Q: I have a Concord grapevine loaded with grapes. How can I tell when they are really ripe, even though many of them have turned color?
A: I've read that grapes color up before they sweeten up, so grapes that have turned the color you are expecting might be misleading. When fully ripe, the whitish coating on the berries should be more visible — and when you taste them, they should be sweet and the color of the seeds should be brown.
Taste is a very good way to tell if you need to pick them before the birds do — or if you see the birds going for them, start plucking.
From Purdue's website: “Some grape-growers have experienced uneven ripening this year, particularly with their Concord grapes. According to Purdue Small Fruit Specialist Bruce Bordelon, this condition primarily affects only the Concord variety and occurs occasionally, especially in warm years.”
So, don't be in a hurry to pick the clusters.
Q: I bought potatoes and many of them are turning green. Can I still eat them, and how can I store them so they won't turn green?
A: You should not eat the green part of a potato, but should cut it off before cooking. The green part, which is usually the skin and first layer under the skin, contains a colorless alkaloid called solanine and is a result of too much light. Solanine is toxic and can cause illness and, if too much is eaten, has been known to cause death.
Store potatoes in a completely dark place.
Q: My tomatoes haven't done very well. Is the heat and drought the reason?
A: It's all about the right conditions for pollination to take place. Here's an excellent explanation of how the weather can interfere with fruit production: “Tomato flowers come complete with both male and female organs and are self-fertilizing. Pollen is shed with great abundance 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on dry, sunny days. Normally, the wind will pollinate the flower sufficiently. To ensure better pollination, gently shake or vibrate the entire tomato plant. The best time to do this is midday when it's warm, and the humidity is low. Optimum fruit set occurs within a very narrow night temperature range of between 60 degrees and 70 degrees. When tomato plants experience night temperatures lower than 55 degrees or above 75 degrees, interference with the growth of pollen tubes prevents normal fertilization. The pollen may even become sterile, thus causing the blossoms to drop” (from Washington State University cooperative extension, http://gardening.wsu.edu/library/vege016/vege016.htm).