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Please, don't squeeze the pears

A sticker that detects ripeness is being tested on pears sold in grocery stores in Portland, Ore. If successful, the concept could be expanded to include melons, avocados, and kiwis.

The "ripeSense" labels change color as the fruit emits greater concentrations of aroma compounds. Developed and first tested in New Zealand, the sensors allow customers to select pears without squeezing and damaging them. The fruit is sold in a molded clamshell pack that prevents crushing and bruising.

The technology, which took HortResearch five years to develop, means customers will know if the green Anjou pears used in the test marketing are ready to eat or whether they need a few more days to ripen. The result should be more customer satisfaction, less guesswork in the selection process, and less waste for grocers.

Recommended: Default

Source: Foundation for Research, Science & Technology

Oh, my darlin', delicious clementines

For many lovers of citrus fruits, a welcome sight of winter is the arrival of easy-to-peel and virtually seedless clementines in produce sections of grocery stores. About 90 percent are imported from Spain.

Sales of Spanish clementines have gone from "a few containers" 15 years ago to about 75,000 metric tons last year, according to a leading importer.

This "crown jewel of the mandarin family" thrives along the eastern coast of Spain, with its sharp day-night temperature variations and small farms that can pamper this finicky fruit.

Clementines take their name from Father Clement, a French missionary to Algeria. He grew the hybrid fruit in his garden in the early 1900s.

Random statistics worth a look

• Thirty-three percent of boys and 11 percent of girls between the ages of 8 and 14 spend two or more hours home alone after school.

• Sixty-five percent of women wear size 12 and above.

• Between one-third and one-half of young people who try a cigarette will go on to become daily smokers.

Source: Junior Achievement, Zachary Hastings Hooper, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

A look ahead for gardeners

Simplicity, subtle shades, and classic looks. A fashion forecast? Yes, but for gardens, not clothes.

At a recent garden writers' conference in Chicago, the Garden Media Group shared what experts anticipate will be the major gardening trends in 2004.

Simplicity was the most popular theme, since time-strapped gardeners want to enjoy their handiwork more and fret and sweat over it less.

This means picking a color and sticking to it, working with subtle shades and textures of the same color. The result - a sense of peace and harmony.

Other gardening trends that are in:

• Tranquil-sounding running-water features (fountains, streams) rather than still ponds.

• Natural products, instead of chemical remedies.

• Gardening with and for others, not just by and for yourself. One example is community gardens. Another is planting an extra row or two of vegetables that will be harvested and donated to a food bank or soup kitchen.

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