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Poinsettias: Helping an Icon to Bloom at the Right Time

A close-up of a poinsettia

Even though their sales period is just 6 weeks each year, poinsettias rank as one of the country’s best selling potted plant.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Poinsettias are more than just an icon of the Christmas season. They’ve become the go-to plant for decorating homes, hotels, offices and just about everywhere from the Friday after Thanksgiving to well past New Year’s Day.

This wasn’t always the poinsettia’s story. In the 1950s, poinsettias were flashy plants that made a brief appearance in public places shortly before Christmas, only to drop their leaves and colorful flower-like bracts a few days later. They were expensive to grow because their blooming time was difficult to synchronize with the holidays, and the plants easily grew tall and leggy. Read more »

Mutually Beneficial Cooperation: The Three Sisters

Rory Hagerty, a seventh grade student from Alice Deal Middle School, planting beans in USDA’s Three Sisters Garden

Rory Hagerty, a seventh grade student from Alice Deal Middle School, plants beans in USDA’s Three Sisters Garden, part of the People’s Garden on the National Mall in Washington. USDA’s Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships office sponsored the event. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska. Follow along on the USDA blog.

For centuries, Native Americans have cultivated the soil and produced corn, beans and squash. Stories, ceremonies, songs and cultural traditions surround the annual planting, growing and harvest of gardens. Life lessons were learned throughout the gardening season. Stories of the Three Sisters refer to a tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mound. It is a sophisticated, sustainable planting system that provided long term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations of Native Americans. Read more »

Georgia Farmers and Ranchers are Growing Opportunities through Community Partnerships

USDA StrikeForce team with partner McIntosh SEED

USDA StrikeForce team with partner McIntosh SEED to bring information to rural Georgia.

Today, one-in-six Americans lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—and 90 percent of counties with the highest poverty rates are in rural America. These are also communities with high numbers of historically underserved groups, like African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans.

Last year, McIntosh Sustainable Environment and Economic Development (SEED) partnered with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with the goal of improving delivery of NRCS programs to Georgia’s socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in USDA StrikeForce counties.  SEED is a grassroots, community-based organization with a mission to improve social, economic, environmental and cultural interests of the community while providing quality education, better housing, recreational facilities, business opportunities and environmental protection and restoration. Read more »

Keeping U.S. Meat Competitive on the World Stage

Craig Morris at a UNECE meeting

Being an integral part of this international effort ensures that the American meat industry is represented and remains competitive in markets all over the world. Pictured here is Craig Morris at a UNECE meeting.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has the vital mission of administering programs that help market American agricultural products competitively in the global marketplace.  One of the ways AMS meets this mission is through the development of our own globally recognized meat standards, developed by the program I oversee, the AMS Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program.  However, separately, AMS works to achieve our mission through our participation and leadership in international standards setting organizations such as the UNECE.

For many years, I have represented the U.S. as the Vice-Chairperson of the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Specialized Section on Standardization of Meat.  UNECE is one of the many sections of the United Nations (UN), and facilitates international trade by developing agricultural quality standards. Read more »

How to be a Savvy Shopper with Savory Leftovers

Leftover turkey can be eaten cold or hot.  If you are reheating leftovers, reheat them to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

Leftover turkey can be eaten cold or hot. If you are reheating leftovers, reheat them to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

Thanksgiving is finally over, and now comes the biggest weekend for holiday shopping.  According to the National Retail Foundation, the average shopper spends about $380 from Black Friday to Cyber Monday.  

When planning out your battle strategy shopping budget, you may forget to account for the meals you eat before, during, and after a long shopping trip.  Those lattes, sandwiches, garlic knots, and smoothies you may buy to fuel your shopping can really start to add up and will put a damper on your holiday shopping budget.  Read more »

Cook Your Turkey like a P.R.O.

Be sure to check the temperature of your turkey with a food thermometer in 3 places—the thickest part of the breast and the innermost part of the thigh and wing.

Be sure to check the temperature of your turkey with a food thermometer in 3 places—the thickest part of the breast and the innermost part of the thigh and wing.

The countdown is over, and the big day is finally here.  It’s Thanksgiving Day, and the family is on the way, most likely with growling tummies.  You may have been preparing all month, but if not, no worries!  We’ve got you covered on how to safely handle and prepare your turkey.  Now that’s you’re ready, let’s get cooking!

Wash Your Hands 

One of the most important ingredients for a delicious and food safe Thanksgiving meal is clean hands.  Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds throughout the cooking process, especially before handling food and after handling raw meat and poultry.  This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of bacteria.  Often times, there tends to be multiple cooks in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.  Make sure all of your helpers wash their hands before they touch any food. Read more »