Tag Archive: Let’s

Let’s Talk Tomatoes

Tomatoes are abundant this time of year and you have many options to buy local and fresh. Tomatoes are one of the most popular home garden vegetable to grow and should now be providing the home gardener with fresh ripe bounty from now until summers end. Our local farmer’s markets are also selling tomatoes home grown and in many colors like deep red, bright yellow and green. Our climate is great for growing tomatoes. In fact, Florida is the nation’s largest producer of fresh tomatoes.

Nutritionally, tomatoes are packed with vitamin C and A. Low in calories and high in flavor, this succulent vegetable is a favorite all year long. Tomatoes are great served sliced and also in cooked dishes. Tomatoes should be stored at room temperature away from direct sunlight. Ripe tomatoes should be used within 3 to 4 days. For best flavor, do not refrigerate. Ripe tomatoes will give slightly to gentle pressure

If you want to preserve the summer’s tomato bounty, try your hand at canning. Remember to use USDA recommended practices for safety and long term quality. For a complete listing of how to safely can tomato products you will find the USDA guide here: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/GUIDE03_HomeCan_rev0715.pdf


Farm Fresh Salsa

Fresh salsa is a low-fat, low sodium, treat that is packed with flavor and essential nutrients. Adjust the salt and oil to your taste and diet.


6 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ seeded and minced jalapenos

1 red bell pepper, finely dices

½ red onion, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 lime, juiced

Chili Powder, salt and pepper, to taste

Fresh scallions, cilantro or parsley, to taste


In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Place in refrigerator for up to 12 hours for flavor infusion. Serve with your own baked chips.


Baked Tortilla chips

1 package medium or large tortillas

Cooking Spray

Salt to taste


Preheat oven to 375˚ F

On a cutting board cut tortillas into 8 – 12 pieces using a pizza cutter.

Place aluminum foil on 2 or 3 baking sheets.

Place tortillas pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet.

Lightly coat tortillas with cooking spray on both sides.

Sprinkle tortilla pieces with salt to taste – or with salt-free alternative for dietary needs.

Place in oven and cook 10-15 minutes until crisp.


Author: Pam Allen – pha@ufl.edu

Pam Allen

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/05/lets-talk-tomatoes/

Let’s Go Camping!

Let’s Go Camping!

This past week I was camping at a state park near Gainesville. Working on a variety of computer related items while sitting in my chair, you were acutely attuned to the sounds of life around you.  Small “pat-pat-pat” could be heard in the leaf litter around the tent.  Curious to what it was making the sound, I moved the leaves until numerous small frogs showed themselves – and immediately settled on my tent.  The wind rustling through the trees, the distinct “kee kee kee” of the red shouldered hawk, and the sounds of numerous woodland song birds filled the senses all caused me to pause my work and listen to life.

Camping is a great way to clear the mind, think through problems, and experience the natural world. Photo: RIck O'Connor

Camping is a great way to clear the mind, think through problems, and experience the natural world.
Photo: RIck O’Connor

The evenings were no different… the loud rustling of digging armadillos, the distinct calls of at least two types of owls, and the howling of coyotes could be heard every night. Then one evening… nothing… it all stopped.  I heard no owls, coyotes, or frogs.  The woods had become completely silent.  Funny how you notice silence as much as you do the “calls of the wild”.

The following morning the skies were different. They were not dark but you could sense rain was in the area.  I moved into the tent in time for the rain to begin… a light rain – but rain none the less.  And it rained all day… and most of the night.  I was dry within my tent – continued to work on my computer – but was aware of the extent of the rain and of the silence around me.  It was not until later that evening that I heard there was a tropical system on the Atlantic coast.  The woods had become silent the afternoon before… did they know it was coming?


