November 14, 2007

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  Giving thanks for pecans all year long

By Kathleen Phillips and Steve Byrns
Texas Cooperative Extension

Going without rich, sweet pecan pie this holiday may be unthinkable, so indulge.

But after the feast, keep pecans in the diet minus a sugary coating advises Dr. Leo Lombardini, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station pecan researcher.

"Pecans should not be associated only with Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays," Lombardini said. "We usually recommend just a couple of ounces per day. They are loaded with antioxidants. And they have vitamins, a lot of fiber and a lot of protein. So it is a very, very good food."

Pecans have gotten a bad rap, he said, because they mingle so well with ingredients of dubious health benefit and because of their fat content. But science now makes a distinction between good and bad fats. Pecans have jolly good fat, Lombardini noted.

"It is true that pecans, like many other nuts, are rich in fats. That makes a lot of people stay away from them. But this is the good category of fat. It's mainly monosaturated fatty acids," he said. "The two most important fatty acids that are present in pecans are oleic acid and linoleic acid. That is the same two that are present in olive oil."

A good-health license to eat pecans will tickle consumers who may find tempting prices on the new crop this season, according to Jose Pena, Texas Cooperative Extension economist at Uvalde.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that almost 320 million pounds of pecans will be gathered in the nation's 15 most producing states. That's a whopping 55 percent increase over last year's crop. Texas growers are currently harvesting what likely will total 70 million pounds about 49 percent more than last year Pena added.

People in the U.S. eat about half a pound of pecans per year, according to a 2007 University of Georgia study. To visualize the typical pecan snacker, according to the study, think "52-year-old, smart, affluent Southern woman."

Lombardini said the pecan industry needs to maintain the traditional markets while expanding to new customers in order to increase consumption.

"It's a very good food that you can include in your diet in cereals or salads or you name it," he said. "Other nut groups have been able to educate people to pretty much consume nuts all year round, and that is our objective here, too. We want to make sure that you can go to the store in March or April or in the summertime when it's definitely off season for fresh pecans but still get a good product."

Though southerners are the most likely pecan eaters, Pena noted, many other countries are discovering the benefits of the nut. U.S. exports have been increasing and aren't likely to slow this season, he said.

"A relatively weak dollar with pecan-importing countries such as Canada will make the nut less expensive and more attractive to them," Pena explained, "and early interest from China indicates further increases there."

Lombardini said to find fresh pecans for a good price now through December, especially at farmers' markets. Buy enough for holiday pies but also stock up for the year. Pecans can be refrigerated for up to two years in the shell or one year if shelled, he said. They also freeze well because they have a low water content.


  Old McDonald had a phytochemical

By Kathleen Phillips
Texas Cooperative Extension

Forget the moo-moo here and quack-quack there. Farmers may find phytochemicals to be the barnyard bonanza.

And water may be the drop in the bucket that cashes in on the tug-o-war between urban and rural interests, according to research by the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.

That's because applying less water to certain vegetables in the farm patch increases disease-preventing phytochemicals, or nutrients, for which consumers may one day pay a premium, scientists say.

"When we know what phytochemicals a vegetable contains, then the environmental and cultural strategies a grower uses can have an important impact on their content," said Dr. Daniel Leskovar, horticultural researcher for Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Uvalde.

He said growers are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of phytochemicals in vegetable crops and know the key component for selling the crop still is quality.

"Attributes color, size, texture are still extremely important in the produce market," he said. "But the consumer is rapidly gaining knowledge about the benefits of phytonutrients that these vegetables contain. We can see that a segment of the consumer population is more prone to consume this type of product at the higher price."

An independent survey for the United Soybean Board this year indicated "60 percent of consumers are willing to pay extra for healthier foods."

From the time a tiny seed or transplant is plunged into the soil until it is harvested, a vegetable plant is subjected to a multitude of manipulations aimed at producing the most and best for consumers.

Everything from the precise day of planting to the type of soil and growing temperatures can determine the outcome. Leskovar said a plant that grows tall or wide in a given year could be either because of its variety or because it had the right irrigation, or proper fertilization or both.

But Leskovar said researchers are beginning to examine beyond the size of the crop and pounds it yields to determine the content of healthy compounds in the produce and how farming methods may alter those.

Because water is becoming more restricted for farmers in southern and western Texas, Leskovar said, scientists decided to look at what would happen to the compounds if the traditional amount of moisture put on the crops was reduced.

"Why irrigation? We depend on irrigation from the Edwards Aquifer which is the main source of water for over 1.7 million people and also is the main source for irrigation in the Winter Garden area," he said. "We expect that the water-use regulations are going to be harder, and so we have to be prepared for using less water."

