Teal Pumpkin Project

By Tabitha Surface, CARD Extension Agent

Halloween is fast approaching and more than a few of us are scrambling to prepare the perfect costume. But food allergy parents have something more than last minute costumes to worry about. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), food allergies affect more than 15 million people in the United States, including 1 out of 13 children. That means if you are handing out candy this year, either at your door or at trunk-or-treat events, you’ll be dishing up treats to at least a few kids that can’t enjoy them.


Depending on the severity of the food allergy, parents might let their children trick-or-treat and swap out what has been collected with treats they know are safe for their kids. But, let’s be honest, that’s not nearly as fun as sifting through your take to see what you picked up along your route. Worse, holiday goodie bags or school events celebrated with food may exclude children with allergies. While exclusion is pretty common for a food-allergic child, it can have a negative impact on their self-worth and social-interactions, as well as potentially intensifying food-allergy related anxiety.


However, there are easy, inclusive solutions. For school parties, treat bags can be food-free or the parent of a food-allergy child can be consulted; they may be happy to help prepare classroom snacks so all the children have the same experience without putting their child in harm’s way. Always defer to the food-allergic child’s parent on matters of food. Remember, they spend a great deal of time trying to keep their kid safe, and while you may have the best of intentions, it can be very scary to trust a relative stranger with your kids life.


It gets even easier when it comes to trick-or-treating. Be a part of FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project by setting out a teal pumpkin. The teal pumpkin lets families with food-allergic children know that non-food treats will be offered. Even better, this gives kids who don’t have allergies but might have restrictive diets (such as diabetics) a safe option as well. Below is a list of ideas and a couple of great resources to get prepared even so close to Halloween.


1. Tattoos (This isn’t a bad idea but keep in mind that some inks are soy based, and soy is one of the top 10 allergens.)

2. Bubbles

3. Fake snakes and spiders

4. Slap Bracelets

5. Fortune Fish

6. Glow sticks/bracelets


And where can you get these fun toys? Retailers from the Dollar Tree to Wal-Mart carry inexpensive toys and gift-bag kits, but you can also order in bulk from Oriental Trading or Amazon when time permits.


In the Charleston-Huntington area, The Food Allergy Pharmacist partners with Kroger to host a Teal Pumpkin Project inspired trunk-or-treat. However, she takes it one step further and asks that sponsoring trunks offer no food treats at all. West Virginia State University Extension Service is a sponsor of the event. Join us on Saturday, October 29, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Kroger on 7th Ave/1st Street Huntington and from 4 to 6 p.m. at the South Charleston Kroger. There will be lots of non-food goodies, carnival-style games and a dance party. Happy Halloween!

Wild, Wonderful (and Cheap!) WV Outdoor Adventures

By Chris Zeto, Extension Agent

West Virginia is widely known for its many “Wild, Wonderful” outdoor adventures. Since spring has officially sprung, it’s time to get outside and have some fun. Whether you are interested in taking a leisurely stroll through one of the many state parks or hitting some challenging off-road ATV trails, West Virginia has something for everyone. Listed below are some free or inexpensive outdoor adventures that are a must for 2016:

For more information on these and other outdoor adventures, please visit GoToWV.com or call 1-800-CALL-WVA. Go outside and play in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.

Post Harvest Techniques for the Consumer

by Robin Turner, Extension Agent

Purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables from your local farmers market or grocery store is a great way to ensure a healthy diet. But, do you ever wish you could keep those items fresh longer? Let’s look at some post-harvest storage tips to maintain a longer life for your fresh produce.

“Post-harvest” is defined as the handling of fresh produce from the point of harvest to when the product reaches the end user. Quality of fresh produce can never be regained after it is lost. Every fruit and vegetable has its own set of storage conditions that is temperature and moisture (humidity) dependent. With proper harvesting, pre-cooling and storage techniques, fresh produce can be stored to its maximum time. Following proven post-harvest techniques will slow softening (over-ripening), wilting, decay and odors.

The following chart, adapted from Storing Fresh Vegetables for Better Taste, lists appropriate storage temperatures for a variety of fruits and vegetables.


It is important to remember to refrigerate your fresh produce once it is cut or peeled for safety reasons. Produce should be stored in a moisture-resistant bag with air holes; this will prevent condensation, allow airflow and retain humidity. Remember to wash produce with clean running water before consuming, even when peeling. This will ensure that dirt from the outside does not transfer to the inside.

Birdseed Ornaments

by Nikki Erwin, SCRATCH Coordinator
Winter is a great time to teach your kids a little something about nature. These birdseed ornaments are a fun and easy kid-friendly activity that provides a great little snack for birds during the cold months of winter!
What You Will Need
  • 2 small packets of Knox gelatin
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 1/2 c. birdseed
  • pipe cleaner
  • mold (we used small heart shaped silicone molds)
  1. Dissolve 2 small packets of Knox in 1/2 c. of hot water (we used water that had been heated in a coffee pot).
  2. Add 1 1/2 c. birdseed and mix until the seeds are coated. If you have a lot of excess liquid, add a little more seed.
  3. Bend pipe cleaner into a circle that fits inside the mold, leave the opposite end straight.
  4. Spoon coated birdseed into mold, filling halfway. Press the birdseed down to make sure that it is well packed.
  5. Place the bent end of the pipe cleaner into the mold on top of the coated birdseed.
  6. Fill the mold the rest of the way up, pressing down on the birdseed to make sure that it is firmly packed on top as well as on the bottom.
  7.  Leave the birdseed in the mold to dry (we left them for about two hours).
  8. Pull the straight end of the pipe cleaner around and twist it, making a circle to hang the bird seed ornament.
  9. “Pop” the birdseed out of the mold; allow the ornaments to finish drying before you try and hang them (we left them overnight, just to be sure).
 You can use twine, but pipe cleaner can be twisted around tree branches, making it easier to retrieve them and dispose of them once the birds have eaten their treats! We did this activity with Pre-K to early elementary school aged children (SCRATCH) and with teenagers (Produce Pedalers). Kids of all ages enjoyed this activity!
The SCRATCH Project will be selling these ornaments at the Winter Blues Farmers Market on Thursday, February 25, starting at 4 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center.

