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Food
Apple-October
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October is National Apple Month

Fall is here and with it comes apples. October is National Apple Month. Did you know that the average American eats about 17.5 pounds of fresh apples each year, and an additional 30 pounds of apples in other products such as juice; canned and frozen products; and dried. In 2016, Illinois had over 1700 acres of apples in production which resulted in over 40 million pounds of harvested ap...

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Pawpaw-FruitInTree
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Pawpaws, a Native Fall Fruit Taste Delight

If you have never eaten a pawpaw, try this tasty, fall fruit. While the pawpaw, Asimina triloba , is the largest tree fruit native to the United States. It is the northernmost representative of its family of tropical and sub-tropical plants. People...

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Lunch box notes

Lunchbox Fun

Parents, teachers, and students: welcome back to school! Along with education, social engagement, and student personal growth, food is a major part of school culture. Consider the different times foods can pop up during the school day: Breakfast – at home, on-the-go to school, or a school-provided meal Lunch – a meal packed at home or provided by the sch...

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Soil-degradation-UN-2011
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Soil Health – Why is it Important?

Soil health is getting a lot of attention and it well deserved. Do you know why? First, the most well-known and essential benefit of healthy soil is food production. Healthy soil is full of organisms that turn dead matter and minerals into vital plant nutrients. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated it another way, "A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself." Second, healthy soi...

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Bees and Pesticides in the Garden

" Bees and Pesticides in the Garden " is the title of a recent article by Ric Bessin, Extension Entomol...

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Drying Apples

This summer has been focused on freezing and dehydration programs, as part of our line of food preservation classes from UI Extension. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great resource for information on freezing and drying foods. If you still have summer crops giving their last, consider drying those for use in recipe...

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Salsa by Three

So many things make us feel summer. The heat of course, but all the different fresh fruits and vegetables you taste…ah, it is summer! In all the heat, salsa is a refreshing snack option, an addition to a recipe, and a way to use up extra ingredients. It is probably not a surprise that salsa has its own variations, and not all of them include tomatoes. Salsas can help you get in...

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a roller coaster
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Gardening Roller Coaster

If you are an amusement park enthusiast you are familiar with the feeling of great anticipation as you are fastened into your roller coaster car. With your shoulder harness securely fastened, the anticipation builds with click, click, click, as you ever so slowly climb to the top of one of the coaster peaks. Eak! Will you be met with an accelerated descent, a loop-the-loop or a sharp curve? Garden...

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Tomatoes 5
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Drying Tomatoes

The next line of food preservation classes from UI Extension are on freezing and dehydration. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great resource for information on freezing and drying foods. Past years, the focus has been on home canning. This summer is about preserving fruits and veggies in other ways. And sampling som...

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pepper

A Peck of Pepper Problems

The untold story of Peter Piper's Peppers: peppers can be hard to grow! Growing your own peppers makes perfect sense if you are a gardener. Whether you chop, dice, roast, stuff, pickle, grill or dry the brilliant colored vegetable, they are handy to have in your kitchen. You may have wandered the farmers market or supermarket and noticed they are a little pricey! Maybe Peter Piper knew growing...

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Simple Summer Kitchen

With so much produce growing in summer, this is a great time to enjoy the warmer weather, savor flavors, and keep recipes simple. The tastes of all those summer fruits and veggies will do most of the work in making your recipes shine. I recently taught the "Your Diet, Your Decade" class, designed to highlight nutrition needs across different age groups. Our 60+ year young crowd prepared...

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Grocery Tours

The last few months, I have gotten a chance to partner with County Market and assist with grocery store tours to several groups. This is an opportunity for participants to get their questions answered about different foods in the store, gain skills to make healthier picks, and become more savvy shoppers. As some commented: "Thank you for this class. Very helpful!" –tour p...

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Salad table
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Spring Salad Greens

With the price of everything including groceries climbing higher and higher all the time, I highly recommend brightening your spring table with some salad greens you can proudly proclaim you grew yourself. It's really not difficult at all, and it's economical. I grew up thinking iceberg lettuce was the only kind of lettuce people ate. This was way before so many greens options were read...

