What is Sauerkraut?

I grew up knowing the word "sauerkraut" but not really understanding what it was (same with coleslaw). Now I know it is a fermented concoction of cabbage – salty, tangy, a little sour, crunchy, and, to the surprise of my kid-self, rather tasty.

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 even a real thing? I assure you it is. It is the amount of fresh water required to produce a good or service.

As everyone is finishing planting their gardens, their attention turns to controlling the weeds. Unfortunately, this is backwards, we need to focus on garden weed control before the first seed is planted.

All this was brought to mind, after viewing a large local vegetable garden, where the gardener was focused on getting plants in the ground. Yet, weeds were growing on the earlier planted portion of the garden. This is a recipe for a weedy garden, because if you start with a weedy garden that is what you will end up with.

Photo: American Phytopathological Society


A high number of pin and other oak trees in Moultrie County have been diagnosed with Bacterial Leaf Scorch. Given the close proximity to us, we like to pay attention to what is happening to our neighbors.

If you came here looking for doughnut seeds, more information on the return of the spaghetti tree or how to rid your garden of gnomes, I'm sorry, but I have to say: April Fools!

I know, I wish shrubs that grew doughnuts were real, too. This year we couldn't resist getting in on the April 1 fun with a few Extension related pranks on our Facebook page.

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? Gardening can be like riding a roller coaster with less need for Dramamine.

Even though I haven't been a student for a lot of years now, I still cringe when I see "Back to School" ads and aisles showing up after the 4th of July. Summer is all too short. I'm not ready to say goodbye to it just yet. One way to extend the enjoyment of the outdoors is to plan a fall vegetable or flower garden. I know people will ask about this topic in September and October, but you can do a lot more in a fall garden if you start the planning and planting process in the next month or so.

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.

In his book The $64 Tomato, William Alexander chronicles his quest for the perfect garden at the expense of his sanity and much of his money. In these difficult economic times, gardening, especially vegetable gardening, is receiving newfound interest. But you don't have to break the bank to have a great garden this year.

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 peppers was problematic.

Peppers prefer

Our unit's do-it-yourself (DIY) series has come to a close. So many classes, so many great activities, and in the case of classes I taught, so many recipes! The last in the series was making sauces – cheese sauce, barbecue, and tomato.

Food Sciences and Sauces

A variety of creatures live in or on trees cut for firewood or settle in stacked wood that is destined for the stove or fireplace. Insect invasion of homes from firewood can be reduced by following these rules:
  • Inspect wood as you pick it up.

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 nutritious dishes with simple ingredients and limited preparation.

When the temperature rises, find reason to get outside and consider these tips to limit meal prep and time:

The "Back to Basics" do-it-yourself series returns to UI Extension in Macon, DeWitt, and Piatt counties. If you have not already checked out our classes, take a look today.

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 some dried foods was a perk too.

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.

Give a big hat's off to school foodservice. They are the front line of a wave of students crashing into a cafeteria or classroom looking for food. They are the ones serving food as quick as possible. They are the ones encouraging food choices.

During October 10-14 this year, it is National School Lunch Week. As parents and guardians, this is a great time to talk with your kids and your school about lunch. Consider these talking points.

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 recipes this fall and winter.

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".

If you are on pumpkin overload, I give you permission to skip this blog post. I do hope you continue reading though. Whether you are growing pumpkins in your garden, picking them up from someone else's, or would prefer to grab a can or pie pumpkin at the store, try these tips to save the pumpkin you have for a time when you want pumpkin again.

Making Pumpkin Puree – there is no one way to make puree. For some a microwave make sense; for others, an oven or pot of boiling water. Decide what works for you.