Camping does this… it reconnects us to the natural world. We can experience Florida the way our ancestors would have.  To listen to the animal sounds, sense the changes in the weather, and explore.  Yes, explore.  You can only sit at the campsite for so long.  Most campgrounds provide hiking trails and swimming areas where you can not only explore nature but get much needed exercise.  Some campgrounds provide elevated observation towers with benches where you can sit, listen, look, and let the hub-bub of typical daily life escape you for a while.  Honestly… here I get some of my best ideas for work.  I think clearer and can prioritize a hectic schedule of “to-do’s”.  I recommend bringing a small notebook to jot down ideas as they come.  It is very relaxing and productive at the same time.


If you have kids… perfect! There is less “wild areas” within neighborhoods for kids to explore their natural world.  Many youth today have not experienced finding hermit crabs or frogs.  Camping is a great way for them to do this.  I understand that some are nervous about different forms of wildlife while camping (snakes) but honestly, I rarely see them.  They have learned to stay clear of open areas – I have bigger problems with squirrels and ants.  Do not let that stop you from enjoying Florida.


There are several state parks with camp grounds in the Florida Panhandle; Torreya State Park even has a couple of yurts! You may need to reserve a site.  There are campgrounds scattered in the Apalachicola National Forest, which are less visited.  If you are in the Escambia / Santa Rosa area – you can visit Naturally EscaRosa.com to find camping options in that area.


So let’s chill a bit… and go camping!


Author: Rick O’Connor – roc1@ufl.edu

Sea Grant Extension Agent in Escambia County

Rick O’Connor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/09/16/lets-go-camping/

Let’s Donate and Recycle Our Electronics

Let’s Donate and Recycle Our Electronics

Electronic DevicesDid you know that Floridians throw away 8 pounds of garbage per day? That is double the national average. This is not something to be proud of but it leaves a lot of room for improvement!

Many times when I frequent my housing facility’s dumpster, a computer will be sitting by the side. Does someone think that another resident will take care of properly disposing of it? Think again – it probably will end up in the landfill and will remain there for years. What a waste!

Electronic products are made from valuable materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, all of which require energy to mine and manufacture. Donating or recycling consumer electronics conserves our natural resources. Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 homes in the U.S. in a year. For every one million cell phones we recycle, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.

Before you donate or recycle your used electronics, do the following:

  • Consider your purchase of a new device – could you upgrade the hardware or software instead of buying a brand new one?
  • Delete all personal information.
  • Remove any batteries; they may need to be recycled separately.

And now the question is where to donate or recycle items? Many manufacturers and retailers offer several options to donate or recycle electronics. Go to www2.epa.gov/recycle/electronics-donation-and-recycling for instructions offered by many companies on where/how you can recycle mobile devices, personal computers, and even televisions.

Think about it…..with just a little more effort, another item can be saved from our already overloaded landfills. You can be a part of the solution for cutting down on waste in Florida.



Author: Shelley Swenson – sswenson@ufl.edu

Shelley is the FCS/EFNEP Agent in Wakulla County. She joined the UF/IFAS Wakulla County staff in 2008 after re-locating in Florida. She previously worked for the Kansas State University’s Extension Service for 13 years in a county position. She also spent 15 years in various administrative roles in the Kansas community college system. She owned and operated an interior business for five years.

Shelley Swenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/10/02/lets-donate-and-recycle-our-electronics/

Let’s Keep Grilling, but Safely!

Beef, grilling, cooking, meat, BBQ.   UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Beef, grilling, cooking, meat, BBQ. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Summer brings on the craving to grill and that craving continues through the year! Millions of Americans will enjoy grilling as they gather with family and friends. Whether grilling outdoors or indoors, safe food handling is always important.

When shopping, pick up cold foods such as meat and poultry just before you checkout. Put these foods in plastic bags and keep separate from other foods in your cart. It is wise to have a cooler with ice in your car for all perishables but if not, plan to go directly home. Refrigerate or freeze meat and poultry promptly when you get home.

Thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator and NEVER on the kitchen counter. For quicker thawing, thaw in the microwave and immediately place on the grill. Thaw meats, fish and poultry completely before grilling. If not thawed completely, the food will not cook evenly.

