Figs can trace their history back to the earliest of times with mentions in the Bible and other ancient writings. They are thought to have been first cultivated in Egypt.
Figs grow on the Ficus tree 'Ficus carica' which is a member of the Mulberry family.
Fig trees can grow to 15m tall and many types are dependent on fig wasps for their reproduction-the wasps pollinate the fig as they move between seed pods laying eggs.
Two of the most common types of figs are green and black, although there are many different varieties of figs. Black figs tend to be larger and sweeter. Both types can be eaten complete with the skin. When they are ripe, you can split them open with your fingers to reveal the soft, sweet flesh full of edible seeds.
Figs do not ripen after picking and so unripe figs are to be avoided. Smelling figs can also give you clues into their freshness and taste. They should have a mildly sweet fragrance and should not smell sour- a sour smell indicates figs that are past their best.
Serve fresh figs with Parma ham, they also make a wonderful addition to an after-dinner cheese board. They are also delicious baked or barbecued. See my BBQ article for delicious BARBECUED FIGS - with yogurt and honey.
A nice easy recipe that makes the most of those delicious figs
12 ripe figs
50g walnuts or pecans
4 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Heat the oven to 180C/ gas 4 /350F.
Cut crosses into the tops of each fig and open them up slightly, place a cube of butter inside each fig. Place them into a buttered baking dish, sprinkle over the cinnamon, and scatter over the walnuts /pecans. Drizzle with the honey/maple syrup. Pop in oven and bake for about 20 minutes, basting them with the butter/ syrup often. ~Serve with Mascarpone, Creme fraiche or some Vanilla ice-cream.
FIG, DATE & BRANDY CHUTNEY
A wonderful chutney to serve at the festive season table.
This is wonderful served with goats cheese, stilton or a nice chunk of cheddar.
Makes 3x 350g jars
200g pitted dates,roughly chopped
150g dried figs,chopped
350g Bramley apples, diced
100g shallots, finely chopped
2 tsp root ginger, coarsley grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black peppercorns
125g light muscavoda sugar
250ml cider vinegar
125ml apple juice
3 tbsp brandy
Put all the ingredients (except the brandy) into a heavy-based saucepan. Cook over a low heat until
the sugar has dissolved, then increase to a gentle simmer.
Simmer for 30 mins until the apples have begun to break down.
Increase the heat until the chutney comes to a rapid boil and boil for 5 mins or so until there is no visable liquid remaining. Remove from heat and leave to stand for a few mins before stirring in the brandy.
Spoon the chutney into sterilised jars. Once cool, cover with a lid. Store in a cool, dark place for at least a month before eating to let the delicious flavours develop.