I haven’t spoken much about my boonie peppers this year, perhaps because they sprouted and grew, but not spectacularly. I didn’t fertilize them much after the spring, because I wanted flowers, of which I saw not a one all this year.

But I just took them inside, after the recent freeze, and within one day after taking them inside, every last boonie pepper now has flower buds. If I had to guess, it was a temperature thing. The summer was too hot, and the fall too cool to trigger any flowering.

It suggests next time taking the plants inside earlier, to trigger the growth of peppers.

Update: the lighting tools we’re using to grow peppers inside are described here and here. 4 desk lamps with grow bulbs as described in the links are being kept on a 16 hour cycle.

It’s a blessed mess of green back there. I’ve been moving some of the twistier tomatoes to beside the chain link fence, to see if they’ll grow into it. 11 tomatoes still sit on the deck. Some of them even have fruits.

I had four boonies sprout, of which one died, one was cut off by some worm before it could get anywhere (still alive though), and the other two look pretty healthy. This photo is of the best of the new year’s boonie peppers. I don’t expect any crop until late fall.

It’s a pretty yellow pepper, perhaps 3-4 inches long. In the market  they look like banana peppers, though they’re considerably spicier. The Hungarian Wax pepper is what they make paprika from. I had one recently, buying  it from the local Publix.

It has a kick to it. It made me happy I had bought some extra baby spinach for my lunch. That and an additional slice of bread made the pepper more tolerable. I should note the heat of the Hungarian Wax is about that of the jalapeño. That’s about as much heat as I can eat straight, and I’ll need some starch to help sop up the fire.

I marvel at how my tropical pepper, the Guam Boonie, continues to produce when the weather is so cold.

My boonie peppers are inside these days, the weather became too cold to leave them outside. They showed a lot of sensitivity to temperatures below 40 degrees F ( 4.4 C) and were wilting. When the weather warmed up to 50 degrees F the leaves began to recover. We only needed to see one day of that to bring the plants inside. I didn’t need my boonies to die in the freeze.

I’ll note the peppers look different from pepper pilot seeds as compared to the seeds from floralys (see my original article on boonies here). Pepper pilot peppers are a dark green, while the floralys peppers have the light yellow shade of banana peppers. Eventually they’re all supposed to turn red in the end, but it is interesting, noting the color variation between two different vendors.

pepper pilot derived peppers

pepper pilot derived peppers

peppers grown from floralys seeds

peppers grown from floralys seeds

Getting as many of these Guam boonie peppers as I can has been a many months campaign. Right now I have one. Other plants aren’t mature enough yet. I may have to winter all of them inside and cross fingers they survive until next year.


What I don’t know is whether these structures on my plants are flowers or tiny compacted leaves.



I’ve spoken about Benny’s Bar and Grill at least three times previously, and I wanted to do it once again for two reasons.  First, I wanted to capture the place in images. I hadn’t done that before. The second reason was that I had an ordinary crawfish etouffee elsewhere. It was, like too many frustrating plates of Cajun in Atlanta, missing the point. The dish had good ingredients. The dish had a roux.  But the etouffee had no real spices to speak of, and when online grocery stores can say of an etouffee:

A proper etouffee will be orange-colored, with a hint of brown. It should be spicy, as it’s main spice ingredient is cayenne pepper, and saucy enough to form a thick gravy for the rice. However, take note that it is not gumbo, and should not be served like soup. The gravy in etouffee is much thicker than the roux of a gumbo.

you have to ask just what people are thinking when they serve underspiced food.

Further, if you look in Donald Link’s excellent Cajun cookbook “Real Cajun“, you find that he uses eight sources of ‘heat’ in his etouffee. He uses a poblano pepper, a jalapeno pepper, and paprika. He also uses ground white pepper, ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper. This is before he adds hot sauce to taste. He doesn’t use a huge amount of anything. The peppers are there to let you know they are there, to tease and cleanse the palate, to make you ask, “Just what flavor is coming next?”

Anyway, I needed something to remind me of what serious spicing is all about, so a visit to Benny’s was truly in order.  Mike “Benny” Miller, for better or worse, has the spicing of his food down cold.

The outside of Benny’s is modest:

Outside of Benny's

Outside of Benny's

The sign may be the first thing you see.

The sign may be the first thing you see.

Once inside, I started with a beer. They were out of most of their draft beers, but they still had Guinness draft. Guinness draft is lighter than you might expect and very drinkable. If you can handle Harp, Pete’s Wicked Ale, or Sam Adams, you should be able to handle Guinness:

Guiness - lighter in taste than the color suggests.

