Q. I just received a beautiful poinsettia plant for the holidays, but I have heard they are poisonous and I am worried that it will hurt my toddler if he happens get ahold of a leaf and eats it. Do I need to be worried?
A. Relax and enjoy the plant. Generally, you do not need to be worried about poinsettia plants, because they are not considered poisonous. An Ohio State University study indicated that a 50-pound child would need to eat more than 500 leaves to be harmed. However, it is best not to let children make a habit of eating houseplant or flowering plant leaves or berries. The ingestion of poinsettia leaves can cause gastric distress, such as vomiting and diarrhea, for people and pets, especially puppies and kittens.
A word of caution though, the milky sap of the stems and leaves can cause skin irritation or a rash in people with a sensitivity to latex.
Q. I read about a stink bug that is causing a lot of problems to farmers and homeowners. What is it?
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A. The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive insect that has a wide host range including tree fruit, grapes and vegetables. It is very common now in the eastern United States and has become well established in Walla Walla and Western Washington. Until it builds in greater numbers in the Tri-Cities area, there is little that a homeowner should do. Go to www.stopbmsb.org/ for more information.
Q. I have a recipe that calls for eggs at room temperature. Since eggs are a food that should be stored in the refrigerator, how do I get a room temperature egg and still meet food safety guidelines.
A. Some recipes call for eggs or egg whites be at room temperature when added. You will typically see this in recipes for cheesecake or other batters with a high fat content.
If you add cold eggs to these batters, it can re-harden the fat, and make the batter appear curdled or lumpy. To avoid this, remove the eggs from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before use, or put them in a bowl of warm water while assembling the other ingredients.
Recipes that involve beating eggs or egg whites into a stable foam, such as soufflés, meringues, angel and sponge cakes also specify room temperature eggs. The eggs whip up to greater volume when they’ve had a chance to warm up a bit, 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature. Because it’s easiest to separate whites from yolks cleanly when eggs are cold, do this first. Then let the whites stand at room temperature while you prepare the baking pan, equipment and other ingredients.
Questions should be called in to the WSU Extension offices in Kennewick at 735-3551 or Pasco at 545-3511.