may have seen the same variety of mandarin marketed in grocery stores as ‘Sumo Citrus’ which is a trademarked name for the variety. In Japan, they are widely known as ‘Dekopons’. No matter what you call them, they are easily recognized by their distinctive appearance.
The Shiranui mandarin is a hybrid between a Ponkan tangerine and a Kiyomi Tangor (sweet orange x satsuma mandarin). They are easy to peel, sweet, and seedless. Shiranuis are considered to be one of the sweetest and most flavorful varieties of citrus on the market. The fruit are large and have a large protruding bump near the stem that resembles the top knot hairstyle of a Japanese sumo wrestler (hence the trademarked name ‘Sumo Citrus’).
While the majority of Shiranui mandarins on the market are grown in California, the variety can be grown here in Florida and several citrus growers in North Florida and South Georgia have began to experiment with plantings in the region. Homeowners, too, can try their hand at growing the variety as many Florida certified citrus nurseries carry the variety. For more information on different citrus varieties, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Agent.
More and more homeowners are incorporating edible plants into their home landscape in order to enjoy the fresh taste of fruits and vegetables. Another trend to consider this coming cool season is to start a few common flowers that can serve as flavor enhancements for many of your dishes.
There are numerous plants that we commonly grow that have edible flowers but before striking out on your first taste test, be sure to research first. Always remember the common saying that every flower is edible once. Find a reputable reference guide from a friendly neighborhood Extension office for a list of common edible flowers, then be ready to start from seeds. It is best not to purchase transplants from an ornamental nursery unless you are sure of all the treatments for that plants. Nurseries are often selling these for beauty alone, not with intention that they will be eaten.
Here are a few edible flowers to try:
Pot marigold or Calendula is a wonderful cool season flower on its own. Brightly colored orange or yellow flowers improve the drab colors of our cool season and plants are sturdy annuals for borders, mass plantings, or in containers. Petals have a peppery flavor and add spice to salads and sandwiches. You may also add flowers to soups, fishes and butters for added coloring. Calendula petals can be a saffron substitute.
Calenduala is easily started from seeds and will reseed in your garden once established. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.
The well known dianthus is a great transition plant as our days cool and warm up again the spring. Use as front of the border plantings or in containers as a filler. When harvesting petals of dianthus, you will want to remove the white petal base which is a little bitter. The flavor is a little more delicate than cloves so you can add petals to punches, desserts, and fruit salads.
If you like a little more spice, try nasturtiums. We often plant these after the last frost and they grow until we get too hot. Since our fall weather is so unpredictable, you may be able to start some seeds for a fall planting and have flowers before our first cold spell. Either way, nasturtium flowers are often sliced for salads and sandwiches as a mustard or pepper substitute. You can also mince flowers to add to a butter. If you let some flowers go to seed, collect the unripe seeds to make a caper substitute vinegar.
Grow nasturiums during our transition times of spring and fall. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.
If you are going to use edible flowers from your garden remember to keep all non food labeled pesticides away from plants. Harvest flowers at their peak after the dew dries. Separate petals from other flower parts and if you have allergies be sure to remove any pollen. Place flowers in a moist towel in the refrigerator if you will not use them immediately. Rinse carefully so not to damage tender petals.
There are many other ornamental plants that offer edible flowers you may want to consider growing in the future. These flowers not only enhance the look of the dish but can offer unique flavoring from a locally grown source – your own backyard.
Food is wasted along the many routes in our food system as it is grown, processed, transported, sold, stored, and prepared. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. generates more than 37 million tons of food waste annually, 95 percent of which ends up in landfills or incinerators. That amounts to over 200 pounds of wasted food per every American every year!
Food waste in landfills combines with anaerobic conditions (lack of air) to create methane, a powerful greenhouse gas 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Landfills are responsible for 18 percent of total methane emissions in the U.S., which contributes significantly to climate change.
Waste waiting for the landfill. Ninety-five percent of the 37 million tons of food waste we produce annually ends up in landfills, when combined with anaerobic conditions, generates methane. Photo by Heidi Copeland.
