Black Figs in late summer
Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands
This week we have the most luscious black Figs from France, so, it seemed fitting to focus in on Figs for this week’s News report. Many fig trees, when grown in the hot and dry conditions of a long summer, produce two crops a year. The first fruits, known as breba, develop in Spring on the previous year’s shoot growth and are harvested in early summer. The second crop develops mostly on current season stems. These fruits, grown at the hottest time of year ripen in late summer into autumn and have an unparalleled honeyed sweetness.
The fig is a member of the Mulberry family and is more flower than fruit; being a fleshy flower base that has folded in on itself. The inner female florets develop into small individual dry fruits that crunch like seeds. They contain a surprisingly large amount of calcium for a fruit. Notable European fig varieties include Black Ischia, (dark purple in colour with golden flecks and a luscious violet-red pulp); Adriatic, (a green fig tinged with purple or red with deep red interior); and the sweet Marseilles, (coloured yellow/green with green flecks and a white pulp).
The honeyed quality of their flesh means figs are not only good for desserts but match beautifully with savoury ingredients like anchovies, poultry and air-dried meats. They pair equally well with pungent creamy cheeses like Gorgonzola or Stilton, or a milder soft goat’s cheese. Thyme is a herb that mingles happily with figs. For a sweet end to a meal, they are delicious just as they are – particularly if they are so luscious they have begun to split - but they go well with chocolate, nuts and orange and spices like aniseed, cinnamon and vanilla. Less ripe ones are delicious baked in the oven in red wine, sugar and spices and maybe a little orange zest too. And don’t forget, figs make wonderful chutneys and jams.