“If I should wish a fruit brought to Paradise it would certainly be the fig.” - Prophet Mohammed
We don’t really “do” dessert. We really don’t. If we did we’d probably get a lot more hits from Tastespotting and Foodgawker, since they only seem to post chocolate flavored desserts topped liberally with powdered sugar and sprigs of mint. But bitterness aside, and in a kind of concession to both these photo sites and our own heavy bias towards savory dishes, we decided that it was time to make some sort of dessert, and a summery one at that.
Now, because we’re not bakers of any note, we decided to avoid baking, and indeed, cooking altogether, and simply arranged what nature and the bounty of our local grocery store had provided — namely, figs and greek yogurt decorated with honey and crushed pistachios. About as simple a preparation as you could imagine, right?
Serious About Figs
So, because there’s no recipe to speak of, I need to somehow extend this already overly long post, so here are some interesting tidbits about figs that I certainly wasn’t aware of, and I suspect, if you’re honest, you weren’t either.
Figs are the fruit of the ficus plant, or tree, and if you’ve ever had house plants, you’ll probably have had a ficus. While she was a student, my sister had one that survived heroically for six years on a steady diet of the dregs from cold cups of tea before meeting its tragic Waterloo being pulled out of her third floor window by an adventurous and powerful squirrel.
It is thought that figs (or ficus’) are among the most ancient genuses (genii?) of flowering plants being as much as 80 million years old, so it is little wonder then given the scientific accuracy of the Bible (note: this is irony) that they are described in its pages as the first fruit, and that it is with fig leaves that Adam and Eve hide their nakedness from the good Lord in the book of Genesis. In fact, contributors to the holy book were not the only ones to extol the virtues and practicalities of the fig, Roman poet, Pliny the Elder wrote, “Figs are restorative. They increase the strength of young people, preserve the elderly in better health and make them look younger with fewer wrinkles.”
In the intervening years, a wondrous variety of different kinds of figs have come into being — some through mutation, some by the hand of man, but today in the United States a couple of different kinds of fig predominate. The common or mission, fig is most, err common, and though, with its purple skin and pinky-peach flesh and yellow seeds it is at its best when fresh and ripe, sadly it is most often eaten dried. It was brought to North America by the Spanish and first planted in 1759 at San Diego Mission (hence the name). Later, the Smyrna fig variety arrived in California’s San Joaquin Valley from the eponymous town in modern-day Turkey in 1882 and was renamed Calimyrna later this century in honor of its new homeland. Other relatively easy to find varieties include the Kadota and Adriatic figs, the former is the American varietal of the Italian Dattato and is practically seedless, and the latter, well, is a variety originally from the Croatian coast, and is now very commonly made into, of all things, Fig Newtons.
Other interesting points about figs include: only the female fig is edible, and that figs are not really fruit as such, falling into the category of false fruits, (as indeed do strawberries, and many other berries) because the fig is, in fact, the flower and the seeds it contains are the fruit. Like I said, interesting, right? What? oh…
Anyway, it’s fig season right now through the end of September, so go get yourself some and enjoy them as if they were the first fruit! We have entered this simple and easy recipe in A Southern Grace’s Beat the Heat event since this is a great thing to make when it’s boiling hot outside.
Recipe (if you must have one) serves 4
12 ripe mission/common figs, split and spread as above
6-10oz plain Greek yogurt
2-3 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp crushed pistachios
Assemble all these on plate and enjoy, perhaps with a chilled glass of dessert wine. We think something like a Pedro Ximenez or Moscatell would be rather nice.
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