Nationally, we can prevent and recover food waste by implementing techniques such as standardized food labeling, streamlined donations to foodbanks, the creation of secondary grocers, industrial composting, clean energy creation through treatment plant digestion, business and consumer education, and changing overall food policy.
But as a gardener, what can you do to help? If you grow fruits and vegetables, you are already helping, as this means the food from your garden did not have to travel long distances to get on your dinner table. If you actively compost your kitchen scraps, you are also helping, as Americans throw out nearly 40 percent of food purchased. Here are a few other simple life-style changes you might want to try:
- Purchase more locally produced food. Buying local not only supports local farmers, but the food most likely used fewer resources than non-local food on its way to market.
- Learn canning and pickling techniques. Homegrown fruits and vegetables are as fresh as you can get, and canning can then preserve this food for months.
- Store food properly and keep perishables and leftovers in plain sight in the refrigerator so you see them every time you open the door. Investing in a good set of clear glass reusable containers can securely store leftovers, make them easier to identify, and can be safely heated for quick consumption.
- Don’t throw out something just because it is past the date on the label. Unless it is baby food or formula – which federal law mandates be dated to ensure consumption when most nutritious – these dates refer only to peak quality. If the items do not show signs of spoilage, such as an off odor, texture, flavor, they are safe to consume.
Register today for the 2018 Panhandle Fruit & Vegetable Conference! The Panhandle Fruit & Vegetable Conference is scheduled for February 19th & 20th. On the 19th we will go on an afternoon farm tour in Baldwin County, AL that will end with dinner (included) at Auburn University’s Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center in Fairhope. Educational sessions with guest speakers from University of Florida, Auburn University, and Texas A&M University will be held on February 20th where topics will include Citrus Production, Vegetable Production, Protected Ag Production, Marketing/Business, Food Safety, and Fruit & Nut Production. A full list of topics can be found here. Fifty dollars (plus $4.84 processing fee) covers the tour and dinner on the 19th and educational sessions, breakfast, and lunch on the 20th! The complete agenda is now available. Use your mouse or finger to “click” on the image below for full screen viewing.
Make sure to register by Wednesday, February 14th! – Registration Link
Every gardener should know a thing or two about farming. Join UF/IFAS Extension at the 2018 Panhandle Fruit and Vegetable Conference to not only learn about market vegetable production, fruit and nut production, and much more, but also to attend the pre-conference farm tour and listen to a speech by the Keynote Speaker, Dr. Joy Rumble, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at the University of Florida.
Dr. Joy Rumble, the 2018 Panhandle Fruit and Vegetable Conference Keynote Speaker.
Dr. Rumble is originally from Mount Gilead, Ohio. She earned a bachelor of science degree from The Ohio State University, majoring in animal science. During her undergraduate studies, Dr. Rumble raised livestock, worked as an intern on two large swine operations, and served as a summer intern for the USDA Farm Service Agency. She earned a master of science degree in agricultural communication and continued her education at the University of Florida, where she graduated with her doctorate in agricultural education and communication in 2013.
Dr. Rumble is now an Assistant Professor and Extension Programming Coordinator with the University of Florida. Her research focus is effective communication and raising awareness of agricultural and natural resources issues within the agricultural industry. She concentrates many of her outreach initiatives at the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (PIE Center).
At the PIE Center, Dr. Rumble strives to measure knowledge, behaviors, and perceptions of agriculture of Florida constituents and responds to the many economic, environmental, and social challenges we face within the state. She often shares her findings through the Easy as PIE webinar series to allow both the public and Florida’s policymakers to make informed decisions to preserve the assets of the state’s agricultural and natural resources. Most recently, Dr. Rumble was a speaker for an Easy as PIE webinar to discuss a statewide strategic plan for agritourism.
Dr. Rumble’s service as the UF/IFAS Extension Programming Coordinator creates improved citizen awareness of agriculture and natural resources through UF/IFAS County Extension Offices.
Dr. Rumble assisting with a UF/IFAS campus tour for Florida Senator Bill Nelson’s staff on October 18th, 2016.
