Home Insteading With Cooperative Extension (Week 44)

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4-H at Home
Submitted by: Camaryn Byrum, 4-H Agent
Written by: Liz Driscoll, NC State Extension 4-H Specialist 

Splendiferous Seeds

Sprouting seeds is like watching magic unfold in slow motion; all you need is a seed, a little water and sprinkle on the time (not thyme). The seeds swell into plump little packages and, voila, a root explodes out, followed by a shoot.

Don’t have packets of seeds around your house? No worries. Just look around: Do you have dried beans in your pantry? Or could you harvest a few from fruits or vegetables you have on hand? If not, what about stepping outside to see if you can find seeds in flowers or weeds?

Start by taking a damp paper towel and fold it in half. Put your seeds on the paper towel and slide them into a plastic baggie. Check every day to see how the seed changes. How long does it take for a seed to germinate? Do they all germinate at the same time?

Once the seeds have sprouted leaves, gently tuck them into a pot filled with soil and watch them grow. (Don’t have a pot? Check your recycling bin. Are there plastic containers you could decorate? They will work just fine!)


If you can find any seeds in your home or outside, put them in a damp paper towel. It’ll take a few days, but soon enough you’ll see a sprout and roots begin to grow.

Family and Consumer Sciences at Home
Mary Morris, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

What are Lentils?

Lentils are the new dried bean. If you have a bag of dried lentils in your pantry here is a recipe that you can use to make a delicious and economical meal.

The Mayo Clinic states that lentils are grouped with beans and peas as part of the legume family because, like all legumes, they grow in pods. Lentils are high in protein and fiber and low in fat, which makes them a healthy substitute for meat. They’re also packed with folate, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and fiber. They come in three different varieties.

  • Brown lentils – The least expensive, they hold their texture if properly cooked. They can stand in for black beans as a side dish or in a vegan burger. They also work well in soups.
  • Green lentils – Also called French lentils, these have a nuttier flavor and stay firm when cooked. Green lentils are the best choice for salads. Newer to markets are Beluga lentils, which are similar in texture to French lentils but are black in color.
  • Red lentils – The fastest cooking, these lose their shape and turn golden when cooked. They are milder and sweeter than green lentils. Use them for purees and Indian dals.

How do you prepare lentils? First sort through the lentils to pick out any small, hard debris, and then rinse to remove dirt. Unlike other legumes, lentils cook quickly without presoaking.

Lentils are a quick alternative to dried beans. No soaking required and cook in a very short time. Delicious on their own, added to salads or soups, or as a base for fish or chicken. This recipe uses a delicious cumin vinaigrette to make a delicious side or main dish. I prefer to use brown lentils but any type will work just fine. Using vegetable stock that is available in most grocery stores takes the guesswork out of seasoning. I almost always double this so I use a whole box of stock. The recipe keeps for several days and makes a great to-go lunch.

Lentils with Cumin Vinaigrette


Horticulture at Home
Katy Shook, Area Horticulture Agent

Assessing Plant Health in Winter

Winter is a difficult time of year to assess plant health. If you’re concerned that a plant is in decline, consider waiting until spring and reassess. Because plants are not generating new growth at this time of year, it is concerning to see additional discolored, spotted, or shedding leaves. Keep in mind that evergreen plants like hollies shed their leaves in the spring; deciduous plants like maples shed their leaves in the fall. Don’t be alarmed if you notice heavy shed; it may be a result of over-growth last year.

The time to be concerned about plant health is when the plant is not producing new growth at a time of year when it is otherwise expected (spring-summer). If new growth is discolored, wilted, or poorly developed, there may be a more serious problem. Don’t fertilize in winter; wait until spring to apply fertilizer. Keep in mind that plants can take one to two years to fully establish after planting; provide supplemental water during this time. If plant performance is suffering, take a soil sample. An adjustment in pH or nutrients may help the plant improve.

Double-check the health of the plant with a “scratch test.” Woody trees and shrubs will reveal a bright green layer of growth underneath a thin layer of bark. Dormant perennial plants like turf and flowers can be checked through the roots – healthy roots, even when dormant, should be white. Don’t delay removing plants that may be a hazard.

For more information on assessing plant health, contact the Ask A Master Gardener℠ Volunteer Helpline at (252) 482-6585.

scratch test

A scratch test can help determine the health of the plant.