If marinating meats and poultry, do so in the refrigerator. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service suggests that poultry and cubed meat may be marinated for up to 2 days and roasts, chops, and steaks marinated up to 5 days. If some of the marinade will be used as a sauce on the cooked food, reserve a portion before putting raw meat and poultry in it. However, if the marinade used on raw meat or poultry is to be reused, make sure to let it come to a boil first to destroy any harmful bacteria.

Use separate utensils, platters, and pans for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Raw juices are high in bacteria and could contaminate safely cooked food.

Never partially cook meat or poultry and save to continue cooking later on the grill. If you do pre-cook, cook these foods completely then cool, refrigerate and reheat later on the grill.

Cook meat such as steaks, roasts, and chops to 145°F. Ground meats such as beef, pork, veal and lamb cooked to 160°F. All poultry, whether whole, pieces or ground, should be cooked to 165°F. Fish and shellfish should be cooked to 145°F.

During the past few years, there have been a few concerns about grilled meats causing cancer.

Some research suggests there may be a cancer risk related to eating meat and poultry cooked by high-heat cooking techniques such as grilling, frying, and broiling. Current research suggest eating moderate amounts of grilled meats, fish, and poultry cooked to a safe temperature, without charring, does not pose a problem. Prevent charring by removing visible fat that can cause a flare-up. Meat can also be precooked immediately before placing on the grill, which helps to release some of the juices that can drop on coals.

So, keep on grilling, but keep your food safe!

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Author: Marjorie Moore – mreem@ufl.edu

Marjorie Moore is the Director/Extension Faculty in Family & Consumer Sciences for Bay County.

Marjorie Moore

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/07/25/lets-keep-grilling-but-safely/

Let’s Go Back Outside!


4-H youth learn about the habitat and calm nature of the Gopher Tortoise

Youth learn about the habitat and calm nature of the Gopher Tortoise at the 4-H Wildiife and Outdoor Recreation Camp

 Many youth today are suffering from a serious, preventable disorder that is the result of early age experiences and if not properly diagnosed or treated, may cause severe mental health issues up through adulthood.  This disorder I’m referring to is called Videophilia.  Videophilia can be described as the love of any form of electronic media.  This media may be internet, movies, video games, cell phones, or just plain TV. Many youth are so attached to their video devices that they hardly ever go outside to see what’s going on in the natural world. In Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods” he calls this condition “Nature-Deficit Disorder”. 


According to the Center for Environmental Health, consistent contact with nature has many health benefits including helping to ease attention-deficit disorder, aiding in cognitive development, enhancing creativity, and reducing stress.  With so much emphasis on our communities becoming more sustainable in how they utilize resources, many environmentalist fear that the loss of contact with nature will weaken Americans commitments to conservation and biodiversity.  These concepts will have more impact to the future of our world if they are introduced to youth as they matriculate through grade school. The earlier we teach them how to enjoy the great outdoors the better!


What is nature you may ask??  Nature can be Yellowstone National Park, The Appalachia National Forest, or it could be a clump of trees at the back of a neighborhood or in someone’s yard.  To the scientific eye the clump of trees might not look like much but to a child it could be a life changing experience. Every 4-H club agenda that is developed should include a nature walk or some other outdoor activity.  Additionally, 4-H residential and day camps provide perfect opportunities for both youth and adults to explore the great outdoors together.  Most electronic programs and activities only require hearing and seeing, however providing an outdoor experience for 4-H youth will provide opportunities to hear, smell, touch, see and sometimes taste.  Nature Deficit Disorder may be a growing disorder, but lucky for us, with programs like 4-H and great volunteers, it is a disorder that can be easily cured!


Author: Marcus Boston Jr. – marcusb@ufl.edu

Marcus serves as a 4-H Extension Agent for Leon County and places empahasis in programs in the areas of science, leadership development, and civic engagement..

Marcus Boston Jr.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/03/16/lets-go-back-outside/