Guinness - lighter in taste than the color suggests.

That was followed with a salad

Vinagrette on the side.

Vinagrette on the side.

Then a bowl of Benny’s excellent gumbo.

The gumbo has flavor that builds with every bite.

The gumbo has flavor that builds with every bite.

The entree was Benny’s excellent jerk spiced pork tenderloin.

Rich with flavor. Somewhere around here I'm finishing my 2nd Guiness.

Rich with flavor. Somewhere around here I'm finishing my 2nd Guinness.

The dessert was a pair of Key Lime sticks. I’m sure the dessert was overkill.

Worth every minute of exercise they'll cost.

Worth every minute of exercise they'll cost.

The restaurant was pleasantly full, with a church group meeting inside.  I was able to speak to Mike a bit, all much appreciated. He’s a gracious host, knows food far better than I ever will. His theory on heat is to get the hottest pepper possible, and then add ingredients that add flavor (shallots, garlic, etc). Flavor, to Mike Miller, is more important than pure ‘burn’.

Benny’s Bar and Grill
3902 Highway 78
Snellville, GA
(678) 209-0209

Just what is a holiday lizzie?

In a recipe found in the Our Fair Lady cookbook, my grandmother makes a cookie that she calls a Holiday Lizzie:

Recipe for Holiday Lizzies

Recipe for Holiday Lizzies

I’ve never made these. The cost of this kind of cookie was always so prohibitive that I shied from making it. But it does beg the question: what is a holiday lizzie and why are they called that?

It’s clearly a kind of fruit cake cookie.  And while information on the fruit cake cookie is scarce, finding good sites that talk about the fruit cake are relatively easy to uncover. The Wikipedia has a good article, the site What’s Cooking America has a nice article, but the nicest and most exhaustive I’ve seen so far is on the site Food Timeline. Their article on fruit cake is a pleasure to read. The site covers all kinds of topics, from the beginnings (covering things like emmer and einkorn wheat) to quirky fads such as Space Food Sticks. Lynne Olver, a librarian in New Jersey, is the little engine that keeps this site going and I have to say, boy am I glad I found it.

I suspect I’ll have to ask her what is the origin of the phrase “lizzie” because I really can’t see or find it. Dictionaries have preserved the phrase “tin lizzie” (a reference to a model T, circa 1915) but “holiday lizzie” seems to have escaped them. I can’t help but think “lizzie” is early 20th century slang, from which both “tin lizzie” and “holiday lizzie” are derived, but tracing it will be tough. The Urban Dictionary offers some clues, but I’m wondering if the context is entirely lost.

To scan the blogs for fruit cake cookie recipes, the Blog Magnolia Blossom offers a nice one: Great Aunt Audrey’s fruit cake cookies. Another interesting recipe comes from the Gardening Granny, who uses a pumpkin bread base for her fruitcake cookies.  The blog Christmas Recipes features fruit cake cookies that include raisins in the mix (my grandmother’s recipe didn’t use raisins that I can see). The blog Life’s Just Beachy has a Lizzies recipe, but the site is down. This cache, for now, recovers the recipe.

Pico, pico, pico

I went shopping at Buford again, and picked up a pretty yellow tomato, a red onion, and some long hot peppers. I wanted to make a pico de gallo, and wanted one with a bit more color.  I tried Jo’s lick test on the long hot pepper and it was plenty spicy when licked.  I thought they were about as hot as a jalapeno, buut.. I have pictures of long hot peppers here:

I suspect these "long hot peppers" are in the cayenne family.

I suspect these "long hot peppers" are in the cayenne family.

And if you take a look at those, and take a look at cayenne peppers on Miss Vicki’s site, wouldn’t you say they are similar? That’s my impression. In any event, I’ve wanted a bit spicier pico and I’m hoping these will provide the extra heat. I used red onion and a yellow and vine ripened tomato. The recipe, such as it was, was something like this:

3 tomatoes, 1 yellow, 1 roma, 1 vine ripened, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 bunch green onions, minced.
2 long hot peppers (one turning red), diced.
1 bunch cilantro, minced.
juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime, extracted with a spoon.
mix well, cover with a plastic bag and marinate in the refrigerator.

The result looked like this:

pico looks brighter with a little yellow tomato.

pico looks brighter with a little yellow tomato.

We usually marinate overnight to yield flavor, and it’s better when marinated two days.


I had never had kumquats before, so I bought some at Trader Joes.  I took a picture just before we finished the last of them.

kumquats next to a garlic clove.

kumquats next to a garlic clove.

