A friend's elderly father, Matti, loved to tell us tales about his youth on the Adriatic coast. One day, he told how his family used to layer figs among wild bay tree leaves, put them out in the sun to dry and thus preserve them for winter. How romantic is that? I could almost smell the aromatic bay and honey sweet figs.
Figs are such evocative fruits for all sorts of reasons and have been the subject of many biblical and historical references.
From the lost innocence allusion of the story of Adam and Eve, often depicted covering themselves with fig leaves, the fruit has been been used in sensual references by many writers, most famously DH Lawrence. They represent things that we cannot mention in a family newspaper. They are luscious and exotic.
Matti arrived this week with a bucket of figs from his tree. He is harvesting ripe purple fruit ready to eat. It is likely that many trees in other home gardens are also dripping with figs. Given our long hot dry summer, the fruit may be smaller than usual, but they will still be sweet as.
Probably they will be Black Mission or Brown Turkish figs, dark-skinned and pink inside. These are the most common varieties found here. Commercially-grown figs will be available in the supermarket in the next month or so.
So if you know of a local fig tree, beat the birds and go and harvest a bucketful. Perfect in their tree-plucked form, they don't need much more preparation than a wash.
To eat them, try some of these ideas.
Pass Around Figs
• Wrap some streaky bacon around a whole small fig, seal it with a tooth pick and grill in a hot oven until the bacon sizzles.
• Slice the figs in half and top with a little creamy blue cheese.
• Make some crostini and layer with fig slices. Crumble feta over the top and grill.
The saltiness of the cheeses and bacon make a great foil to the sweet fig.