Make plans to attend the 2018 Panhandle Fruit and Vegetable Conference on Tuesday, February 20, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the University of West Florida Conference Center (11000 Conference Parkway, Building 22) in Pensacola, Florida. You will learn about the importance of agricultural communication from Dr. Rumble directly, and attend conference educational tracts on North Florida Citrus Production, Fruit and Nut Production, Vegetable Production, Marketing, Food Safety, and Protected Agriculture. The conference will also provide an opportunity for networking and give you a chance to meet farmers from across our region.
Also included in the conference ticket price is the pre-conference “Buy Local” farm tour on Monday, February 19, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tour buses will start out at the University of West Florida and will make three stops, traveling to the Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center in Fairhope, Alabama, a hydroponic vegetable farm in Daphne, Alabama, and the Allegri Farm Market, also in Daphne, Alabama.
For more information and registration visit https://pfvc2.eventbrite.com. Early bird registration is $50 (+ service fee), before February 1, 2018. Your registration includes continental breakfast, lunch, refreshments, educational materials, and transportation to the farm tour locations. We look forward to seeing you there!
If you are a farmer, you have most likely heard about the Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA, by now. If you are not a farmer, you probably do not know that food safety regulations are going through a big change. The FSMA, which was passed in 2011, is considered the largest update to food safety regulation in over 80 years.
The proposed produce safety rule under the FSMA is very robust, establishing the minimum standards for worker training, health and hygiene, agricultural water use, animal soil amendments, on-farm domesticated and wild animals, equipment, tools, buildings, and sprout production.
But this new rule will not apply to all farmers. The commodities they produce and the value of their produce sold will ultimately dictate whether they will need to comply.
First, the rule does not apply to produce that is not a raw agricultural commodity, or commodities the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified as “rarely consumed raw.” Secondly, if a farm has an average value of produce sold of $25,000 or less within the previous three years, they are also exempt.
If the farmer produces an agricultural commodity in which the rule applies and the value of their produce sold is over $25,000, it is still possible the farm will be exempt from most of the requirements.
Fresh cucumbers, for example, are considered a raw commodity. But cucumbers that will undergo further processing, such as for pickling, would be eligible for exemption from the produce rule. Photo by Molly Jameson.
For instance, if the average annual monetary value of food sold directly to qualified end-users was more than the average annual value of the food sold to all other buyers within the previous three-year period, the farmer would meet the first half of exemption eligibility.
What is a “qualified end-user”, you ask? They are considered the consumers of the food, or restaurant or retail food establishment, located with the same state as the farm that produced the food (or no more than 275 miles).
But even if farmers meet the above exemption eligibility standards, they must also meet the second requirement. That is, the average annual monetary value of all food sold during the three-year period must be less than $500,000, when adjusted for inflation.
If this all sounds confusing, you are not alone! This is why the FDA developed a chart to help farmers determine if they will be exempt: Standards for Produce Safety – Coverage and Exemptions/Exclusions for Proposed 21 PART 112.
Whether farms will be exempt from the FSMA produce safety rule or not, it is always a good idea to follow good agricultural practices and to have a farm food safety plan. To learn more about food safety on farms, view the EDIS document Food Safety on the Farm: An Overview of Good Agricultural Practices.
If you are a farmer, or know someone who would benefit from having a food safety plan, the UF Small Farms Academy Extension Agents are offering a Building Your Own Farm’s Food Safety Manual Workshop in Tallahassee to help growers develop their own food safety manuals.
The workshop is tailored to fresh fruit and vegetable farms, fields, or greenhouses and is partially supported by a grant through the Florida Specialty Crops Block Grant program from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service.
The registration fee is $35 for the first person representing a farm and $15 for an additional attendee from that farm. The workshop is limited to 20 farms on a first come, first serve basis.
The workshop will take place at the Amtrak Station, County Community Room, 918 Railroad Ave, in Tallahassee, FL, on Tuesday, May 23, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Register on Eventbrite by following this link: https://farmfoodsafetymanualworkshop.eventbrite.com
Please note, this class will help farmers develop their farm’s food safety manual, but it does not fulfill the new FDA FSMA one-time training requirement.