Chow Line: Grow your own produce year-round in Ohio

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused me to rethink how I access food, including a push to grow my own food, kind of like a victory garden. Where can I find tips and information on how to grow my own food in Ohio, even in the winter?

You aren’t alone in your desire to take more control over your food this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to express a desire to grow their own food. In fact, more consumers nationwide are expected to plant gardens this year. For example, online searches for “growing vegetables from scraps” increased 4,650% in March compared the same time last year, according to Google Trends.

The good thing about Ohio is that the Buckeye state is a four-season growing environment, said Tim McDermott, an educator with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

McDermott, who runs the Growing Franklin food-producing blog, says it’s possible to grow a fresh, healthy harvest of vegetables all 12 months of the year in Ohio. In addition to offering growing tips on the blog, he’s also recorded a virtual class on how to grow during winter as well as produced an informative article with a step-by-step video of how to do so.

“Growing over winter is a great way to utilize all four seasons for food production in Ohio,” McDermott said. “We’re experiencing a tremendous drive and resurgence of folks that want to provide for their own personal and family food security. Additionally, growing outside is a wonderful activity that provides for health and wellness yet maintains social distance.

“Making the right choice for cold-tolerant plantings as well as the use of season extension will allow the backyard grower, community gardener, teacher-educator, and urban farmer to harvest all 12 months of the year.”

The virtual class focuses on how to use season extension techniques to grow in colder temperatures, including using low tunnels, row covers, and frost blankets.

Other resources for consumers to grow food in Ohio can be found through the new Ohio Victory Gardens program, a joint effort by CFAES and the Ohio Department of Agriculture aimed at boosting interest in gardening, helping Ohioans grow their own fresh food, and lifting people’s spirits in a trying time.

The program, which can be found at u.osu.edu/ohiovictorygardens, offers free, how-to advice and resources. Some of the topics covered at the website include what and where to plant, how to manage pests, and how to cook and can your bounty.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line writer Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Tim McDermott, educator, OSU Extension.

Chow Line: Black licorice warnings and tips for safe Halloween celebrations

I heard that eating too much black licorice can cause heart problems. Is that true?

In some cases, for some people, yes.

With Halloween coming in a couple of weeks and candy sales up 13% this year as compared to this same time last year, according to the National Confectioners Association, it’s a good time to revisit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s warning regarding black licorice.

The FDA warns that people over 40 who eat 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could experience an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia that could land them in the hospital.

As mentioned in a previous Chow Line, black licorice contains glycyrrhizin, which is the sweetening compound derived from licorice root. The problem is that glycyrrhizin can cause potassium levels in the body to fall, causing some people to experience abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, swelling, lethargy, and congestive heart failure, the FDA said in its advisory.

The issue is primarily a concern for people over 40, some of whom have had a history of heart disease and/or high blood pressure, according to the FDA. The agency said that potassium levels are usually restored in people with no permanent health problems once the person stops eating black licorice.

So, if you like eating black licorice, it’s best that you don’t eat large amounts of it at one time—regardless of how old you are, the FDA says.

The FDA also advises that people who experience irregular heart rhythms or muscle weakness should stop eating black licorice immediately and contact their doctor. Lastly, it’s important to know that black licorice can interact with some medications and dietary supplements, so talk to your pharmacist or doctor to be sure none of the medications you take could be impacted.

It’s also important to note that with Halloween right around the corner—occurring this year for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic—there are measures to take to help you safely celebrate the fall holiday.

Already, a Morning Consult poll found that 80% of people believe that they will find creative and safe ways to celebrate the Halloween season this year. Meanwhile, 80% of the general public and 90% of millennial moms and young parents who participated in a recent Harris Poll, say they can’t imagine Halloween without chocolate and candy, and that trick-or-treating is irreplaceable.

Here are some questions the Cleveland Clinic advises parents to consider if you plan to have your children participate in trick-or-treating:

  • How will your child maintain social distance from others?
  • How many houses will they be allowed to visit?
  • How will you help your child keep their hands clean and not touch their face?

If you’d rather avoid the Beggar’s Night tradition of going door-to-door for candy, here are some other creative celebration options from the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Decorate or carve pumpkins at home.
  • Set up a piñata for your kids in the backyard.
  • Watch a scary movie.
  • Create a candy or festive scavenger hunt at home.
  • Host or attend a virtual Halloween party and costume contest.

If you do choose to participate in trick-or-treat with your kids, you are advised to wear a proper face mask that covers your mouth and nose, has multiple layers, and ties around the ears or back of your head.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line writer Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, field specialist in food, nutrition, and wellness for Ohio State University Extension.

 

 

Frozen food safety

We bought some frozen chicken breasts that already have grill marks on them. The grill marks mean the chicken is already cooked, so I can just heat it up in the microwave, right?

A frozen grilled chicken breast with a bun.

Not necessarily.

While some frozen foods have the appearance of grill marks, browned breading, or other signs that normally indicate that the foods have been cooked, they can still be raw and need to be fully cooked before eating. It’s best to read the packaging on frozen foods before eating them to make sure you prepare them correctly. Proper preparation is key to avoiding foodborne illnesses from eating raw or undercooked foods that need to be cooked before eating.

However, a new study released last week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service found that many consumers might not know how to cook frozen foods safely, which can put families at risk of developing foodborne illnesses.

The study found that 22% of participants said a not-ready-to-eat frozen chicken entrée was either cooked, partially cooked, or they weren’t sure that the product was in fact, raw.

“Although some frozen products might look cooked, it is important to follow the same food safety guidelines as you would if you were cooking a fresh, raw product,” the USDA said in a statement. “That includes washing your hands before food preparation and after handling raw frozen products and using a food thermometer to make sure your frozen meals reach a safe internal temperature.”

This issue takes on increased significance considering that frozen food has been a big seller throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with frozen food growth overall outpacing sales of other packaged foods and fresh foods this year, according to a recent analysis by market research firm 210 Analytics.

In fact, the frozen food market is estimated to account for $244.3 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach a value of $312.3 billion by 2025, according to market research firm MarketsandMarkets.

Many families find frozen food products to be a convenient option because children can prepare frozen meals easily on their own, the USDA says.

With that in mind, “it’s especially important for children to know how to practice the necessary food safety steps needed to prepare frozen meals to avoid foodborne illness, and to help them do so, parents must first understand if products are raw or ready-to-eat,” the USDA said.

Here are some tips from the USDA when preparing frozen foods:

  • Wash your hands during and after preparing frozen food to prevent germs from transferring from your hands to your meal.
  • Although frozen products might appear to be precooked or browned, they should be handled and prepared no differently than raw products and must be cooked. Frozen products are sometimes labeled with phrases such as “Cook and Serve,” “Ready to Cook,” and “Oven-Ready” to indicate they must be cooked.
  • Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your frozen meat and poultry products to determine whether they are safe to eat.
  • All poultry dishes should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that they are cooked thoroughly enough to kill any pathogens that could cause a foodborne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s best to use a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the chicken to make sure it is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  • The safe minimum cooking temperature for ground meats, including beef, pork, veal, and lamb, is 160 degrees F, according to the USDA. Steak and pork can be safely cooked to 145 degrees F.
  • Frozen and raw produce can also carry germs that can cause foodborne illnesses. It is important to handle produce properly to prevent the spread of germs to your food and kitchen.
  • Even if you are preparing a cold salad, frozen produce must be cooked first.
  • Check that frozen food in your freezer has not been recalled. You can find information about recalled items at FoodSafety.gov or FoodKeeper application.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line writer Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, state specialist in food safety for Ohio State University Extension.