As the hot, humid days of August move in, the fig trees all over the farm are bending with the weight of figs - green figs, gold figs, black figs, brown figs....
I'm in my usual race against the ants and wasps, dashing out to pick all the ripest ones before the rains split them or a mockingbird ruins their perfection with a well-placed, greedy couple of pecks. You should hear the resident "Mocker" grousing as I move through the bushes picking figs. I feel like the interloper and perhaps - certainly in his eyes - I am.
Not all of the figs ripen at the same time. The small, brown Celeste came on early this summer, in July, along with the Italian Golden Honey. Now some Alma Gold are fattening up and the dark Natalina, Chicago Hardy, and San Piero all are ripening. The true greens, like the Strawberry Verte, and the beautiful striped Panache are still pretty hard. I'm grateful to have an extended harvest. The trusty Almas will continue to set and ripen figs, more and more brown and golden, well into October. Even so, right now we are overwhelmed and so the dehydrator (best $5 I've ever spent at a garage sale) is on the counter top loaded with drying figs. Deeeee-lish!
Rob makes this Chicken Marbella recipe using the dried figs in place of the pitted prunes. We always demand that more dried figs be added because they are soooo delicious and figs hold up much, much better than prunes during the cooking. Although I no longer eat chicken much, if at all, I can put the sauce for this dish on anything and adore it. You could probably eat shoe leather made this way.
It's fascinating, isn't it, how we wait and wait in anticipation of each kind of harvest... and then feel almost overwhelmed when all of the fresh foods suddenly ripen. I am not my grandmother's woman, I find it difficult to station myself in front of a hot stove canning and preserving all these figs and tomatoes and peppers and beans.... but I do try to dry many fruits and vegetables and freeze some of the others. We are not sugary jam/jelly/preserve eaters, so our harvest must be stored in more practical ways. My biggest regret is that the figs tolerate so little handling - it's very difficult to bring them in for the Food Bank or any other venue where they have to be packed as fresh fruit. Ah, well. At least we and our friends and family are eating very well. We'll pine for this abundance of fresh produce next winter... but I"ll be ready with my plump, sweet dried figs to make the holiday Figgy Pudding! ( I should save this for December, I know, but who can resist this recipe? Think cold thoughts and start humming "We Wish You A Merry Christmas"!)