I love the fruits of summer - berries, peaches, cherries - and, the odd-looking but delectable fig! I must admit, growing up in the Great Midwest, I was shamefully ignorant about figs - after all, there weren't lots of fig trees in Akron, Ohio. Back in the day, I had no idea what a fresh fig looked or tasted like. Before I moved South, all I knew of figs was that they were the key ingredient for the dark, dense and murky tasting inside of a Fig Newton -- man, I didn't know what I was missing! I'll never forget the first time that one of my Clemson classmates reached up into a green large-leafed tree in his back yard and plucked a teardrop-shaped fruit off of a branch and popped it directly into his mouth...what was that thing?...and why was he smiling so much while he ate it? But, once I tasted one, I got it - the mystery fruit was sweet and rich and lovely and oh-so-different than the dark brown goo in the middle of the Fig Newton - I was instantly bewitched and hooked.
|Figs come in many shapes and sizes - and, in late summer, |
you can find them all throughout the South.
A few years ago Guy got me a small fig tree for our yard - unfortunately, it's not big enough yet to fulfill my growing fig habit. Fortunately, however, I do have lots of friends and neighbors with fig trees in their yards - and, they are willing to share! Thanks to Rosie (actually, Rosie's neighbor - whose name I don't even know), Sue, Tony and the lady who lives behind my friend Susan in Greenville, I had a large supply of figs this year. I picked some myself and had help picking others - as you can see in the pictures below. Although picking figs can be a fairly miserable task - very hot and sticky, after all, they do ripen in August in the South - I'm lucky that the promise of fig jam persuades my husband and most other men I know into helping with the fig harvest.
|My husband Guy is very focused and very efficient in his fig |
picking -not really a surprise if you know Guy.
|Lawrence DuBose, husband of my best friend Susan, helps pick figs |
from one of their neighbors' trees.
|This variety of figs, Celeste, has a lovely brownish-purple color on the outside....|
|...and a lush, lovely and sweet pink inside. Seriously - isn't that a beautiful color?|
In addition to eating them fresh, one of my favorite things to do with figs is to make fig jam - a great way to remember one of summer's sweet treats all throughout the year. Like most jams, this one is fairly simple to make - especially when you have fresh, sweet, ripe fruit like I did. And, I'm pretty much a purist when it comes to fig jam - no fancy recipes, spices or mixtures - just figs, sugar, pectin (I use the low sugar kind) and some citrus juice and zest (I've used both lemon and orange and like them equally well - just depends on what I am in the mood for that day). I've attached a link to my fig jam recipe:
This is actually one of my favorite sites for canning info and recipes - Pick Your Own - it's a great resource for canning, pickling and all other sorts of foodie info. It's definitely one to bookmark.
|I love the beatiful, rich, dark pink color the Celeste figs impart to this jam.|
(I hope you do too, since most of you will find a jar like this in your Christmas goodie bag!)
So - like many of the lessons I learned since moving to the South - my introduction to the fig has been both interesting and enjoyable. Now I know the real story of this beautiful and mysterious fruit - and it's so much more than the dark brown filling for a Fig Newton!