Thursday, June 29, 2017

My Plant Journal: Figs

Olympian Fig plants on Amazon
Last week, at The Shack, I planted several trees and shrubs. One of those plants was a Fig. I am not familiar with Figs (other than the famous dancing Fig in the cookie commercials) and I am not an organized gardener. Due to those two things, I am recording the beginning of my Fig adventure here.


Why Figs?


I decided to plant a Fig for the simple reason that a friend loves the fruit and swears that I'll enjoy having the fresh figs. Recently, every time I follow recommendations about fruit (i.e. PawPaws) I have been thrilled with what has been recommended. Also, I want to plant a large variety of fruit on my land.  During this camping trip to The Shack, I was already planning on planting PawPaws, a Persimmon, and a Japanese Maple. I had plenty of room to plant other plants, so I grabbed up a little Fig plant at a local big box, home and garden store.

After all, there is no harm in giving Figs a try. My planting technique up there is a little bit like throwing one of each and seeing what sticks.


Olympian Fig Information


I had no idea there were so many varieties of Fig. Fortunately, what I blindly chose was an Olympian Fig. Now that I've studied a bit more about Fig varieties, I am pleased that I have the Olympian variety. If that goes well, I'd like to add a few other varieties just for fun. But for now, the Olympian Fig seems to be a good variety for my place in West Virginia for these reasons:

  • grows in a small, dwarf, habit
  • grows 4-8 feet
  • hardy to zone 6
  • self-pollinator (I don't need a second plant for pollination)
  • like PawPaws, Fig plants are reportedly deer resistant


My Olympian Fig


Since the Fig variety I chose is a dwarf variety, I planted it in what is to be my "flower bed".  Flower bed is stretching it - a very kind and gentle way to describe this area of my yard.

My land is steep and rocky land on a ridge in West Virginia. So far my "gardening" requires the use of a pickaxe. I apologize that the quality of lighting in this photo isn't the best. I had taken this photo while I was working at my plantings and headed back home to my apartment before taking a better photo.



I planted the Fig in this area - between the lilac bush and the rose bush. And I placed the little garden flag very close to the Fig. While some plants are listed as "deer resistant", we all know that deer really seem to find any leaf a delicious appetizer. I am hoping the fluttering of the flag will help keep the deer away.

What will I do with the figs - if I am successful at growing them? I will find ways to prepare them and I will share them with people who love them. As I do my research, I am finding that there are many people who enjoy eating them.



*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Char-Griller Duo 5050

In today's terminology, I've "done a thing" and "this happened". And I couldn't be more excited. I finally decided on a barbecue grill and I made the purchase. In one more week I'll be on vacation at The Shack and will be cooking on my new grill.  I purchased the Char-Griller Duo 5050 dual fuel and I couldn't be more thrilled.


Cooking Off-Grid at The Shack


I've purchased land with a small hunting cabin that will someday be my retirement homestead. In the meantime, I go camping up there at every opportunity.  The previous owners left behind an amazing woodstove inside and a old, dilapidated propane barbecue grill outside.  I've been grateful for both.

In the colder months (yes, I camp up there in the winter) I use the woodstove for my meals. Learning to cook on/in a woodstove has been trial and error but between using hobo packs and finding a perfectly sized enameled cast iron dutch oven, I've been able to prepare some really delicious meals.

In the warmer months, I cook outside on the grill. The grill was so old and rusty that I had to replace the grill immediately, but that was a cheap and easy fix. However, the connections and knobs for the propane no longer function. I still used it as a charcoal grill/smoker and using apple tree branches for cooking gave my meals the most wonderful taste!

Imagine, apple wood smoked Delmonico steaks with a glass of wine. Mouth-watering!


Early spring camping - Delmonico steak, hobo packet potatoes, and a glass of wine


But the limping along with the little rusted out grill has lost it's appeal and I wanted a "real" grill. And the rusted out grill is so tiny. If and when I have camping guests, that size of that grill is not adequate.

But which model should I get?

After my adventures with the woodstove, the propane BBQ grill, and the grill as a charcoal/wood smoker, I knew what my criteria were.

I needed:

  • a side burner (for the times I just want soup, stew, etc)
  • a gas grill
  • and a smoker
  • an easy-to-read gauge (because I want to try baking while camping)


The Char-Griller Duo 5050


I've been window-shopping grills for nearly two years.  I will soon be camping for week. I needed to make a decision. Fortunately, when I finally decided to take the plunge, the grill I had decided on was on sale! Perfect timing.

