All summer I’ve been eyeing the fig tree in the corner of my garden, loaded with little green figs, heavy with the promise of fragrant succulence.
Every so often, I would gently squeeze their green roundness, hoping for some signs of ripeness and readiness for eating… waiting… waiting… waiting…. Occasionally I’d not trust my fingers and impatiently break one open, hoping to see the telltale ripe pink seeds. But they remained hard and pale.
Eventually, I gave up and decided that this southern climate was too cool for figs to ripen. It was May after all – well past the normal fig season of December to March.
But then, this week, the wax eyes and possums told me that the figs were ripe! All of the sudden the tree was alive with cheeping excitement by day, and rustling with heavy furry bodies at night. Little birds, all aflutter and atwitter in a tree mean only one thing!
I went out to the tree. Heavenly, fragrant wafts of that subtly sweet aroma that only figs possess surrounded me. I saw the ripe ones right away. Suddenly swollen to twice the size of their not-yet-ready sisters, they were soft, their green skins touched with purple. They looked positively dripping with sweetness.
I plucked one, and it came easily off the branch. I eagerly broke it open and greedily tasted it. It wasn’t very nice. It was sweet, and definitely ripe, but the texture wasn’t fantastic. I am not sure what variety it is, but it’s not one of those purple figs with juicy red flesh that retail for $28 a kilo in the good food stores.
Never mind, I rather prefer my figs cooked or dried anyway. Eric and I got a basket and plucked as many as were ripe, leaving a few for the birdies. I decided to make jam.
Flushed with excitement at this successful endeavour, I cooked something else:
Aren’t the subtle colours gorgeous? I’d love to find a hand-dyed yarn in these glorious tones of pink, green, cream and yellow. Perhaps a pretty sock yarn? Hint, hint…
What I made: Apple, rhubarb and fig crumble.
It feels utterly decadent to have had such a delicious fig feast this week. Figs are so expensive that they’re not normally affordable for me. But I adore them. Which is why I was so excited to find a tree in my garden when I moved here!
Want the recipe?
For fig jam:
approx 1.5kg (3.3lbs) figs
approx 340g (12oz) rhubarb
1.5kg (3.3lbs) sugar
100ml (4oz) lemon juice
2 tsp ground cinnamon (or a cinnamon stick)
Stem and chop the figs into quarters or smaller. Slice up the rhubarb. Place in a large pot. Add lemon juice and sugar, and marinate in a cool place for 24 hours. Add cinnamon. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for approx 2 hrs until the jam is thick and syrupy. (When dribbled on to a plate and cooled, you can run your finger through it without it spreading back together again). Makes approx 6 jam jars’ worth.
For apple, rhubarb and fig crumble… well, that’s a little harder as I make my crumbles by sight and taste. Basically, two apples, three sticks of rhubarb and three figs. Add a tablespoon of sugar and water, and boil until cooked. For the crumble mix, I do equal portions of rolled oats and flour (approx 1/2 cup of each, more or less) and add raw or brown sugar to taste. I add enough butter to hold it together (usually around 40 – 50g). Rub together until it forms crumbs. Pour the fruit mix into the baking dish you use for the crumble. Mix a tablespoon of crumble mix into the fruit (this helps mop up excess juice and produce a firmer puree). Sprinkle the rest of the crumble mix generously over the top. Bake in the oven at 180C for approx 15 minutes (until the fruit bubbles). Then switch to grill and brown the top of the crumble. Serve warm or cold and with your favourite topping, according to your preference.