Consumer Q’s

Raw okra is safe, Mortgage Lifter tomato is from ‘30s

Consumer Q’s is distributed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Gary W. Black, Commissioner. For questions about services or products regulated by the department, write Arty Schronce (arty.schronce@agr.georgia.gov or 19 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SW, Atlanta, GA 30334) or visit the department’s website at www.agr.georgia.gov . 

Question: Is it safe to eat raw okra? 

Answer: Absolutely! Raw okra is crunchy, healthy and easy to eat. Select small, tender pods. Older, larger ones can be too tough and, in some varieties, too spiny. Dip the young pods in salt (or sprinkle them with salt and/or black pepper) and eat them as a snack or as hors d'oeuvres. Try dipping them in hummus or buttermilk ranch dressing. Serve them whole or slice the pods in two lengthwise. For a colorful crudité platter, serve pods of red okra along with green ones. You can also slice the pods crosswise and use them on lettuce and tomato salads.

Growing your own is the best way to get a fresh supply of young okra pods. If you don’t have your own garden, check farmers markets for Georgia Grown okra. It is now in season. If you have been turned off by fried or stewed, try crunchy raw okra. 

Q: A friend shared a huge, pinkish red (and delicious!) tomato with me he called ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter.’ Can you tell me more about this tomato? I want to find more or grow some of my own next year. 

 A: ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’, or sometimes simply ‘Mortgage Lifter’, was developed by M.C. Byles in the early 1930s in Logan, West Virginia. Mr. Byles, affectionately known as "Radiator Charlie,” a nickname he received from the radiator repair business he opened at the foot of a steep hill on which trucks would often overheat, created this now-legendary tomato by cross-breeding four of the largest-fruited tomatoes he could find: 'German Johnson', 'Beefsteak', an Italian variety and an English variety. One of the four varieties was planted in the middle of a circle. Using a baby's ear syringe, he cross-pollinated the center plant with pollen from the circle of tomatoes. The pollination and selection process was repeated six more years until he had a stable variety. After Byles developed this large, tasty tomato, he sold plants for $1 each (in the 1940s) and paid off the $6,000 mortgage on his house in six years. Each spring, gardeners drove as far as 200 miles to buy his seedling tomatoes.

In the 1980s Byles donated seeds to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a company specializing in preserving old vegetable varieties. ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortage Lifter’ is still carried by that company and others as well. The variety gained popularity for its large size, flavor and meatiness. You may find this variety for sale now at farmers markets. If you want to grow your own from seed next year, don’t delay ordering because seed companies may sell out of this popular variety.

‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’ is a tomato with great flavor and a great story to match!

Q: Can roses be planted in the fall? 

A: Many hybrid tea roses are sold bare-root and are available only in late winter and early spring. However, some nurseries and garden centers now sell potted roses all year. These can be planted any time, and fall is an ideal time to plant them and other shrubs, too.



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