Currently, farmers in that area are not allowed to use more than 24 inches per acre in a given year. If that amount has been applied, a grower can not use more water on a food crop to save it, even if drought threatens to kill the entire field.

By comparison, turf grasses need about 1 inch of water a week 52 inches a year to stay green and growing, according to American-Lawns.com, an independent turf education entity.

But farmers may have a better incentive to reduce water on crops, Leskovar noted, if they can draw a higher price for the health aspects.

First pick for the research were watermelons, Leskovar said. As their very name suggests, melons need lots of water. Also, they contain carotenoids and lycopene antioxidants that protect against cancer and other diseases in humans.

"Lycopene does not decrease and can actually maintain or even slightly increase with deficit irrigation without having too much of significant loss in yield," he said. "We also know that lycopene increases with maturity. So the more precise the timing of harvest, the greater the potential for more lycopene in those watermelons."

Leskovar and fellow researchers in Uvalde performed similar studies on other crops such as spinach which is high in lutein, beta carotene and vitamin C.

"If we could reduce by just 25 percent (of the optimum water amount)," he said of the results, "we would have a slight decline in yield as expected, but we would have a significant increase in phytochemicals for spinach."

They also will experiment applying the irrigation water in different ways such as through a center pivot or by subsurface drip to find the most efficient way to apply less water.

"The industry does not demand per se a high lycopene tomato or high beta carotene spinach," Leskovar said. "I feel that in the near future, there will be a segment that will be demanding a product with high phytochemical content. But of course, this will take a little time."

When that happens, the methods being verified through these scientific studies now will be ready for grower application, he said.

"We are kind of anticipating that aspect, so that we will be ahead of the game," he added.


  Gardening tips

"When frost is expected," writes Cleone Jackson. "old time gardeners would spray plants late in the evening with cold water. This technique worked by generating enough heat as the water evaporated to prevent frost damage."

Have a favorite gardening tip you'd like to share? Texas Gardener's Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas gardeners to use in future issues. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will seed you a free Texas Gardener T-shirt. Here's a chance to get published and be a garden stylist as well! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.


  Did you know...

DeWitt County is the wildflower capital of Texas.

 


 

  Upcoming garden events

Waco: Many composers have been inspired by the sounds of nature, and the Waco Symphony Orchestra will present three inspired compositions Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 (Pastorale), Copland's "An Outdoor Overture" and Respighi's "Pines of Rome" in "Musical Landscapes," an all-orchestral celebration of the out-of-doors on Thursday, November 15. The concert, held in Waco Hall on the Baylor University campus in Waco, begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased by phoning (254) 754-0851 or on-line at www.wacosymphony.com.

Galveston: Festive sights and sounds will fill Moody Gardens at the sixth annual Festival of Lights November 17 through January 5. This whimsical celebration will kick off the holiday season on November 17, with Santa Claus parachuting in to switch on the lights. Festival of Lights is celebrated Thursday through Sunday November 17 through December 16, and daily beginning December 17. Transforming its lush tropical garden setting into a winter wonderland, Moody Gardens will be adorned with more than a million twinkling lights and dozens of light displays. In addition to experiencing the lights, guests can also strap on a pair of skates and glide across the ice at the Outdoor Ice Rink at Moody Gardens. Indoors, visitors can take pictures with Santa or even gaze upon a giant poinsettia tree. Moody Gardens will feature a variety of holiday-themed films during the Festival of Lights. Three films will be playing at the IMAX 3D theater and two films will be playing at the Ridefilm theater. The Garden Restaurant will feature a delectable holiday buffet, offered from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Group rates of $20 per person are also available for groups of 20 or more, and include admission to Festival of Lights and the holiday buffet. Admission into the Festival of Lights is $5.95, and tickets to additional attractions including the Rainforest Pyramid, holiday IMAX 3D film, holiday Ridefilm, Outdoor Ice Rink and Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, can be purchased for only $4.00 each. For more information, call Moody Gardens at (800) 582-4673 or visit www.moodygardens.org.

Lake Jackson: For several years John Panzarella has hosted a citrus tasting and open house in his backyard, 404 Forest Drive, Lake Jackson, which is about 50 miles south of Houston. The next open house will be Saturday, December 15 from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Taste 40 to 50 citrus varieties and see different varieties of fruit trees. Panzarella has approximately 200 different varieties of citrus, 50% to 70% fruiting, plus several varieties of persimmon, sapote, guava, pawpaw, loquat, pomegranate, avocado, papaya, fig, peach, passion fruit, mango and pecan trees growing in his backyard. You are invited to visit, taste the citrus, and see one of the largest citrus collections in the state of Texas and the largest collection north of the Texas Rio Grand valley. See the giant Panzarella orange and the giant 10 lb. Panzarella cluster lemons. You will also have the opportunity to view a multi-grafted tree which has grapefruits, tangerines and oranges growing on it. For more information, call (979) 297-2120, e-mail jpanza@swbell.net, or visit http://johnpanza.googlepages.com.

