It’s fig season on Farthing Street.
This annual harvest is accompanied by a sense of urgency because there is always a very short window of time, sometimes just a day or two, when a fig is truly ripe and ready for consumption. Left on the tree too long, the fig will ferment and become food for wasps and bees.
For weeks I had waited, somewhat impatiently, for that special moment. Shawnna would come home from work and find me outside, my face buried in the branches of the tree, deftly squeezing the bulbous fruit for signs of “mushiness.” The mushiness means that the fig is sweet and juicy.
When that glorious day arrived, we had so many figs that I filled up a mixing bowl from the kitchen. I decided to try a recipe from our mediterranean cookbook, which involves wrapping the figs with pancetta and bay leaves, and then cooking them in the oven.
For you vegetarians or those of you on a kosher diet, pancetta is pork belly meat that is salt-cured and contains peppercorns. It is heavenly. I was caught off guard when I took it out of the package. It smelled so good that for a minute I lost the ability to concentrate. Fortunately I had already halved the figs, and the rest was easy. I gently wrapped my figs in the strips of pancetta, like little pigs-in-blankets. The bay leaves were the finishing touch. I placed them in a baking dish and set in the oven at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Shawnna and I couldn’t get enough of them. Figs in the raw are tasty enough, but this was a culinary delight.
Fig trees, which thrive in mediterranean climates, are drought-tolerant plants. That means you don’t have to water them much, provided your yard gets a lot of sun. If you live in the Triangle, consider getting one. The leaves are tough and leathery (you may recall that Adam and Eve, in their postlapsarian shame, made clothes out of them.) I’ve noticed that the leaves seem to be impervious to the pests that like to chew up our fruit trees.
Plant a fig tree this fall! You won’t regret it.