Question: My son, who is a good cook, and I are having a disagreement over scallions. I believe they are green onions or spring onions. He disagrees. Who is correct?
Answer: Our references agree with you. The two names--green onions and scallions--are often used interchangeably. The Times Food Department uses the term green onions in keeping with supermarket labeling.
Q: I have an avocado tree that yields lots of fruit. Can you advise me how best to store it? Also, is there a way of freezing avocados?
A: The California Avocado Commission suggests soft avocados be stored in the refrigerator up to five days. It does not recommend freezing whole avocados, but the fruit can be peeled, seeded and mashed with a little lemon juice, then frozen in airtight containers. Once thawed, this pulp may be used in soups or dips.
Q: Why are apples nowadays coated with wax? I try to remove it with lukewarm water, but when I test to see whether the wax is gone by scraping the apple with a knife, I find it is still there. How do you remove this wax?
A: The International Apple Institute tells us apples have a natural wax covering that reduces moisture loss. When the fruit is washed after harvesting, this coating is mostly removed, so often it is replaced by an artificial wax, approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The edible commercial waxes generally are formulated from plant and petroleum sources. One gallon of wax is used to cover about 40,000 pounds of fruit and reduces the water loss by 30% to 50%.
Most of the wax coating may be removed by scrubbing the apples with a detergent in hot water, then rinsing thoroughly in fresh water. It should be noted, however, that this process of rubbing to remove the artificial wax coating will polish the apple's residual natural wax under the artificial coating, and you may end up with a shiny apple. Because of this, it is somewhat difficult to tell when the artificial coating has been removed. The best way is to compare with another apple that still has the original wax coating.
Q: My mashed potatoes always turn out gummy. What am I doing wrong?
A: In his book "Kitchen Science" (Houghton Mifflin: 1981), Howard Hillman says overcooking or overworking tends to "rupture many of the potato's cell walls, allowing many starch granules to escape from their cellular prison. These granules, which have become gummy during the cooking process, give your finished mashed potatoes a pasty, rather than a fluffy, consistency." Adding warm rather than cold milk also reduces gumminess.