the show

America’s Test Kitchen

encore date: January 3, 2016

original air date: January 10, 2015

Go behind the scenes with America’s Test Kitchen Christopher Kimball to see what led him down the kitchen path and the science behind memorable meals.  And sharpen those knives for his tip on slicing onions for flavor and texture!  On tour near La Grange, meet the heart-warming Bernsen family who grows most of their own food, from pre-school to parents.  Since it’s not too late to plant trees, Daphne’s Plant of the Week is stately Mexican sycamore.  Plus, she explains why to apply horticultural oil now to fruit trees and other trees with past insect issues. See what’s growing in Trisha Shirey’s winter vegetable garden at Lake Austin Spa Resort and how she fends off deer and controls insects.


Episode Segments

On Tour

Bernsen family vegetable garden

In this family of seven, toddlers on up join homeschooling parents Brianne and William Bernsen to grow most of their vegetables and fruits.  When Brianne started their garden near La Grange, she wanted fresh, organic food for her family. The children jumped right in to grow plots of their own, set up drip irrigation and help build trellises. What they don’t eat, can, or share, they sell to a local restaurant.   Get their family tips for constant crops all year.


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Question of the Week

When and why use horticultural/dormant oil?

Winter is the best time, especially January and February. Horticultural oils, also known as dormant oils, are used to treat certain insect and disease pests. They’re generally petroleum-based products that serve to suffocate pests by coating their bodies with oil.

In winter, most plants are dormant and often leaf-less, which is important because, like the insects that feed on them, plants have pores too, and they need to breathe in order to survive.

If horticultural oil is applied when temps are warm and your plants are actively growing, they can actually damage your plants as well as the pests you’re trying to kill.

If used properly, horticultural oils are a great way to treat for scale insects, which can be very hard to control.  If used in early spring it’s still not too late for horticultural oils; you can also treat for aphids and white flies.

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Plant of the Week

Mexican Sycamore

Mexican Sycamore

Platanus mexicana

As its name implies, this rapidly growing deciduous tree is native to central and northeastern Mexico. It has very large, beautiful, maple-shaped bright green leaves, with soft-white, fuzzy undersides.  But probably the most stunning quality about this tree is its bark: a living work of art that gets more beautiful and intricate with age. Mexican sycamore trees can get up to 80 feet tall in their natural environment, but in most home landscapes they only reach to a height of about 50, with a canopy spread of 30 to 40 feet wide. Mexican sycamores are very drought tolerant once established, but they’ll perform much better if given plenty of irrigation for about the first 3 years after planting. As with most trees, Mexican sycamore does best in full sun and winter’s still a great time to plant trees even though we normally recommend planting in fall to establish them before hot weather arrives.