Ah, these things which evoke the end of summer in Provence! Golden fields, harvest, dusty roads, incredible heat and dry air. And ripe figs!
I come from a country where ripe figs were almost non existent and when we moved to Provence one of the most memorable things along with the smell of pine trees was the taste of a ripe fig. It was strange to me why many people don't even bother to pick them in their own gardens! Anyway, we were lucky to find a farmhouse surrounded by fig trees and we are expecting a good harvest.
Did you know that figs are the fruit of the ficus tree, which is part of the mulberry family (Moraceae) and that they are one of the world’s oldest trees? The fig tree can be traced back to the earliest historical documents and features prominently in the Bible. Figs are native to the Middle East and Mediterranean and were held in such high regard by the Greeks that laws were once created to prevent their export. Figs have a unique, sweet taste and before the days of refined sugars, they were often used as a sweetener. Fresh figs are delicate and perishable, so they are often dried to preserve. This way they can be enjoyed all year round.
Health Benefits of Figs
Figs are high in natural sugars, minerals and soluble fiber. Many of us eat too little fiber - the average adult only eats 15 grams of fiber per day (women need 25 grams and men 38 grams fiber per day)! Figs are also rich in minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper and are a good source of antioxidant vitamins A, E and K.
Recipes featuring Figs
Figs are delicate, and are usually best eaten within one to two days after harvest. Dried figs will keep for much longer. When purchasing dried figs, ensure that they are free from mold and are soft. Dried figs can be kept in a cool, dark place or in the fridge.
My favorite recipe featuring figs is very simple: Cut 6 figs in half and preheat a skillet. Butter the skillet with butter or ghee and put with the 'flesh' side on the skillet. Roast on high heat for three minutes and enjoy! When you cut the figs in an X-shape and fill it with goat cheese, you'll get a French style 'apero' (food served before the main course).
Cashew cream with figs
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews soaked in water overnight 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or one vanilla bean 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup maple syrup 1 tablespoon of coconut oil 10 fresh figs, cut in half 1/3 cup unsweetened, coconut shreds, lightly toasted shaved dark chocolate as decoration
In a blender place cashews, vanilla, salt, syrup and coconut oil and blend at high speed, until completely smooth. Meanwhile, slice figs and toast coconut shreds in a medium, un–greased pan for about 4 minutes, until coconut is slightly brown. When serving, spread cashew cream on a platter, arrange fruit on top of cashew cream and finish with toasted coconut and shaved chocolate. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Late Summer Salad with Figs and Tomatoes
Figs can also be paired with tomatoes and mozzarella for an easy summer salad.
Cut 4 tomatoes in quarters and 12 figs in half. Cut mozzarella in slices. For dressing, mix 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon of honey and a pinch of salt with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Assemble and garnish with mint or oregano leaves.