Whenever I would see fresh figs in the market-at upwards of $8 per pound-I would get excited buy and them. They would last for about 2-3 days and then become mushy and moldy. After all, they probably traveled all the way across the country before they came to my house. My favorite way to eat them was quartered with a swipe of triple crème Delice de Bourgoine cheese. Needless to say, this is not diet food, so I would limit myself to 2 figs at a sitting and use a couple more in a salad, but I always ended up tossing a fig or two because I couldn’t eat them fast enough by myself. I also would generously shell out $16 plus to buy figs for a dinner party and find a few of them too soft to eat. GRRRR.
So, I mentioned to the hubby my frustration and he suggested getting a fig tree. Well, those of you who know me, know I don’t like to garden and I am not very good at it. Yes, I have a nice large herb garden, but that is not the same as growing fruit. But what did I have to lose? I did my research and found that the reason figs are expensive and rare here in the Northeast, is that they do not tolerate cold well. As a matter of fact, there seems to be only one variety (among the many fig types) that grow in this area, a Chicago Hardy fig. When I was near a garden store for the next few years, I always stopped in the Spring to look at the new fruit trees for sale. Never found a Chicago Hardy. Sure, I probably could have ordered it on-line, but I figured I’d probably accidentally kill it anyway so I didn’t want to make that kind of purposeful commitment to growing this tree.
One day, back from his weekly weekend trip to Home Depot, my hubby presented me with a fig tree. With great trepidation, we planted this tree. Spring/Summer Year one: 2 ft. high branches extending from the ground. Just brown sticks. OK, it probably needs some time to grow and bear fruit. Dutifully, I sheathed the branches in burlap to winter over, protected from the wind.
Spring/Summer Year two: taller brown sticks with a few green marbles appearing about August. Stayed hard, small and green. Burlap again.
Spring/Summer year three: Now it looks like a tree and there are many hard green balls that appear around May. I excitedly pick 3 semi-ripe figs. The rest of the 50 or so green balls freeze. Screw the burlap. We must have the wrong variety-this one doesn’t ripen before the first freeze. Next Spring I’m going to dig it up and forget growing figs.
Spring/Summer Year 4: at least 100 small green balls appear and one day, miracle of miracles in August, they begin to ripen. Now I am picking 15 figs/day. I am overwhelmed with fresh figs. I must have planted a Chicago Hardy fig tree after all! Thank you Google for educating me about the fact that fig trees take about 4 years to produce. It saved me from destroying a long-wished for fig bearing machine.
But what do I do with all these figs? Fig Jam, of course. Here’s the recipe should you find yourself with a windfall of figs. Those who already have fruit-bearing tress know a version of this generic recipe already.
2 lbs. green or purple figs, stemmed and cut into pieces (about ½ inch)
1 ½ C. sugar
¼ C. plus 2 TBL. fresh lemon juice
½ C. water
- In a large non-reactive saucepan, toss the fig pieces with the sugar. Leave them to macerate about ½ hour or until they form a thick saucy mass.
- Add the lemon juice and water and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is totally dissolved. Lower the heat to a nice high simmer and cook down, stirring until the fruit is very soft and plops off the spoon. About ½ hour. You will need to watch the jam closely during the second ½ of cooking so that it doesn’t stick and burn.
- Either spoon the jam into glass jars while hot, cover, cool and refrigerate-it will keep about 3 months. Or can the jam through traditional canning methods. Or put in plastic containers and freeze.
Folks, it took 4 years to get 3 small containers of Fig Jam. I’m on a roll. Next year, homemade Fig Newtons!?