Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Figs Are Ripe!

Some gardeners can’t wait for the first taste of their homegrown tomatoes. I am not among those gardeners.
I cannot wait until my ‘Desert King’ Figs are ripe. If you have never tasted a tree-ripened fig, you have not lived. The figs look like chartreuse-green globes hanging from the branches of a very weighted down tree. There are 100’s. As of August 13th, my count is 115 for me. There have been 23 casualties of figs eaten by slugs, birds or some kind of critter. It’s hard not to eat every other one as I pick them. Almost all are ripe with this hot weather we’ve been having.
The inside flesh of this fig is strawberry-red. They do look kind of weird. As a kid in Chicago, my Italian Grandpa Salvatore, had a fig tree in his back yard. It’s not easy to grow figs in Zone 5 Chicago. He had to dig around the roots & bend the tree over to bury it. A layer of mulch was added for insurance against the harsh winters. He & my family thought it was well worth the trouble come August. They were in Heaven. It was a little bit of their heritage & of memories of long ago summers.
I was ecstatic when I learned that I could grow figs in the Willamette Valley.
The first 2 trees I bought were my ‘Desert King’ & a ‘Negronne’ fig. The ‘Negronne’ had purple black fruit with deep raspberry flesh. It was a great tree that grew in a very wet site & finally fell over last winter. It was very sad. I miss that fig tree.
Fig trees are a great fruit tree as they grow like weeds & are not bothered by any kind of insect. The only maintenance is pruning & harvesting. The fruit is borne on last’s year’s growth. You just have to make sure you leave on enough branches to produce fruit the next year. I was lazy last year & did not prune very hard. The tree reaches to my 2nd story window. My husband, Ben, was determined to pick the first figs from the tallest branches. He scared our neighbor when he stepped out on the overhang to pluck the ripe fruit. Poor Jay couldn’t see where the voice was coming from when Ben said Hi!
Since we have such a bountiful harvest, I am drying figs in the oven. They don’t get very dry but they get to a rubbery stage that’s great to freeze. When it cools down a bit, I’ll bake some delicious biscotti, scones & cookies.
Figs are also very tasty with baked pork tenderloin, wrapped with prosciutto or bacon & grilled or stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese & drizzled with honey. YUM. I have a wonderful cookbook called Fig Heaven by Marie Simmons. She feels the same as I do about figs.
I hope I’ve peaked your curiosity about figs. Plant a tree & Enjoy.