About 15 years ago we planted a fig tree on a very miserable, dry bank below the deck where the swing seat and other garden furniture sit. We filled the bottom of the dug hole with limestone and roughly lined the sides with stone slabs; figs apparently fruit better when their roots are contained. It did its job by growing quickly and filling up the dull corner pushing its way through the deck railings and so softening the hard line appearance of the deck. Each year fruits appeared but were green and hard never ripening and even if picked and left on a warm window sill, they remained solid as bullets,
This year however, not only has the tree sprung rather too much in all directions, but has produced the much longed for large fruits that have ripened to black and are good enough to eat! Now why this year? I pruned a few branches in the spring, was that the reason? Is it due to the milder, wet winter weather we have been having? Or has it simply grown up at last and matured out of teenager to adulthood? Who knows….. However, this year we never noticed the developing, heavy, hanging fruits but the wasps did!
The fig tree came from South Asia and has the kudos of being the first tree to be mentioned in the Bible; it is a known fact that Adam and Eve clad themselves in the tree’s leaves to preserve their modesty and many a male, marble statue since has been decently clad with a large, strategically placed leaf so as not to appear indecent to prudish ladies.
I have never been overly fond of fresh figs, to my mind they are rather tasteless even when married with the ubiquitous Parma ham, so now what to do with our new found exotic crop of fruit?
Jane Grigson, mother of Sophie and my mentor for recipe ideas never fails to have the answer for all fruit and vegetable queries and this one comes from France, obviously! Rinse the figs under running cold water and, without drying them roll them in caster sugar until completely covered. Stand them in dish closely packed together so they don’t fall over and pop them in a very hot oven. The idea is to caramelise the fruit with the sugar so, leave them in the oven for about 20 minutes checking every now and again to make sure they aren’t burning, but end up a good brown/red colour. They come out looking a bit sad and flopped over, rather like baked onions, but don’t worry, they will be fine, allow them to cool and eat cold with cream or if you have a glut, they will freeze once cooked. Baked fresh figs are now a family and friends favourite, the challenge is how to repeat this success next year!