They’re heeeeeeeeeere…. oh boy oh boy, the figs are starting to ripen. Now its a race between me and the birds. The birds almost always win, but this year I have great hope. Understand, I don’t mind if they eat the ones high up in the tree where I can’t reach, but they really don’t need to peck a hole in each and every fig on the tree, just to test for “doneness”!
This year, though, I have 2 secret weapons. One, hang a few old CDs in the tree. The theory is that the breeze will move them and the reflection and/or motion with keep the birds away. The other trick I learned from a canny local grower who got it from her mother (so it *must* work!). You cut strips of fabric, brown and black patterns work well, neckties are dandy as is, and lay the strips or ties along the branches of your fig tree. The birds register it as snakes and will stay away, or such is the theory.
I’ve done both things, and I just brought in the second day’s harvest – another small bowl full. As long as the birds can’t read I think I might be in business!
See, the thing (well, one of the things) about figs is that they must be picked ripe. Any more than a day ahead and you’re stuck with green fruit. They will not ripen and they do not keep very long when they *are* picked ripe (not a problem around here!); but figs are fussy. They do not like to be handled, and will weep a sticky white sap from the cut end of the stem when you remove them from the tree. This injury will heal quickly, but the fruit is fragile.
I love figs. I am always astonished when I actually have enough to take them into the house… I tend to stand in the yard and eat them as I pick them!
I like them fresh, I like them dried, cooked as a sauce of some sort, I love fig jam, and I especially like them broiled with goat cheese. Oh and fig vinegar, well… And I like all the varieties I’ve tried. Around here it’s mostly Brown Turkey figs or sugar figs, the little green ones you see here, Kadotas or the occasional Celeste. I love them all.
Fig trees produce well with very little fuss. They don’t seem to require a lot of fertilizer, spraying, pruning, or anything. What they don’t like is prolonged freezes – it can kill them. What they do like is water, so if you decide to try growing one you must water it until it is well established, and put it in a pot to bring in if you live where there is winter. They will grow happily in drainage ditches; their roots will find water like dowsers. I have seen fig trees in the south of France growing way up on limestone ledges. Their exposed roots, of a length 4 or 5 times the height of the tree, climb down the cliffs into caves seeking water.
My big tree is almost 20 years old, and I did not water it during the past two drought years. It didn’t really produce (I didn’t expect it to) but this year it is happily pumping out figs again! MMmmmm…
If you want to serve figs as either an appetizer or dessert (didn’t I tell you they are versatile?), I recommend this:
2 or 3 figs per person
soft goat cheese
Split the figs in half. Lay them on a broiling pan. Put a small dollop of the goat cheese on each fig, and drizzle with honey. Broil for a minute or until the honey has melted and the goat cheese just starts to do the same.
Remove from heat, and serve with a nice red wine as an appetizer, or put a few in a small bowl and add a dollop of vanilla ice cream for dessert (yes, with goat cheese!) Decadent!
Serve to your guests if you *really* like them, or claim an industrial accident and, well… no, she said firmly, serve to your guests!
I haven’t even touched on the joys of dried figs, but if you have figs and a dehydrator, well, get creative! Once they are safely dried you can chew on them as is or happily rehydrate them as needed. Ah yes, I do give a fig! Enjoy!!