Sunny Slope Orchard

Sunny Slope Orchard
In the coast range foothills overlooking the Sacramento Valley

Monday, September 6, 2010

Are you a Philosykos?

Ripe figs show splits in the skin
Every inhabitant of Athens was said to be a philosykos, literally translated a friend of the fig. Mithridates, the Greek King of Pontus, heralded figs as an antidote for all ailments, instructing his physicians to use them medicinally and ordering his citizens to consume figs daily. And Pliny, the Roman writer (52-113 AD) said, “Figs are restorative. They increase the strength of young people, preserve the elderly in better health and make them look younger with fewer wrinkles.”

So if you need a reason to eat figs, there you have it. But those already familiar with the fruit will know their delicious flavor is reason enough. But as with most fruits you will seldom find decent flavor in grocery store figs. Happily though, fig trees abound in California backyards and grow wild along many local roads and creeks. The secret is to pick them ripe - the common Black Mission fig should be black almost all the way to the top. They should be very soft with the stem becoming limp. Another sign of ripeness is splitting of the skins.

Our second crop of figs is now winding down. We only have two trees, and most of our crop goes to our devoted Berkeley restaurant chefs who can never seem to get enough. We dry most of our seconds in our solar dryer for winter snacking and off-season restaurant sales. But keep your eyes peeled as you drive local streets and roads and you should have no trouble finding trees dripping with unwanted figs this time of year.

Fig Recipes
For those who have not tried cooking with figs we offer a couple of our favorite recipes here, one a main course side dish and one a dessert. Our restaurant clients often use figs as part of savory dishes. Grilled or roasted figs make happy companions to pork, fowl, and cheeses on the dinner plate.

Grilled Figs Wrapped in Bacon - While grilling portobello mushrooms recently, we threw some of these on the fire. The result: amazing! About the time the bacon is cooked the figs assume a rich jam-like sweetness infused with bacon flavor. Use sturdy toothpicks soaked in water for two hours so they don't burn up. A recipe from Alice Waters
Wrap figs with a strip of bacon,
skewer with a toothpick
Grill until bacon is soft cooked,
turning constantly,about 10 minutes

Arrange thin fig slices on a simple crust
Fig Gallette - This is a very simple, fast and delicious dessert. We thank Oprah for printing this recipe in her magazine. Here is the link:

We like to add some almonds, slivered or sliced, on top of the figs.

The finished product!