Q. Why do my tomatoes crack as they ripen?
A. Tomatoes crack when they receive irregular water. If your tomatoes have gone through a dry period, then you try to make up for it with frequent watering, the inside of the tomato will enlarge faster than the outside can stretch. As a result, the outer skin of the tomato splits open. Tomatoes that crack are still edible, but they just won't keep as long. You can prevent future tomatoes from cracking by making sure that they receive water regularly.
Q. I have an ash tree in my backyard, and parts of it seem to be dying. I took a close look and found round holes about 1/4 inch in diameter in the trunk and big branches. Since it looks like my tree has been attacked by some sort of borer, can I apply a systemic insecticide to the soil at the base of the tree to control the borer?
A. No. Certain systemic insecticides that are applied as a drench to the base of trees are used for control of some flat-headed borers. These borers, such as the bronze birch borer, feed on conductive tissue just beneath the bark, where the systemic insecticides are transported to the top of the tree. However, systemics are not effective on borers that feed on woody tissues further beneath the bark, like the one you describe.
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Q. My home canned green beans were disqualified at the fair. The reason for disqualification was that they were underprocessed. I did them like the Ball Canning Book said, using 10 pounds of pressure.
A. My only complaint about the Ball Canning Book is that it doesn’t give you all of the information you need for processing low-acid foods in a pressure canner under the directions for the product. In a dial-gauge pressure canner, the starting pressure is 11 pounds. Everything that says process at 10 pounds is for a weighted-gauge canner only. This needs to be 11 pounds in a dial-gauge canner. Then pressure needs to be adjusted for elevation, if that is needed. Unfortunately, the 11 pound processing is described in the introductory chapter at the front of the book, and is not easy to find. Please consider sending a comment to the company and encourage them to include the 11 pound recommendation with all of the individual recipes.
To submit a question for this column, please call the WSU Extension office in Kennewick at 509-735-3551.