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Consumber Qs: nonalcoholic drinks made with produce

Question: Can you fry bell pepper rings like onion rings?
Answer: Yes. In the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen we have made fried bell pepper rings along with Vidalia® onion rings. Place a bell pepper on its side and slice it to create rings. Coat them with your favorite flour or corn meal batter and deep-fry them as you would onion rings.
You can also pan-fry or deep-fry other sweet peppers and hot peppers. While Georgia Grown peppers are in season, now is a good time to try a new recipe with them. Bell pepper rings are great with hamburgers, meals of summer vegetables or at parties while watching the Olympics.
Q: Do you have any ideas for non-alcoholic cocktails? I would like to use fresh produce from the garden and farmers market.
A: While the alcoholic drinks may now define the term for the most part, cocktails may be non-alcoholic (e.g. cranberry juice cocktail) and don’t even have to be drinks (e.g. fruit cocktail and shrimp cocktail.) To make sure there is no misunderstanding, some people use the term “mocktail” to refer to cocktail drinks that do not contain alcohol.
Whatever you call them, good hosts always provide non-alcoholic options to their guests and never assume that a guest will automatically wish to imbibe as there are many people who do not drink alcohol for health, religious or other reasons such as being a designated driver. No one should feel slighted for not choosing an alcoholic beverage and it is the host’s job to make sure they don’t. Since there are numerous tasty, attractive and fun non-alcoholic drinks, no one should feel left out. A good cookbook will provide lots of recipes, but here are a few ideas:
Tomatoes are the base for many savory cocktails and are available all summer from your vegetable garden or farmers market. Cut the tomatoes into cubes and cook them to release their juice. Then strain out the seeds and skins with a pestle and colander. Salt to taste. Serve the juice chilled in small glasses. Mixing in finely grated cucumber to the juice after it has chilled will add an extra level of summer garden goodness.
The juice can also be seasoned with ground horseradish, celery salt and Worcestershire sauce as used in a Bloody Mary. Garnish with a slice of cucumber or a speared okra pickle.
To add more flavors to the tomato juice, cook the tomatoes with chopped onion and celery. Removing the strings from the celery stalks before cooking will help in the juicing process with the colander.
Peel and puree Georgia peaches and add club soda for some peachy refreshment. For a twist, puree a little fresh mint or basil with the peaches or use them as a garnish.
Ginger ale with a few whole and muddled fresh blueberries will be a colorful and cool treat.
Grapefruit or orange juice with a little juice from sweet watermelon rind pickles along with a watermelon pickle garnish is a good choice for brunch instead of a mimosa. Experiment with adding club soda or lemon-lime soft drinks if you want a little fizz. The sweet pickles are usually flavored with cloves, allspice, cinnamon and other spices and can be made from Georgia watermelons or the meat (seeds removed) of overgrown cucumbers.
Virtually any drink can be made to look a little more festive with a wedge of lime or a sprig of mint. Since there is almost always an abundance of mint in the garden, and every gardener we know is looking for ways to use it, garnish, garnish, garnish. The cooling taste and aroma of fresh mint can be especially welcome on hot summer evenings.
You can get other ideas from comprehensive cookbooks or by talking to some of the growers at your local farmers market.

Q: Please help me identify the small, attractive butterfly that has been visiting my zinnias. It has wings sort of like a swallowtail (one pair much longer than the other). It is dark brown with bluish green on its wings and body. Any idea what it could be? What can I plant to attract more of them?
A: It sounds like a long-tailed skipper (Urbanus proteus), one of the most distinctive and beautiful of all the skipper butterflies due to the shape of its wings and its color which can be described as bluish green, teal, peacock blue or Pewabic green.
Adult long-tailed skippers visit a wide array of flowers with zinnias and native asters among their favorites. The adults lay eggs on numerous members of the pea family including butterfly pea (Clitoria mariana), spurred or climbing butterfly pea (Centrosema virginianum), hog peanut (Amphicarpa bracteata), tick-trefoils/beggar’s lice (Desmodium spp.) and groundnut (Apios americana).
In vegetable gardens and agricultural fields, the caterpillars may be considered a pest because they feed on the leaves of various beans and are known as the “bean leaf roller.” In a home flower garden, however, long-tailed skippers can be appreciated for their beauty. We can also appreciate them because they eat kudzu. For more information visit www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Urbanus-proteus

