Gourds come in all shapes, colors and sizes.

Lush summer lawns get their start in the spring

What’s not to like about a plant you can grow, harvest, preserve, decorate and drop in a gift bag? Growing gourds can be a fun and interesting hobby.

“You can grow your own, or you can buy them toward the end of the season,” between Halloween and Thanksgiving, said Augusta County horticulturist Mark Viette, who has grown and decorated apple and bottle gourds.

They take six months to a year to dry, Viette said, and their ideal storage temperature is 55 to 65 degrees.

“Put them in a cool basement or garage that won’t get too cold,” he said.

As the gourds dry out, their outer surfaces will lose their color but sometimes start to show interesting markings. When you shake them, you’ll hear loose seeds inside.

As the gourds dry out, their outer surfaces will lose their color but sometimes start to show interesting markings. When you shake them, you’ll hear loose seeds inside. (Click to Tweet)

Dried gourds can be cleaned up with sandpaper if you want a smoother finish, or with a plastic scrubbing pad if you want a more distinct look. Then they’re ready to be painted, stained or given a coat or two of polyurethane.

If you’re making gourds into birdhouses, cut a 1¼-inch hole for the entrance, and drill small holes in the bottom for drainage. Don’t forget to put a hole in the top for a cord or wire by which the gourd can be suspended.

Prevent injuries while frying your Thanksgiving turkey

If you’re thinking of frying your Thanksgiving turkey this year, there are some precautions you need to take. Please read the safety tips listed below and watch the video that follows to avoid serious accidents.

  • Keep an eye on the weather. Never operate a fryer in the snow or rain.
  • Follow the instructions to prevent overfilling. Oil can ignite when it hits the burner.
  • A turkey that’s 8-10 pounds is best—nothing over 12 pounds.
  • Be sure to turn off the burner before lowering the turkey into the oil. Once the turkey is submerged, it’s safe to turn the burner back on.
  • Wear goggles and use oven mitts to protect yourself from the hot oil. Keep a fire extinguisher handy, and never use water on a fire related to turkey fryers.
  • Avoid water-based marinades for your turkey, and skip the stuffing this year.
  • Consider using an oil-less fryer. It uses infrared heat instead of oil to cook the turkey.

Green Edamame Salad with Asian-style Dressing

In Japanese, edamame means “beans on a branch.” Try this delicious Asian take on an edamame salad.

Source: Epic Gardens, adapted from Epicurious magazine

See Recipe

Edible soybean is full of flavor and nutrition

If you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one food, would it be edamame?

Maybe it should. This edible soybean packs a punch when it comes to nutritional value. Edamame are high in fiber, low in fat, high in protein and vitamins C and A and contain 4% of the daily recommendation for calcium.

A cup of beans in the pod or a half-cup of shelled beans contains only 120 calories. The 9 grams of fiber it contains is about the same amount you’d find in four slices of whole-wheat bread or 4 cups of steamed zucchini. It contains 10% of the daily value for iron, which is about as much as a 4-ounce roasted chicken breast—a high amount for plant food.

Studies show that soy protein lowers blood cholesterol, which in turn lowers the risk of heart disease. And soy isoflavones, which are antioxidants, decrease artery damage because they protect the cells of the arteries from oxidation.

Oh, and did we mention that edamame taste good?

Most edamame are eaten straight from the pod as a hearty, healthy snack, and they're great finger food. Or you can shell them and add them to salads, soups and stir-fries.