Tag Archives: holidays

Avoid spreading boxwood disease when decorating for the holidays

Dr. Hong inspecting a boxwood bush.

Chuanxue Hong, Extension specialist in ornamental horticulture, reminds people to be cautious when decorating with boxwoods this holiday season so they don’t spread the boxwood blight.

Virginia Cooperative Extension is cautioning the public to take measures to avoid spreading the devastating boxwood blight when decorating for the holidays this year.

Clippings in wreaths and garlands have the capacity to spread the disease, which could decimate English and American boxwood populations along the East Coast.

Researchers say that boxwood blight could threaten the plants in the same way that the chestnut blight destroyed trees in the 1930s.

“The boxwood is not just a plant. It’s part of Virginia’s cultural heritage,” said Chuanxue Hong, Extension specialist in ornamental horticulture at the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

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How to select and care for your Virginia-grown Christmas tree

man looking at pine tree

There are several things to consider when selecting your natural-grown Christmas tree.

Shopping for the perfect Christmas tree can be one of the highlights of the holiday season. There are several things to remember about buying a cut tree that will ensure that it stays fresh throughout the holidays.

“Size is the consideration when selecting a tree,” says Kyle Peer, superintendent, Virginia Tech Reynolds Homestead Forest Research Center. Before shopping, measure the floor area and the ceiling height of the spot where the tree will be. Peer reminds tree shoppers that about an inch will be cut off the tree’s bottom, but a stand can add several inches to the tree’s height.

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Store holiday leftovers properly to avoid food-borne illness

Holiday meal leftovers have almost as many traditions as the meals themselves. From turkey salad sandwiches to turkey tetrazzini, cooks want the leftovers for their traditional holiday meals to be as good, and as safe, as the feast itself.

Renee Boyer, consumer food-safety specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension, recommends putting leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer soon after a holiday meal to avoid temperatures that promote bacteria growth and turn food stale. As a general rule, plan to refrigerate leftovers within two hours of when the food is put on the table.

“The sooner you store leftovers, the better,” Boyer said. While the turkey is at room temperature, approximately 72 degrees F, it is in the temperature danger zone of 40 to 140 degrees F. This is the temperature range in which bacteria can grow. The cooler temperature of the refrigerator, 35 to 40 degrees F, slows down metabolic processes and therefore slows the growth of harmful bacteria.

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Obey food-safety guidelines when preparing a holiday turkey

As the winter holidays approach, families should know the proper way to roast a turkey. Virginia Cooperative Extension offers advice on safely preparing this holiday meal.

Safely thawing a frozen turkey is the first step. “One of the biggest food-safety recommendations when preparing a turkey is to defrost at cool temperatures,” said Renee Boyer, consumer food-safety specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension and as assistant professor of food science and technology at Virginia Tech.

Place the turkey in a shallow pan with the original wrapper, sliding the bird into the refrigerator and leaving it there until completely thawed. This keeps it below 40 degrees F. Defrosting will take approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey.

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Why deep-fat fry?

In recent years, new cooking methods have been added to the traditional roasting of the holiday turkey. One of the most popular methods originated in the South and is called deep-fat frying.

Deep fat frying has been used for many items including snacks, and it works for whole turkeys. When deep-fat fried, a turkey should come out moist and delicious, not greasy at all.

However, this method of cooking is dangerous and requires caution, said Renee Boyer, consumer food safety specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension. As with any oil frying method, serious accidents, including burns, are possible. Precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of anyone around.

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