Bonnie Aeschliman: Make sure vegetable-watering garden hoses are lead-free

06/11/2012 5:00 AM

06/13/2012 6:46 AM

Shopping at the local garden center for a new hose, I was momentarily confused by all the offerings. Not only do hoses come in various lengths and prices, they come in various colors: green, gray, orange, black and bright blue, each with varying warranties.

The hose that caught my attention was the one indicating it was a no-kink hose. I quickly placed it into my shopping cart and headed to the checkout counter, when a gentleman shopper stopped and asked me if I had read the label. I smiled and told him yes, it was the no-kink hose, and I was happy to find it because no longer would I need to stop my watering and straighten the hose.

He apparently thought I made the wrong selection. He persisted to ask what I intended to water with that hose. He actually was not obnoxious but wanted to be helpful. He pointed out that only one of the hoses in the vast display was safe for vegetables or for children who might want to play in the water or drink from the hose.

Reading the fine print, I realized he was correct. Most garden hoses have a disclaimer stating they are not safe for drinking water. Because many are made with substances that may contain lead or other unsafe materials, they might not be safe for watering vegetables, for children playing in the water or drinking from the hose. The moral to this incident is if in doubt, read the fine print on the label.

I exchanged my no-kink hose for the one manufactured for potable water (safe for drinking). Yes, it did cost a little more, and I may have to stop and remove the kinks from my hose, but I will be putting safe water on my herbs and vegetables. It is amazing what we learn from our encounters with others.

I have received no inquiries about garden hoses, but some of you have questions related to cooking. Here’s a question that many of you have asked:

Q. Thank you for your recent recipe for the Texas Sheet Cake. I am wondering if there is a substitute for the buttermilk. I never have that in the house.

A. Yes, there is a very effective substitute for buttermilk: You may substitute one-half cup of milk and add one-half teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice. That will add enough acid to the recipe to interact with the leavening. You also can purchase a dried buttermilk powder that is easily reconstituted when you need it.

Q. I have used store brand shredded mozzarella with excellent results. The last two times, the cheese did not melt and seemed dry and flavorless. Why? I would like to save money by using store brands of good quality, but I don’t want to ruin any more casseroles or pizzas.

A. It is difficult to say without reading the labels. Manufacturers sometimes change the formulas on products. They also are downsizing the contents, but the packaging looks the same. One half gallon of ice cream has shrunk to 1.75 quarts; a pound box of graham crackers is now 12 ounces.

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