|The Fig Tree:
|The fig tree has unusually large leaves, 4 to 10 inches long, bright green with up to five rounded lobes. The leaves are well known for being the first garment for Adam and Eve. Its origin is thought to be Eastern Mediterranean and southwestern Asia.
It is an attractive tree with dramatic presence, spreading wide, muscular and twisting branches. It is remarkably adaptive and easy to grow, often bearing fruit the first year after planting.
Depending on the variety, the fruit can be harvested twice a year. The first crop is known as the main crop borne on the new growth in spring. The second crop is called the breba crop and is borne in the autumn on the last of the season's growth. There are two types of fig that need to be pollinated by a certain kind of wasp in order to produce fruit, but the common fig and the San Pedro fig will produce a breba crop without pollination.
For a quality harvest, young figs should be watered regularly until established, and then at least once every two weeks leaving mulch around the base to conserve moisture. Young trees should be pruned to establish a strong base. Older trees can be pruned heavily after the main crop to increase the harvest for the following year. This will entail removing flower buds and eliminating the breba crop.
Figs should be allowed to ripen fully on the tree before they are picked. A ripe fruit is slightly soft and beginning to bend at the neck. The fruit will only keep up to three days in a fridge. To keep the fruit longer they need to be dried until pliable and slightly sticky but not wet. They should be cut into quarters and peeled and will then take 4 or 5 days to dry in the sun. Dried figs can be stored for up to eight months.
Figs have the highest mineral content of all common fruit. Their fibre content is high enough to slow down the rich carbohydrate flow into the blood stream. The high potassium content will help to release the energy in the metabolic process. Research in a New Jersey university has determined that figs contain omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids as well as a number of phytosterols. The high calcium content is excellent for the heart, nerves and muscle growth.
|Crostini with Figs & Nuts:
|Makes 36 appetizers
3/4 cup nuts
12oz soft cream cheese
1) Cut figs into small pieces.
2) Toast nuts at 300F for 5-6 minutes until fragrant but not browned.
3) Combine figs, nuts and cheese in mixer or processor until just blended.
4) Heat baguette, cut crosswise into small slices and spread with fig mixture.
|Makes 30 bars
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup nuts, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup water
1) Combine figs, nuts and water in a saucepan and heat to boiling.
2) Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 & 1/4 cups self-raising flour
2 cups rolled oats
1) Cream sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.
2) Stir in 1 & 3/4 cups flour and oats until well mixed and crumbly.
3) Spread and pat 2/3 flour mixture evenly into baking tray (about 9x14 inches). Spread filling evenly on top.
4) Add 1/2 cup flour to remaining flour mixture, crumble and spread all over.
5) Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly brown.
6) allow to cool in tray and cut into bars.
1 cup coconut, flaked
8 fresh figs
200g plain yoghurt
1 teaspoon lemon rind, grated
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1) Stir coconut in heavy-based pan over light heat until lightly browned.
2) Remove from pan to cool.
3) Remove stems from figs, cut into quarters and divide between 4 dishes.
4) Combine the yoghurt, rind and golden syrup in a small bowl, mixing well.
5) Pour yoghurt mixture over the figs and sprinkle with coconut.
|Gorgonzola Stuffed Figs:
|Makes 20 hors d'oeuvres
12oz soft cream cheese
4oz gorgonzola or blue cheese
20 nuts (eg 20 pecan halves)
1) Snip crosses into figs and spread out to flat. Remove seeds if desired.
2) Blend cheeeses together in mixer or processor.
3) Fill centres of figs with cheese mixture and garnish with nuts.
4) Chill and serve cold.
|Thai Chicken salad with Figs:
6 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup honey
3 teaspoons light soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon chilli pepper flakes, crushed
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely minced
1/2lb cooked chicken, shredded
8oz figs, cut lengthways into eights
2 onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 small cantaloupe, seeded & cut into thin strips (julienne)
1 sweet red pepper, seeded, ribs removed & cut into thin strips
1 small cucumber, peeled & cut into thin strips
Assorted mixed salad greens
Mint sprigs for garnish
1) Combine lime juice, honey, soy sauce, pepper flakes and ginger in a medium bowl and mix well.
2) Add chicken, figs, onions and mint. Toss to coat evenly.
3) Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Stir occasionally.
4) When ready to serve, combine cantaloupe, pepper and cucumber strips with marinated chicken and toss gently but thoroughly. Line plates with salad greens and arrange mixture in centre. Garnish with mint sprigs if desired.