Q: Are shishito peppers hot or sweet?
A: Shishito peppers are sweet, versatile and easy to prepare. They are not thick like bell peppers. Because they are thin, they can be grilled briefly to give them a char and then sautéed quickly in hot oil. They can be grilled and sautéed whole with the stems serving as convenient handles for eating as hors d'oeuvres or as a side dish with eggs, steak, pork chops or a tomato sandwich. Eat the entire pepper including the seeds. Try them with a topping of a cream cheese dip or with a dash of salt or lemon juice.
If sliced and seeded, the peppers can be sautéed with fresh corn, squash or okra. They may be sliced and eaten raw on a salad.
The shishito is one of many kinds of peppers grown in Georgia. Look for it and others at farmers markets and grocery stores.
Q: I think the gas station near my house is watering down the gasoline it sells. Who should I contact?
A: No station is going to “water down” its gasoline. Gasoline is not like Kool-Aid that can be watered down and stretched to save money.
Water and gasoline do not mix, and adding water to gasoline could leave a gas station with stalled vehicles on its premises and angry drivers demanding restitution. If excessive water gets into a station’s storage tanks, it is the result of a leak, flooding or some other accident.
If you have any concerns about gasoline, notify the station manager and call the Georgia Department of Agriculture immediately. Our toll-free line is 1-800-282-5852 and the email address is email@example.com. This number and address are on all gasoline and diesel pumps in the state. Our Fuel and Measures Division will send an inspector to investigate. If there is a problem with the gasoline, the affected pumps will be locked down until the problem is corrected.
Q: I sowed a packet of “mixed sunflowers” and was surprised at some of the tall plants that produced clusters of flowers. I guess I was thinking all sunflowers have big, single heads. Are these clustered kinds unusual?
A: The sunflowers that produce the clusters you describe are sometimes referred to as branching sunflowers. They are closer to the wild sunflowers of the American prairies than the single-headed sunflowers are. Fortunately, there are a lot of these branching sunflowers on the market. They are sometimes grown commercially for cut flowers or are just grown by gardeners who enjoy their beauty.
Sunflowers sometimes re-seed themselves, so you may have some seedlings to come up again next spring. You may consider trying some of the other varieties of branching sunflowers with rusty brown, maroon and creamy yellow petals. Some branching sunflowers have brown centers and others have yellow ones.
While annual sunflower are sown in the spring, you may consider planting a perennial sunflower in the fall or in the spring. A favorite is the swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius). It is also known as the narrowleaf sunflower and is native to Georgia and other Southern and Eastern states. It naturally grows in moist conditions but tolerates ordinary garden soil and is covered with hundreds of dark-eyed golden flowers in October.
Swamp sunflower can warm the chilliest October morning with hundreds of glowing flowers.
If you have questions about agriculture, horticulture, food safety or services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, write Arty Schronce (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the Georgia Department of Agriculture's website (www.agr.georgia.gov).