Q. When microwaving a frozen dinner, the directions say to test the temperature when done. Is that step really important? They seem hot when I take them out of the microwave. Isn't that good enough?
A. Frozen dinners are not fully cooked products, so cooking to a final temperature is necessary to ensure the safety of the food. It is also important to follow other directions. For example, rotating and stirring the food. The common practice when microwaving food is only to heat it until it's "eating" temperature. The eating temperature is generally lower than the bubbly hot 160 to 165 degrees needed for food safety.
Q. I have heard that silage makes good feed for cattle. What keeps it from spoiling?
A. Silage is a good feed for ruminants such as cattle and actually has been around for a long time, dating back to about 2000 B.C. Modern silage making came about around 1877.
Silage can be made from high-moisture chopped plant materials such as corn, green grasses and legumes. The reason it doesn't spoil is that it is placed in a container, which can be a silo, plastic silage bag or outdoor bunker. Whatever the container, it must be packed tight to exclude oxygen. In the absence of oxygen, the feed is fermented by microorganisms which produce acids that cause the silage to become more acidic. This drop in pH inhibits microbial spoilage and the silage is preserved.
Q. I've noticed in some commercial landscapes around town the ornamental grasses have been cut down to the ground. Should I do this in my yard?
A. No. Part of the charm of ornamental grasses is letting them stay in the landscape through the winter to provide interesting form and texture to the landscape. I particularly like to hear the wind rustling through the grass in the winter. In late winter to early spring, before new growth begins, cut the brown tops of ornamental grasses back to within a few inches from the soil. Grasses that stay green through the winter and spring should not be cut back.
-- Questions should be called in to the WSU Extension offices in Kennewick at 735-3551 or Pasco at 545-3511.