I planted my fig tree about seven years ago, to replace an ancient apple tree which was the “apple of my eye”. She (or he?) was such a lovely part of the garden, planted at least eighty years ago by the nuns who once occupied On Rue Tatin. She was just the perfect sort of tree for climbing, and whenever I couldn’t rouse Fiona, I’d find her nestled in the apple tree’s snaky, comfy branches.
The Tree that Ate the World
Today, the fig tree – of uncertain variety though it resembles a Desert King (Ficus carica) – has taken over, and I’m not using a figure of speech when I write that. If I were to let it, I believe the fig tree would soon eat the entire garden and then start on the church for dessert. So, this winter she will get a trim. But for now, I’m thrilled at her vigor, for it has meant many, many kilos of figs for jam, tarts, and eating out of hand. What makes this years’ harvest extra special is that the tree took at least five years to produce even one little fig, and I despaired. Had I known about this years’ avalanche I wouldn’t have, of course, but I’m no fig tree expert, just a novice delighted with the harvest. I hear many people with fig trees bemoan the birds who eat up the fruit, but I’m saved from that. My neighborhood birds are way too busy flying in and out of the carved arches of Notre Dame de Louviers to care about a fig or two.
When faced with nearly 10 pounds (5kg) of figs after a Sunday morning harvest, I did what my grandmother would do, and I made jam, according to the memory of her recipe. She was a subtle, creative cook and her fig jam always included thinly sliced lemons and pieces of candied ginger. I loved it as a child, and I love it just as much today because both the lemon and the ginger enhance the flavor of the figs, giving them added grandeur of flavor.figs
Figs are Easy
Figs are so easy to cook with, too. If they’re slightly overripe you want to check them in case a fly has gotten there before you, but that’s easy to do. Just snip off the stem end and cut the fig in half, then in quarters if they’re large. Do a quick inspection and move along. If you like large pieces of fig, no more cutting or slicing is required. If you prefer small pieces, then dice away.
As for sugar, it’s up to you but I like the sweetness of this recipe. The secret here, though, is adding fresh lemon juice at the end of the cooking time. It helps the jam set, a trick I learned from many a French farm cook. Try it in all your jam recipes where a bit of tart will also heighten the flavor.
Here is the recipe, and in most fig-friendly climates you’ve still got plenty of time to make this. Enjoy it, and let me know all about it!