The Richmond Register

Lifestyles & Community

October 31, 2012

Kentucky fruit and vegetable myths

RICHMOND — There are many myths and folk tales concerning fruit and vegetable crops that have become part of Kentucky lore. Several myths that still exist today involve grape coloration and fall frosts.

A number of grape growers believe it is necessary to pick the leaves off the vine to expose the grape clusters to the sun so the grapes will color. This myth probably originated from growers removing leaves to improve air-circulation and reduce fruit rot.

The truth is that grapes - with the exception of the seedless Reliance variety - do not need sunlight to color. In fact, the fruit will color just fine when covered. Home grape growers can staple a bag over each cluster which keeps off birds, insects and diseases and reduces their spray program.

Frost has a tendency to concern many producers. Some people believe greens become poisonous after a frost. Greens like mustard, kale and collards actually develop a more enhanced flavor after a frost. Cool temperatures slow the internal respiration of the greens, allowing more sugars to accumulate, making them slightly sweeter. One exception, however, is rhubarb, which becomes toxic after exposure to a hard freeze.

Myths involving frosted sweet potato roots also exist. Many producers believe sweet potato roots become poisonous after a frost, but they actually just rot. Sweet potatoes are warm-season crops and will not survive a vine-killing frost. Producers should worry about frost injuring the sweet potatoes where they attach to the vine. This injury prevents healing after the sweet potato is harvested leading to decay in storage.

(Source: John Strang, extension horticulturist)

Energy Expo

The Energy Expo will be this Saturday, Nov. 3, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Madison County Cooperative Extension Office on Duncannon Lane. Come visit our booths and workshops to learn about free and low-cost ideas to save on your energy bills and much more!

In particular interest to gardeners, there will be a workshop on rain gardens and rain barrels from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Also, stop by my booth to learn about irrigation and drought-tolerant plants for Kentucky.

To see a full list of the workshop schedule, go to

Educational Programming of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

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