Consumer Qs

What is beer seed?

(Consumer Q’s is prepared by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Gary W. Black, Commissioner.)

My father used to order these things called “beer seed” from advertisers in the Market Bulletin. You could make a good drink out of them. What were they, and does anyone still have them? I haven’t seen them advertised anymore.

We cannot fully answer your question as to exactly what they are, but we can shed some light on them and will ask readers if they can provide more information.

One thing we do know is that these are not actual seeds of plants. They appear to be a by-product of making molasses and sorghum. According to one person online they are a yeast that “inhabits the sugar cane or sorghum plant drippings around the mill and would grow and multiply like tiny round white balls.” These yeasty globules are also called California beer seed, bee wine and bees wine according to some sources. The “bee” names come from the fact that the clumps move up and down in a jar of sweetened water and look like busy bees. The end product is a sweet drink.

We did a spot check of old issues of the Farmers and Consumer Market Bulletin going back into the 1930s and did not find any ads or articles about beer seeds but were not able to check every issue. We have not had any recent ads for them that anyone here can remember.

When Elizabeth Lawrence wrote Gardening for Love, The Market Bulletins, her book about the market bulletins in different states, she came across beer seeds in Mississippi’s Market Bulletin and was curious about them. She never got her questions thoroughly answered and concluded beer seed “is one offering in the market bulletins that still remains quite mysterious to me.”

If anyone knows more information about beer seed, please write Arty Schronce, Georgia Department of Agriculture, 19 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Room 128 Agriculture Bldg., Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail arty.schronce@agr.georgia.gov. Perhaps someone can provide more information to help understand this mysterious product.

Can gardenias be grown as houseplants?

Those who live in cold winter areas where gardenias are not hardy outdoors may want to try them as a houseplant. However, they are temperamental houseplants with many special needs as to humidity, light and temperature and are prone to more insect pest problems indoors than out.

In Georgia, it is probably best to plant them outside if you can. In the Georgia mountains you will need a very protected spot as gardenias are not as cold hardy as many other shrubs. However, even in the mountains your chances of success are better outdoors than indoors. ‘Kleim’s Hardy,’ ‘Grif’s Select’ and ‘Chuck Hayes’ are three of the hardiest gardenia varieties.

You can also plant a gardenia in a large tub or pot and wheel it into a shed or garage to protect it on the coldest days. Smaller varieties such as ‘Radicans,’ ‘White Gem’ and ‘Kleim’s Hardy’ are among your best choices for containers.

(If you have questions about services or products regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, visit www.agr.georgia.gov, write to 19 MLK Jr. Drive, Room 128, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail Consumer Qs coordinator Arty Schronce at arty.schronce@agr.georgia.gov.)



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