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Georgia Consumer: Don't leave those leftovers sitting out too long

POSTED: February 2, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Question: How soon after heating should food be stored?

Answer: Perishable foods should not be left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly in shallow containers. It is safe to refreeze leftover turkey and trimmings — even if you purchased them frozen. Wrap tightly for best quality

Q: Now that it is getting colder, do I need to pick my herbs?

A: Yes. Hard freezes will soon ruin the quality of basil, cilantro, mint and many other herbs. One of the easiest ways to preserve them is to freeze washed leaves in ice cube trays. Then store the cubes in labeled freezer bags.

Q: How is the peanut classified?

A: Surprising though it may be, the peanut is a vegetable and not a nut. It doesn’t grow on trees. It isn’t harvested above ground. Instead, peanut pegs (where the nuts form on the peanut plant) develop on the base of spent flowers and bury themselves in the ground. To harvest the peanuts, you dig up the plants. Peanuts are a member of the legume family.

Q: How should I select sweet potatoes in the grocery store?

A: For the most food value, choose sweet potatoes of a deep orange color. When buying sweet potatoes, select ones that are sound and with firm roots. Handle them carefully to prevent bruising. Storage in a dry bin kept at 55-60 degrees F is best. Do not refrigerate, because temperatures below 55 degrees F will chill this tropical vegetable, giving it a hard core and an undesirable taste when cooked.

Q: How do I cook sweet potatoes?

A: Sweet potatoes can be baked, boiled, fried, broiled, canned or frozen. They can also be cooked in the microwave oven. Before cooking sweet potatoes, scrub skin and trim off any bruised or woody portions. Wash cured sweet potatoes and bake or boil until slightly soft. If boiled, drain them immediately. Thoroughly cool the baked or boiled sweet potatoes. Wrap them individually (skins left on) in freezer film or foil and place in plastic freezer bags. Then seal, label and freeze them. Most sweet potato dishes freeze well. Save time and energy by making a sweet potato dish to serve and one to store in the freezer.

Q: What are goji berries?

A: Goji berries are related to tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. They are also called "Chinese wolfberries." Most are grown in China and are sold dried. Numerous health claims are made about them.

Q: I saw a strange fruit at the grocery store. It looked like a lemon octopus and was called "Buddha’s hand." What is it used for?

A: Buddha’s hand is an unusual citrus fruit. The peel of the fruit can be candied. It is also used for its "zest," the scraping of the outer peel to add lemony flavor to dishes. Its unusual shape makes it an interesting centerpiece or addition to a holiday fruit basket. It has also been used to add fragrance to clothing or to freshen a room.

Q: What’s up with purple carrots? What are plant breeders doing? Why can’t they leave the old-fashioned carrot alone?

A: Purple is one of the carrot’s natural colors. It is not the result of any sinister or out-of-control plant breeding program. Orange carrots gained the lion’s share of the market over the years, however. You may also begin to see yellow and red carrots in the store in the future if you have not already. Try some to add some variety to your meals or to entice children to eat more vegetables.

 

If you have questions or problems with services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture you may write the Office of Public Affairs, 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Room 226, Atlanta, GA 30334 or call (800) 282-5852. This column appears Sundays.



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