I was really happy this morning to find a generous handful of fresh figs ripe and ready for us to enjoy. Have you ever feasted upon a fresh fig? I must confess that I never had, until I picked the first one one from our own tree. A fresh ripe fig tastes nothing like a Fig Newton, so banish that thought from your mind. Its flavor is reminiscent of strawberry and peach, with a unique and delicate texture all its own. The fruit is actually an inverted flower. Isn’t that kind of sexy and exotic? The leaves of the fig tree are quite beautiful, too, making it a lovely addition to the landscape as well as the table. They impart an almost haunting herbaceous scent to the garden air during our sultry summer evenings.
Figs in the Garden
Figs trees like to be planted with plenty of organic matter and in lots of sunshine. Make sure your fig tree gets watered regularly, especially in its first couple of seasons, and protect it from heavy frosts. Simple!
We have an Alma fig that is in its second year of production. Alma is a late variety fig that produces very high quality fruit. It is not known as the prettiest fig around, but the sweet firm fruit makes up for its lack of beauty. One of the reasons we selected Alma is because the fruit is still fairly light in color when it is ripe, which makes it a little less attractive to the fig-snatching birds that make Cowlick Cottage Farm their home.
Figs on the Table
Even though figs are sweet, they are quite nutritious. They are high in potassium, which can help to lower blood pressure. They are high in fiber and calcium, making them a satisfying treat for those of us watching our weight. Fig leaves are edible, too, and are said to have anti-diabetic qualities. Try wrapping a fresh fish fillet in a freshly washed fig leaf and put it on a hot grill for a few minutes.
I am really looking forward to experimenting with fresh figs in the kitchen, if I can stop myself from making them as wonderful little appetizers. I love them halved and topped with a little goat cheese and wrapped up in a slice of proscuitto. Warm these pretty little delights in the oven until the proscuitto is a little crispy and the goat cheese is melted. Top with a splash of balsamic fig vinegar and fresh ground pepper! I love the blend of the sweet ripe fruit, the salty proscuitto and the soft creamy goat cheese.
Once the figs ramp up and ripen in unison, I will make some fig preserves for us to enjoy during the winter. And how about a fig tart, or even fig ice cream? A Sunday evening pork loin roasted with caramelized onions, figs, red wine and fresh herbs sounds delicious. As does a salad of fresh greens, figs, walnuts and gorgonzola. And a selection of cheeses served on a fig leaf is a beautiful thing. What are your favorite ways to enjoy figs?