They’re small, about grape sized. I’m not sure if I’ll get them again, as for the same price I can pay for half of a box of clementina oranges. But for those looking for a new recipe kick: Picky Cook’s grapefruit, avocado and kumquat salad.

Boonie pepper seeds.

We have discussed boonie pepper seeds in the past. The first of mine have arrived, from rightbbq. It turns out the email seller rightbbq is the eBay incarnation of The Pepper Pilot. The Pepper Pilot site seems incomplete to me, so I’d buy seeds through eBay till the site is completed.

Found on the blogs:

The blogger Vegeyum has scored again with a very nice summary post. To point out two excellent links from her summary, there is Culinate.com’s glossary of grains, and Red Ramekin’s quinoa salad.

Along with a number of bloggers, I share a certain fascination with the lowly pepper. In part it’s a function of living in hot dry places like Texas, and it’s also finding that peppers taste good. Peppers are also a good source of vitamins A and C, perhaps the best source of vitamin C short of citrus fruits.

My wife is half Chamorro, half Japanese, and although we don’t eat Chamorro recipes very often, we certainly like to have them as an option. One of the foundations of Chamorro cooking is a sauce called a finadene sauce, and it is ubiquitous on the island of Guam. Finadene is so popular that even the local Kentucky Fried Chicken serves it there (along with red rice). The finadene sauce is spicy and the spice for the finadene comes from a pepper known locally as the boonie pepper (also called the donie sali). Boonie, in local slang, is simply a shortened version of the word “boondocks“. In other words, the boonie is the common jungle pepper of Guam.

I used to have boonie peppers that my mother had saved and grown in her back yard in Louisiana, and as a wedding present she gave her potted boonies to me. Problem was, I was living in an apartment in Texas at the time and had to keep the plants outside. They didn’t last long. Someone carted off my plants and I haven’t seen them since.

My wife, of course, was heartbroken. Over time she found that the Thai bird pepper was a decent substitute for the boonie, but it wasn’t exactly the same pepper either (though note comments in the Wikipedia on the Thai ornamental). While cruising web sites for this blog, checking out Chamorro sites, I did a search on the boonie and found that people are selling it these days.

The first source is Reimer seeds.  They show three different kinds of boonies on their site, though only one kind is available, as of 3/19/2009. The next two sources are two eBay sellers. One is named floralys and the other is named rightbbq. Both eBay sellers are sporting a 100% reputation, while Reimer seeds has had some issues with sales in the past (issues are noted on the site Dave’s Garden). The seller floralys is located in Yigo, Guam, whereas rightbbq is in San Jose, California. Who you purchase from, should you purchase, is your business. For now I’ve purchased seeds from all three sources, and I’m waiting and seeing.

In the meantime I’ve been digging around various sites for information on starting seeds. Floralys gives some advice on the eBay sites he (she?) keeps, but other places that offer good advice on starting seeds are the blogs Container Gardening and About Gardening. Other good resources are Gardner’s Net and Pepper Joe. The poster sampsonsimpson on the Dave’s Garden Reimer thread has some interesting takes on starting seeds that are worth noting.

Boonies, once started and allowed to grow, eventually become bushes with wooden stems, and do well in pots. They don’t tolerate freezes well but they will grow for years.  My one worry is that Snellville, GA, is just colder than the part of Northwest Louisiana my mother started her seeds in, and as woody as my lot is, I have to worry about adequate sunlight.

Some notes on Chamorro bloggers, and Chamorro restaurants. Judy the Foodie has put out a lot of posts on Chamorro cooking. The blog Tasi Thoughts is one of the more prolific Chamorro blogs out there, and his discussion of the cook book “A Taste of Guam” has sold me a copy of that book (note – Barnes and Noble is much cheaper than the sources Amazon will send you to). The blogger Scent of Green Bananas is worth a read because he looks at the world in interesting ways. The blogger The Food Ho in one post references a place in San Diego called The Islander Grill, which appears to be a Chamorro joint.

Now if they would only open one of those in Atlanta.

Updates: The site fiery-foods.com has a nice article on the boonie pepper. The company The Pepper Pilot has a collection of boonie pepper based products and also sells boonie peppers, as seeds or dried. Karsten Uhl has a nice article on the Saipan boonie pepper. The blog Square Pegs also mentions the boonie, and the jelly that can be made from them (with very nice pictures to boot). The military support site Spousebuzz.com has an article that mentions finadene as well. In an article from the Anderson AFB web site, Joyce Martratt mentions a spam kelaguen recipe that uses boonie peppers.