It is almost the end of the fig season. In France, the fig season normally begins around the end of August and finishes around the beginning of October and during this time succulent fresh figs are in abundance in the markets, ranging from deep regal ‘plum’ coloured, to dusky ‘blush’ rose, muted blue/green and bright ‘lime’ varieties. At this time of year entire programs on the television are dedicated to what to do with various types of fig!
The fig is a sensual, mystical fruit, it hides its flower within, and only when bitten or cut into does it reveal its gorgeous lush red or crisp white bloom.
I do not know why, but these beautiful fruits always evoke in me an image of a still life painting, and of times gone by. I can imagine ladies and gentlemen in fine Tudor dress taking figs from a large fruit bowl containing also grapes, late summer berries and plums.
The fig tree is thought to be one of the first ‘cultivated’ fruits in the world and indeed it was there right at the beginning of time in the ‘Garden of Eden’ where Adam and Eve were said to have covered themselves with fig leaves. And the wolf that nurtured Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, was said to have rested beneath the shade of a fig tree.
I think that if I had been in the Garden of Eden, I would have been contented to eat the figs and would not have been tempted by the apple………..
As I work as a language teacher, and dabble a bit in writing, naturally I am fascinated by language, including the origins of sayings and expressions. I have discovered the expression ‘I don’t give a fig’ comes from the Spanish ‘fico’ (fig) the word used to describe a rude gesture that was very popular in Shakespeare’s time which involves placing your thumb between your first and second fingers and showing it to someone in the same manner that the ‘V’ sign is used today! I think that this should be changed to ‘I don’t give a plum’ as figs are far too noble to be used in this manner!
On a more positive note, figs have many health benefits they are a rich source of fibre, contain a high level of potassium, are rich in antioxidants and are thought to:-
Lower blood pressure
Reduce triglycerides in the blood
Inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells
Protect against Macular degeneration
Fruit fibre is also thought to protect women from post-menopausal breast cancer.
It is not only the fruit that has health properties – the leaf of the fig tree is thought to stabilise blood sugar and reduce the requirements for insulin in diabetes.
Figs are so versatile – I think that I might write a cook book dedicated entirely to them! They are great in a salad with ‘Parma ham’ or indeed ‘jambon de Bayone’ (see my post forMelon et de Bayonne). They make wonderful tarts (Fig and Frangipan tart coming soon!). They are equally good raw or baked in the oven and drizzled with honey and topped with crème fraiche (see Mila at milkandabun’s post for Figs baked in Ricotta cream)
And of course are great in a fruit salad, as this one with figs, black grapes, some late raspberries and purple plums. I made a dressing from Mandarin infused olive oil and fruity pomegranate condiment (from Oliviers & Co if you are lucky enough to have access to one of their wonderful shops) and added some finely chopped fresh mint leaves, and left all the ingredients to get to know each other, covered with cling film in the fridge for a couple of hours. I served just as it was, no crème, I wanted to savour the last flavours of the sun…………..
There is nothing more attractive that a freshly cut fig with its ruby mouth open ready to receive a drizzle of honey and crème fraiche