Question: I recently heard of a night-blooming daylily. Is there really such a thing?
Answer: Daylily flowers last only for a day. Most open in the morning and close by the evening. While it may sound like an oxymoron, there are night-blooming daylilies. The American Hemerocallis (Daylily) Society defines a “nocturnal” day-lily as one with a flower that opens sometime after late day and remains open during the night and perhaps all or part of the following day (in which case it may also be an “extended” bloomer.) An extended blooming daylily is one with flow-ers that remain open 16 hours or more. Some extended bloomers open in the morning and last longer into the evening than standard daylilies, but they are not classified as nocturnal.
Two species of night-blooming daylilies are the lemon daylily (Hemerocallis lili-oasphodelus syn. Hemerocallis flava) and citron daylily (Hemerocallis citrina). There are also numerous nocturnal daylily varieties. They may be harder to find than standard daylilies but they are worth seeking from specialty suppliers and daylily nurseries, especially if you are at the office all day and don’t get to enjoy your garden until the evening.

Question: Is scaevola good plant in containers?
Answer: Scaevola, also known as Australian fan flower and fairy fan flower, is good in containers and as a bedding plant. Its trailing habit makes it a good choice as a plant to spill over the edge of a container. Because it is a relatively short and spreading plant, scaevola is generally used at the front of flower beds. The most popular color of scaevola is lavender-blue, but there are also white and pink varieties. Because of their confined root systems, plants grown in containers will need more frequent watering than those planted in the ground.
Question: I was thinking about getting a macaw or cockatoo, but I was told that they have a long life span. Is that true? I was told they could outlive me.
A: Some pet birds can live for a very long time. While the age range varies, a healthy and well-cared for macaw can reach 60 years and a cockatoo can reach 65. Some will be more, some less. Such long life spans mean that these birds can outlive their owners. Potential owners need to be aware of the age their bird might reach and be prepared to provide proper care for the bird over its entire life span.
Do your research before your purchase or adopt any animal. This is especially true when considering a long-lived animal and one with special needs. (Many people know how to care for dogs and cats, but you may have a much more dif-ficult time finding someone to care for a bird if something happens and you can no longer care for it.) Before you bring a bird home, ask yourself:
— Am I considering a bird on an impulse?
— Can I find a veterinarian to care for it? In rural areas an avian veterinarian may be many miles away. Can I afford to pay veterinary bills? What about the proper food and equipment needed?
— Am I willing to spend time every day interacting with my bird to meet its psy-chological/emotional needs? Members of the parrot family like cockatoos and macaws definitely have emotional needs, are very intelligent and need attention and stimulation.
— How will my neighbors and my family live and cope with normal bird vocaliza-tions? Some birds can be quite loud.
— Am I prepared to clean a cage daily?
— Do I have enough space in my home to house a bird?
Who will care for a bird when I’m out of town?
Do I understand that I’m committing to this pet for its entire life?

Q: Sparrow-like birds are eating seeds off my rosemary bush. One is gray-ish brown with light streaks on its breast and the other is grayish brown, too, but with a cranberry-rose cast to its head and breast. Do you know what they are? I have never seen birds eat rosemary seeds before.
A: It sounds like a pair of house finches. The male house finch is the one with the colorful plumage. Some people mistakenly call these “purple finches,” but the purple finch is a different species and does not breed in Georgia.
We do not know of other wild birds that eat rosemary seeds, but we have read an account from Texas of goldfinches eating them.

If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (arty.schronce@agr.georgia.gov) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov.