Monday, July 25, 2011

Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick:Tomato Splatability

Twig Walkingstick lives in and around the Wooster campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. His alter ego is Kurt Knebusch, one of our super-talented writers and editors on campus. Each month, look for Twig to answer a reader questions and some additional interesting facts below. After Twig's post, we will be providing some ideas and suggestions on how to incorporate the info in Twig's column into fun science learning for your students and children.

Q. Dear Twig: Why do some tomatoes splat more when I throw them at my brother?

A. Everything else being equal - the ripeness of the tomato, how hard you throw it, what you throw it at - the type of tomato is the main thing: fresh market vs. processing.

"Your average ripe fresh-market tomato splats better than your average ripe processing type," says David Francis, a tomato breeder and geneticist at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center who seems to have something in his hand there, behind his back.

"Processing tomatoes don't splat well because they're high in dry matter and soluble ["soll-you-bull"] solids," he explains while offering me some sort of visual aid that flies past my head very quickly. "What you need for a good splat is water content."

Processing tomatoes need to be dryish. They go to make ketchup, salsa and tomato sauce. You don't want that stuff runny.

Fresh-market types, though, are better when juicy. They go into salads, for instance.

"Here!" Professor Francis says as he sends another visual aid (he's very helpful) in my direction. "See for yourself!"



P.S. Fresh-market tomatoes are usually the kind that you cut up and put on a hamburger.


  • Common fresh-market tomato varieties include Beefsteak and Better Boy.
  • A common processing variety is Roma, though tomato breeders such as Professor Francis continue to develop new and better varieties based on flavor, soluble solids (more soluble solids and less water makes it easier and cheaper to process a processing tomato) and how well the plants resist diseases (greater resistance can mean less or even no need to spray fungicides). Read about the work he does.
  • Soluble solids are materials (from tomatoes, in this case) that can be dissolved by or mixed into water - important if you're making, say, tomato juice and want it smooth.
Check out this fun lesson-plan for incorporating tomatoes into your healthy diet.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

AgBCs: W is for Wool

Wool—it's the natural fiber grown from sheep. But besides keeping you warm in the winter, wool clothes can also keep you cool in the summer?

Wool is also flame resistant—it won't catch on fire. And, different breeds of sheep grow different kinds of wool. Fine wool is used to make suits, medium wool to make blankets and coarse wool is used to make carpets.

Taking a field trip to a sheep farm can be a fun way for students to learn about livestock production in Ohio. Don't know any sheep farmers? Contact the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association—or your state's organization—and they can help you connect with a sheep producer in your area. While there, ask to bring back some of the wool with you, then try this dun, "Dyed in the Wool" activity from the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association:

  • Wet the wool. Make sure it's thoroughly washed and wet.
  • Add 2 packages of sugarless Kool-Aid to a crockpot of water. You may use one package for a lighter shade.
  • Stir.
  • Add wool.
  • Turn the crochet on high.
  • When the crockpot is hot and steaming, you may turn the temperature down to "simmer" or low for 30 minutes.
  • At the end of the 30 minutes, turn the crockpot off. The dye bath should be "exhausted."
  • Now, rinse the wool and wash it with soap or detergent. Make sure the water temperature is consistent. Do not plunge the hot wool into cold water.
Have fun!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

AgBCs: V is for Vegetables

When we think go growing vegetables, we think of soils and summer gardens. But have you ever considered learning more about how vegetables are grown hydroponically? In water?

Here's a look at how some of our OARDC researchers are investigating hydropnic production:

Do hydroponic vegetables sound cool to you? Here are a ton of fun lesson plans for incorporating hydroponics into your science lessons. 


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

AgBCs: U is for Urban

Think agriculture is just in the country? Think again? As our population grows along with interest in local food, so does the interest in urban agriculture. Here's what one of our own researchers here at OARDC has to say about urban agriculture:

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