I chose the Char-Griller Duo 5050 for several reasons.  It has the side burner I need. That side burner will be perfect for my little Moka pot of coffee. I will be able to barbecue using the propane side if I choose or I can use the charcoal side and add my lovely apple wood for smoking. There is a Char-Griller smoker attachment, but after using my old dilapidated grill for smoking, I'm pretty good at it without that added accessory and expense. 

Char Griller Duo 5050 


The Char-Griller Duo is not as heavy duty as some other brands. But at this point, the cost point is a priority for me. Also, I'm not sure I could move the heavy-duty grills around the deck by myself.

In the future, after I rebuild The Shack and have a real outdoor kitchen (off-grid summer kitchen) I will likely either purchase a higher end grill/smoker or I will have a custom stone BBQ/oven built. But in the meantime, I think this Char-Griller dual fuel grill is the perfect solution.

Of course I will write updates on whether or not I've made a good decision and the delicious test meals I'll be cooking.



*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Roasted Beets!

I have just discovered roasted beets and they are amazing! There is a good chance that you are familiar with roasted beets but I was not. With my recent passion for roasted beets, I've done some research. Beets are reported to be a healthy food treasure. And a vegetable that I'll be able to grow and store.


Why Roasted Beets are Exciting


I lived portions of my childhood years on farms. We had gardens and my mom did a huge amount of canning. I am appreciative of those experiences and having learned the skill of storing food all those years ago. 

Unfortunately, my mom was not a good cook. Nor was she adventurous in the kitchen. She cooked many of the meats in a skillet with water. The only herbs or seasonings in our kitchen were salt and pepper. And I don't recall much use of the pepper. There were many things cooked in that kitchen that I swore I'd never eat again.

Beets were one of them.  We canned them. And we boiled them to heat them. They were slimy, mushy, and pungent. Somehow pungent but without flavor. Oh how I gagged trying to get those down while worrying about the starving and appreciative children in other countries. 

I swore I'd never eat beets again. Ever. No matter what.


Bringing Out the Best in Beets


The lesson: never say never. Roasted beets are amazing! I had them recently, by accident, in a salad served in the cafeteria at work (see the intro photo above).  At first, I thought the little dark red chunks were cranberries. Or something similar. But there was such a smoky, earthy, and only slightly sweet taste that I didn't think they could be cranberries or craisins.

They were roasted beets. And they were delicious.  I immediately wanted more.

Since then, I've had more.  I've roasted beets several different ways and have eaten them as a side. 

So far, I've roasted them wrapped in tinfoil and in a variety of dishes and pans. But so far the best method has been to roast them in my small enameled cast iron dutch oven.  

They are fairly easy to prepare. I prepare beets as follows:

  • cut the tops off, leave about 3/4 inch of the top
  • cut most of the root off, leaving a small bit
  • wash under running water with a vegetable brush
  • place them in my pan and drizzle a bit of olive oil
  • salt and pepper (using more than you usually would sprinkle)
  • stir to coat the beets evenly
  • cover and bake at 375 degrees 
  • bake until a skewer slides through easily (my biggest beets took about an hour - smallest took 30 minutes)
After they are baked, I let them cool until I can handle them. Then I use a paring knife to cut off the remaining stem and root. Be careful, they remain warmer under the skins. As I do cut off the tops and bottoms, much of the "skin" peels/slides off.  I then peel off any remaining skin.
summer couscous sala


Ways to Serve Roasted Beets


In a salad

As a side (they were great with pork chops)

As an addition to my summer couscous salad (I think I'll replace the tomatoes with roasted beets)

Health Benefits & Risks


I am not a medical expert or nutritionist. Research seems to show that beets have many health benefits. They are reportedly high in fiber, vitamin C, and potassium - all things I am in need of.  

There are also some slight risks to over-eating of beets for people at risk of gout and kidney stones. This is due to the beets being high in Oxalates (whatever those are). 

Finally, if you eat many beets, do not be alarmed if your bathroom visits begin to show a slight "beet" color. That can happen and is reportedly harmless. If it concerns you, please consult your doctor. I just wanted to include a blurb here so you aren't startled (as I was) if it happens to you.


Beets are for Me!


I will still never again can beets and serve them after boiling. Yuck. But you can be sure that I will find a way to grow these in next year's garden (whether it's my balcony garden or a garden at The Shack). And I will be finding more ways to serve these little vegetable treasures with my meals. 

roasted beets and pork chops

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you