Houston: Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale will be held Saturday, January 19, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. A class describing all varieties for sale, as well as providing vital information on how to plant and care for each type tree will be held January 5 and 12 (your choice), from 2 to 4 p.m. A nominal fee of $10 is charged for the class. Register for the class by calling Urban Harvest. Sale and classes at Emerson Unitarian Church, 1900 Bering Dr., Houston. For detailed information about the sale as well as about fruit trees, check the Urban Harvest website www.urbanharvest.org.

Tyler: The 15th annual East Texas Spring Landscape & Garden Conference will be held February 16, from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the Tyler Rose Garden Center, 420 Rose Park Drive, Tyler. Featured speakers include Dr. Jerry Parsons, Joe Novak, Aubrey King, and Tim Lanthrum. Topics include "Texas Superstars in Your Garden," "Secrets of Successful Vegetable Gardening," "Gardening for a Lifetime," "Landscaping with Texas Native Plants," "Common Problems with Small Engines and How to Prevent Then," and "Calibrating Sprayers and Spreaders." Cost: $15, which includes lunch. For additional information, contact Keith Hansen at (903) 590-2980 or khansen@ag.tamu.edu, or visit http://EastTexasGardening.tamu.edu.

Burnet: The Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association will sponsor the 10th Annual Hill Country Lawn and Garden Show, March 22, from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Burnet Community Center on E. Jackson in downtown Burnet. The show features garden-related vendors, a children's booth, a raffle, and seminars. Admission is free. For more information, visit http://hillcountrylgshow.com or call Paula Montandon, Show Chairman, at (830) 693-0163.

Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at a new eco-farm in Kilgore. If there is enough interest, we will also start a Sunday afternoon monthly meeting. For more information, call Carole Ramke at (903) 986-9475.

Allen: The Allen Garden Club meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the little blue-gray house located at 102 N. Allen Dr., Allen. For more information, visit www.allengardenclub.org.

Austin: Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit www.main.org/aog.

Rockport: An herb study group founded in March 2003 meets the second Wednesday of every month at the ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including the historical uses of the herbs and tips for successful propagation and cultivation.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Herb Society meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels (corner of Funston & N. New Braunfels). For more information on programs, visit www.sanantonioherbs.org.

Dallas: The Rainbow Garden Club of North Texas meets the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Meetings are held at member's homes and garden centers around the area. For more information, visit www.RainbowGardenClub.com.

Denton: The Denton Organic Society, a group devoted to sharing information and educating the public regarding organic principles, meets the third Wednesday of each month (except July, August and December) at the Denton Senior Center, 509 N. Bell Avenue. Meetings are free and open to the public. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. and are preceded by a social at 6:30. For more information, call (940) 382-8551.

Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners meets the third Thursday of each month at the Texas Cooperative Extension Bldg. at 210 E. Live Oak at 7 p.m.  For more information, phone (830) 379-1972 or visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org.

Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Forth Worth meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month except July and December at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens main building. Refreshments are served. For more information, call (817) 274-8460.

Dallas: The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 824-2448 or visit www.dogc.org.

Arlington: The Arlington Organic Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month (except November and December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact David at (817) 483-7746.

If you would like your organization's events included in "Upcoming Garden Events," please contact us at Garden Events.


  Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac

Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac is a giant monthly calendar for the entire state a practical, information-packed, month-by-month guide for gardeners and "yardeners." This book provides everything you need to know about flowers and garden design; trees, shrubs, and vines; lawns; vegetable, herb, and fruit gardening; and soil, mulch, water, pests, and plant care. It will help you to create beautiful, productive, healthy gardens and have fun doing it.

 $26.63 plus shipping*

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

*Mention Texas Gardener's Seeds when ordering by phone during the month of November and we'll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


  Fiber row cover valuable year-round

Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.

 $30.64 per 12.3' x 32.8' roll (includes shipping!)

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020. Not available through on-line bookstore.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


 


Texas Gardener's Seeds
is published weekly. Suntex Communications, Inc. 2007. All rights reserved. You may forward this publication to your friends and colleagues if it is sent in its entirety. No individual part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher.

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Publisher: Chris S. Corby Editor: Michael Bracken

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