Cultivated Days | It is said
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It is said

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It is said that figs are the sweetest fruit, and that perhaps the fig and not the apple tempted Eve. It was after all the leaves of a fig tree that she chose for cover. I too would be more tempted by a sultry fig, its thin purple-black skin stretched taught over a teardrop sac of flowers forever concealed from the light of day. How do you know when a fig is ripe? They’ll shed milky tears if you pluck them before their time.

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Many years ago I planted a tiny fig tree in the yard. That poor tree has been moved more times than I can remember as I imagined, and then reimagined the landscape outside our door. It has survived, but never thrived. Whole summers passed when it drank in the sun through only a single lobate leaf.

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Fresh figs are succulent, bursting with juicy red flesh and the crunch of so many tiny seeds. Poached in spiced white wine their sweetness mellows against piquant pepper, cardamom, and fragrant laurel. It goes like this: set 6-8 whole ripe figs in a pan with half a cup of raw sugar dissolved in two cups of white wine. Add a few whole black peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, two whole star anise and three cardamom pods. Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, remove the figs and continue to reduce the wine and spices to syrup. Meanwhile give a couple of slices down into the flesh of the figs, as though to quarter them, but not all the way through. This will help your guests eat them with ease. Drizzle the syrup over them, into the cuts you’ve made, and around the base. As they to cool to room temperature set a fire if it’s chilly enough. Light a candle, pour a small shot of whisky for sipping, and enjoy the spiced sweetness of late autumn, before the icy breath of winter blows in.

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4 Comments
  • Elizabeth Andoh
    Posted at 14:51h, 30 October

    I ADORE fresh figs, just peeled and with a squirt of lemon or lime juice (somehow the sour citrus makes them sweeter…) or poached in a sake-laced sugar syrup and topped with sweet light miso (again, the slightly salty miso draws attention to the fruit’s naturally sweet disposition). Hanako’s plates are perfect for showcasing the fruit!

    • Prairie
      Posted at 00:46h, 04 November

      Elizabeth, what amazing ideas! Sake instead of wine. And topped with miso – I would have never thought of that but now I must try it!

  • Catherine
    Posted at 23:33h, 30 October

    Figs and whisky–I never thought of that combination before, but as soon as I read it in your article, I thought, Of course!I like to dip figs in water, then granulated sugar and put them in a hot oven. The sugar melts and forms a figgy syrup, with a few crunchy crystals still clinging to the figs.

    • Prairie
      Posted at 00:45h, 04 November

      Catherine, your baked figs in figgy syrup sounds divine! I’m going to try that… with whiskey.