Heart-Healthy Snacking

By Stacy Herrick, Communications Specialist

February is American Heart Month. This annual campaign is designed to bring awareness to cardiovascular disease, the nation’s number one killer among both men and women. One way to combat this disease is by maintaining a healthy diet.

With the Super Bowl this weekend, we know that eating healthy is easier said than done. But, have no fear! WVSU Extension Service is here to help you find heart-healthy snacks for the big game. This recipe for sweet potato nachos from the American Heart Association will get everyone cheering.


  • 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds), makes about 6 cups of rounds
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/3 cup black beans, drained, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped tomato (1 plum tomato) OR
  • 1/3 cup no-salt-added, canned, diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup chopped avocado


For more information about American Heart Month and the American Heart Association, visit heart.org. To find more heart-healthy recipes, check out the AHA here.

Upcycling Your Pumpkins

by Jenny Totten, Extension Agent

Now that the Halloween season is over, you might have an abundance of leftover pumpkins hanging out on your porch. Don’t throw them away; reuse them! There are several potential uses for those leftover pumpkins, whether you’ve turned them into spooky jack-o-lanterns or just simply used them as part of your fall landscaping.

Carved Pumpkins

A carved pumpkin may not work for a pumpkin pie, but our animal friends can still appreciate it as a seasonal – and nutritious – treat. Many area farms will take your carved pumpkins to feed their pigs. Additionally, you can chop your pumpkin into smaller pieces and feed the wildlife outside of your own windows. Squirrels, chipmunks and birds all love pumpkin.

If you have access to a compost area, you can also toss the whole pumpkin in or cut it into smaller pieces, and it will compost down with the rest of your scraps. If you have an abundance of pumpkins to compost, mix in some dry leaves or dried grass clippings to help the process along.

Full Pumpkins

If your pumpkins haven’t been carved and only used for decoration, the uses after Halloween multiply. The easiest thing to do is to simply leave the pumpkins out for the rest of the fall season! If you chose a healthy pumpkin from the get-go, it should last well into Thanksgiving week.

For a fun family activity, take the top off of the pumpkins and pull out all of the guts and seeds for a sensory play experience! Children love separating the seeds from the guts. Wash the seeds and place them on a baking sheet along with chosen spices and bake in an oven for 5 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Tasty combinations include cinnamon and sugar, garlic and sea salt, and rosemary with sea salt and pepper.

If the flesh is still intact, you can also use this in recipes calling for canned pumpkin. Simply carve the flesh off of the skin, place in a blender and puree for a preservative-free addition to your fall soups and sweets. The puree itself can also be frozen for later use.

Don’t be sad for your jack-o-lantern! With so many uses after the fall holidays have passed, you can easily make sure your pumpkins enjoy the rest of the season right along with you.

#WVSUExtensionStories: The Garden Path to Success

Like a lot of little girls, Emily Moore wasn’t a fan of creepy, crawly insects and worms. But she helped her fourth grade class at Buffalo Elementary in Putnam County construct a school garden anyway, with the help of WVSU Extension Service. Along the way, several seeds were planted, one of which was a love of gardening that is leading Emily to a potential career as a researcher and Extension educator.

Now a college sophomore, majoring in biology at WVSU, Emily has been reunited with the Extension program that introduced her to the world of agriculture and the very garden that started it all.

During the summer of 2014, Emily worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) for Melissa Stewart, assistant program director for WVSU Extension Service’s agriculture department. One of her tasks was to revamp the garden at Buffalo Elementary and introduce agriculture education to the school’s preschool students.

“It was so much fun and a good experience for me,” Emily says of her early exposure to gardening through WVSU. “I want little kids now to have the same experience I did.”

Using the Junior Master Gardener (JMG) curriculum, Emily adapted activities to the preschool age level, including picket fence design, garden building and container garden development.

“It’s great to see someone who experienced this program as a kid return and teach it to the next generation,” says Melissa. “That experience is helping her revamp the program to an even younger audience.”

While JMG is traditionally designed for students beginning in third grade, Melissa, West Virginia’s state coordinator for the program, is leading efforts to adapt it to the preschool level. Emily’s work at Buffalo was among the first JMG interactions at that age group across the nation.

Reuniting with Melissa in the garden helped ease Emily’s transition to WVSU, where she currently resides on campus after transferring from another university.

“I’m happier at State,” says Emily, who balances her biology coursework with outreach opportunities through WVSU Extension Service.

Melissa looks forward to working with Emily on additional projects during her academic career and attributes that childhood interaction to helping guide her to WVSU as a young adult.

“Such lifelong connections are what Extension is all about,” Melissa says. “I’m thrilled Emily is with us again, planting those seeds in what could be the Yellow Jackets of tomorrow.”