Heart Healthy and Yard Wise

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I think if one month was chosen out of the year that reflected folks’ interest in their health condition – including diet and exercise – January would win, hands down. This is the time we like to focus on weight loss, new diets, and exercise – all of which are steps in the right direction for a healthier you. This is also the time when our airwaves are saturated with ads addressing these very issues as well. As a matter of fact, it can be very frustrating listening to everything and not knowing what is hype and what is truthful. Mixed in the hysteria we hear claims of which food is a superfood and which fruit is a super fruit, but we aren’t sure.

So, what is a super fruit? There is no legal definition for super fruit, but the term usually presents the added value of a fruit that offers more than basic nutrition. The list continues to grow but there are many listed such as apples, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupes, grapes, pomegranates, strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelon. The good news is we are able to grow many of these in our own backyard. Two of these fruits are saturated with antioxidants – blueberries and grapes. All grapes are great, but science is finding out that the muscadine (especially the dark muscadine) is even higher in an antioxidant called resveratrol, a compound that promotes heart health. I am sure we will be hearing more about the health benefits of our native grape in the future as more research becomes available.

So my good-faith effort for a healthier Robeson County is that North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center will be offering two workshops this winter aimed at helping you “grow” a healthier you. I will be presenting “Muscadine Culture and Pruning Demo” on Saturday, February 1, 2020, at the O. P. Owens Agriculture Center, 455 Caton Road, Lumberton. The workshop starts at 10 a.m. and ends around 1 p.m., after a visit to a local vineyard for hands-on pruning. We will discuss planting, trellising, cultural requirements, new emerging pests, and pathogens that are possible risks to our beloved muscadine, as well as new recommended pruning practices. We will also discuss varietal selection and new varieties that have just become available.

On Saturday, February 15, 2020, Extension will offer “Benchmarks for Big, Bountiful Blueberries.”  This workshop will also be held at the O. P. Owens Agriculture Center from 10 a.m. to noon. If I can locate some nearby blueberry growers that are willing to let us “practice” pruning, then that opportunity will be offered to the participants. We will cover much of the same topics listed for the muscadine program, but geared toward blueberries. The program will address rabbit eye blueberries mostly, since this is the predominant species that can be grown by most homeowners. If you have questions or would like to register for either program, contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticultural Agent, at 910-671-3276, by email at mack_johnson@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.

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