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Q&A: Green eggs and ham raise preparation questions

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Q: What causes the green coating on eggs when they are boiled, and how can I prevent it?

A: The green coating on the yolk is caused by overcooking the egg. It is the result of iron in the yolk combining with sulfur in the egg white to form green iron sulfide.

The longer the egg cooks, the greater the chance of discoloration. Quick cooling helps prevent the layer from forming.

To hard cook eggs, place the eggs in a single layer in a heavy saucepan large enough to hold them in one layer and cover with 1½ inches of cold tap water.

Partially cover the pan and bring to a full rolling boil. Turn heat to low; and leave on the heat, covered, for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat, and let stand in hot water for 15 minutes. Rinse under cold running water for at least five minutes until egg feels cool to your touch. Peel and refrigerate for later use.

Q: I received a whole, fully cooked ham from my company; how long is it safe to consume?

A: As long as when you received the gift it was refrigerator cold, which technically means it was 41 degrees or less; your ham would be good for seven days in refrigerator storage of 40 degrees or below or up to two months if frozen.

Here is an excellent fact sheet for safe food handling of mail order foods: www.fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/Mail_Order_Food_Safety_Table/index.asp.

If you do not have access to a computer, please stop in our office at 484 N. Morton St., Franklin, and we will be happy to provide you with a copy.

Q: I have purchased a poinsettia plant for decorating for the holidays; is it true that they are toxic if ingested?

A: According to the Indiana Poison Control Center, poinsettias are safe to have in the home during the holidays. Small ingestions do not result in significant symptoms.

These plants have a mild irritant, that can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The milky sap from the flower my cause skin irritation. Other holiday plants that might be more of an issue for young children and/or pets are:

  • Amaryllis: The bulb is the most toxic part of this plant causing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors and seizures if ingested.
  • Christmas pepper: Toxic oil is found primarily in the skin of the fruit and seeds causing prolonged burning of the skin and eyes.
  • Holly: Toxic parts include the leaves and especially the berries. All ingestions should be considered potentially dangerous. This plant can produce gastrointestinal irritation and mild depression of the nervous system.
  • American mistletoe: Mistletoes are parasitic plants that grow on trunks and branches of trees. The toxic parts are the leaves and stems. Berries can be toxic if quantities are eaten. Mistletoe has been known to cause both increases and decreases in blood pressure, mental confusion and digestive tract irritation.
  • Pines: Coniferous trees such as pines, spruces and junipers are the familiar Christmas tree. Swallowing a small amount might result in local irritation and might present a mechanical or choking hazard. Contact dermatitis has been reported from handling the trees or their sap.
  • Pine cones: Nontoxic, but may pose a mechanical injury hazard.

Linda Souchon is extension educator at the Purdue Extension Johnson County office.

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