Figs are commonly underrated but have a lot to offer. Here are many ways to enjoy them, as well as how to get hold of them or grow your own.
Having a backyard fig tree is a luxury, but you may be able to forage in your neighbourhood or find a place that allows seasonal picking.
This fruit is surprisingly fragile and it's easy to split the skin when picking, and due to their softness and short life span, these are not often available in supermarkets especially out of season. I feel very privileged to have inherited a well established fig tree in our front yard when we moved house 18 months ago, and it's definitely changed my attitude towards this gorgeous fruit. We have told our neighbours to help themselves and try to give away what we can't eat ourselves. As much as the kids love gardening, they are pretty uninterested in picking the fruit so far, but our Labrador loves to pitch in and eat any he can grab off the ground.
This season, we had a huge crop, so I made it a mission to locate some great recipes to enjoy them before the abundance ended. Our figs are not super sweet and do taste better when incorporated into yummy recipes. (For sweet figs, I steal from my parents garden!).
Figs are high in fibre and contain essential vitamins like C & A, as well as being a good source of potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium and more. After so many years of the dairy industry marketing that has convinced most of the population that cow's milk is essential to our diets, many people don't realise that you can in fact obtain enough calcium without ever consuming it. Of course, you will need more than figs to meet your requirements.
A little on Growing Figs
I can't claim to know very much about growing or taking care of fig trees as ours is so well established, all we need do is pick the fruit and occasionally prune. To find out more about some of the varieties available in Australia, along with details on how to grow, prune and successfully propagate - check out this page from The Food Forest. If you haven't heard of these guys, I totally recommend taking a look at the stuff they do. They are located in Gawler, South Australia and their farm is a result of many years of sustainable farming and permaculture. They offer courses and workshops and have a wealth of information to share.
You should allow figs to ripen before picking and you may need to check daily to prevent them being gobbled up by birds and ants. Make sure to clear away and compost any over ripened figs that have fallen near the tree to prevent attracting rodents. Ripe figs should be eaten within a few days of picking and can be stored in the fridge to make them last a tiny bit longer. When harvesting from your tree, remember to be gentle so as not to tear the fig open.
How to Get Figs
If you don't have your own fig tree, you're certainly not alone, but there are other options. Supermarkets, farmers markets and community gardens are all great places to start and of course ask your friends and family. Walking around your neighbourhood can uncover some hidden gems too, and you may be able to ask the tree owners if they mind you picking a few for yourself. Always ask first, you never know if they have plans for their crop and you certainly wouldn't want to invade their privacy.
Other options can include locating and visiting your nearest Grow Free Cart. These carts are community based where you can find all sorts of locally grown foods, seeds and other goodies to swap and share. Their motto is to take what you need and leave what you can. There are a lot of these in South Australia and a few popping up over Australia, so if there isn't one nearby you might even want to start one.
Another option for South Aussies is to visit the Glen Ewin Estate in the Adelaide Hills, who have been growing figs for 150 years! You can pick as many fresh figs as you like during February to March each year (check pricing and details here, and remember to call ahead).
Another online resource to check out is Ripe Near Me, a website dedicated to helping people find and share locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs for giving away or swapping.
Facebook, may not be the first avenue that comes to mind, but there are a lot of local groups dedicated to foraging and sharing fruit and veg, so it's well worth looking for one near you to help you locate seasonal produce in your area.
Hot to Eat Figs
Once you have some figs, you will want to start eating them right away. Many varieties are delicious just as they are, and there are loads of recipes to try out too. And don't think for a minute that you can only make sweet things from this fruit. I've listed a few of my top picks here to get you started, as you will see below, you can eat these for breakfast, lunch and dinner and even make cocktails.
I hope you find yourself some figs to enjoy before the season ends. And if you're not from down under, you can start making plans for the upcoming season.
What's your favourite way to enjoy figs? If you have a great recipe, feel free to add them in the comments.