What to do with a too Big Fig tree.
My first experience with a fig tree was in Italy—in a pre-Francis Maye’s Cortona. I lived on the side of a hill called Tecognano that looked over the still sleeping Bramasole and Cortona’s Etruscan wall silhouette. This first love was a willowy, upward lifting fig tree that grew on the edge of the gravel path I took each day. I’d pluck a pale green fruit, open it to admire the rosy-seeded flesh, and then… plop it in my mouth and walk on. By the time I had chewed, savored and swallowed, I’d be twenty feet away. Each time I’d stop, turn back and pick a few more figs for my walk. One was never enough.
Moving to France a few years later, I planted the first of my own fig trees here at Camont--a twiggy sapling gift from my Italian neighbors, the Sabadini’s (one more thing to be grateful for… Merci!). This is that tree. It grew and grew and grew until now it shelters a colony of song birds, shades the beehive wood oven, and gives a seemingly limitless supply of violet-tinged, super sweet, green figs.
The first figs that ripen at the very end of August are fat as tomatoes. They are piled in an old cassoulet bowl on the terrace table and eaten by passing hands. The next batch comes in dozens and I start to scramble to pick them before they litter the ground and attract the sweet eating yellowjackets. It is a losing battle and one I gladly concede to the nasty beasts. But before I give in, I have gathered dozens of dozens pale pink fleshed figs to cook.
fig ice cream
pancetta-wrapped, goat’s cheese-stuffed grilled figs
figs and walnut paste
figgy bbq sauce… my favorite.
I wash down the outside kitchen table, plug in the induction burner and get to work. Jars, bowls and wooden spoons are soon covered with figgy stickiness and Bacon is sniffing the drips onto his under.the.table doghouse. From the first to the last, this list of fig goodness barely prunes the Fig Tree’s bounty. I’ll pluck and dry some in the oven, too, then add walnuts and anise seed before powdering with sugar like I was taught in Tecognano a lifetime ago by tiny Tita at Col de Leccio—my first Fig experience of eating local and the beginning of a love affair with the Keeping Kitchen.
Simple Fig Jam with vanilla & rum for the French Kitchen Larder