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Make it at Home: Sauerkraut

Our unit's do-it-yourself (DIY) series is still going strong. I am excited to report a successful sauerkraut class. Everyone was excited to get their hands in the cabbage and work together. There are still more classes in the series, so c heck out our remaining classes . What is...

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Grafting for the Homeowner

Grafting is the technique of combining two plants to create one more desirable plant. Just as people have different strengths, so do plants. One variety might produce fantastic tasting fruits, another variety might tolerate poor soils, while another might be known for being a more compact plant. Grafting is one way to combine good qualities of different plants to create a better harvest....

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Winter Citrus

Happy New Year and welcome to 2016! I hope you will make this a healthy year – continuing the positive choices you already make and adding in new healthy habits. Winter brings a lot of different citrus fruits to grocery store shelves. Stocked with more oranges and grapefruits than usual, maybe you have noticed other interesting citrus as well: clementines, tangerines, mandarins, tangelo...

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Water Splash

Muddy, Carbon, Water

Can you figure out what the words above have in common? Take your time, I don't have anywhere to be. Did you come up with footprints? We are familiar with muddy footprints as we return from a soggy garden. You may think about your carbon footprint as you drive to and fro and when you figure out how far a given product has traveled to reach the store shelf. A water footprint? Is that...

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brew bucket
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It's Time to Get Brewing!

Craft brewing has been exceedingly popular in recent years. It seems like there is a new specialty brew or brewer every time you turn around. You may have noticed a proliferation of kits for home brewing as well. Is it really possible to make beer at home? Is it legal? The answer is "yes" and "in Illinois, yes". I learned about home brewing in of all places, as an undergraduate student...

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It's Thanksgiving - Thank A Farmer

At the holidays, it is often easy to forget about the people who produce the food we eat. I understand this can happen, especially here in central Illinois - in the heart of the Corn Belt, where we see a lot of corn and soybeans growing. As I often have to remind my neighbors, we raise a lot more than "corn and soybeans" around here. One example, pictured on one of the accompanying p...

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Cranberries

Cranberries

The lowly cranberry doesn't get much attention through the year except at holiday time. During the holiday season, fresh cranberries are once again available in the grocery store. How in the world do they get there? Do they grow on a tree, a plant, or what? The answer may surprise you. Cranberries are native to North America, making them a true "American" fruit. Back in the 1600's, Engl...

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Freezing - Mary Liz
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Freezing Fall Foods

If you are waiting on some fall crops to harvest or are able to find a great batch of seasonal fruits and veggies in your local stores, consider freezing them at home for longer storage. After a while, fresh produce eventually becomes soft, mushy, and will not be enjoyable to eat or use in recipes. Freezing can extend the shelf life of your foods and give you a nutritious option when fr...

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squash pile

Winter Squash: Not Just for Decorating

Not too long ago, the only winter squash that most people were familiar with were butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash-- and of course Jack-O'Lantern pumpkins for Halloween. Today, a glance at even your average local grocery store or garden center is likely to reveal a wide variety of unfamiliar shapes, sizes and colors of winter squash. If you are a gardener, you may have noticed cat...

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Corn
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Cold Storage: Fruits and Veggies

That bag of green beans was pretty wrinkled, and the container of kale started turning brown at the edges and had a strong smell. I forgot about these sitting in my refrigerator. Whoops! I certainly did not eat these in the state they were in (decomposing). As the season of bounty in gardens and farmer's markets slows, take a moment to reflect on fresh fruit and vegetable storage.  Plan...

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Great Garlic

While you are scouring the markets for pumpkins, squash & apples – you might keep a look out for something a little more aromatic - garlic. If you reside in Illinois – October is the best time to plant garlic, usually by the second week of the month. The goal is to have it in the ground six weeks before a freeze. The cooler weather and shorter days of fall are ideal for root development and...

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Plant Cover Crops Now - To Improve Your Garden

As our gardens wind down the growing season, fall is the time to get our gardens ready for next spring. Have you ever considered planting a cover crop in your garden? Maybe you should, cover crops improve our garden soil in many ways. Cover crops add a blanket of green to our otherwise bare soil that protects the soil from eroding, their roots keep soil nutrients from leaving the your...

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