Falling in Love with Fresh Figs for Dessert
“Would you like some figs for dessert?”
I was asked following a lovely meal one summer’s evening in Caromb. For someone who had only ever eaten figs in yoghurt this was an opportunity not to be missed!
My fellow diners rose from the table and headed outside. This intrigued me as I had assumed that my host Tancrede would simply disappear into the kitchen and return with a platter of fruit. We wandered across the garden and stopped by a tree where there were some chickens pecking at the ground. Tancrede handed me a fig from the tree, and I hesitated. How does one eat the fruit? His daughter, Ghislaine (more about her later) showed me how to tear open the fruit and consume its contents. The chickens were ready to feast on any uneaten fig skins.
My love affair with the Noire de Caromb began.
I subsequently discovered the fame of these figs and that the trees bear fruit twice a year. Naturally there is a festival for the figs – along with the olives, strawberries and wine – after all it is Provence. Although, I have yet to attend this particular festival I can say that I take full advantage of the amazing fruit. My friend has two huge fig trees in her garden, and each summer presents me with several bags of fresh figs…to do something with.
Eating them is one option, however, I also make fig jam even when it is 30 Celsius in the shade. Luckily, there is a special sugar with pectin to help the jam set quickly. My luggage usually contains several jars, as there is much demand at home. Occasionally, I take some fresh figs home for my neighbour as a ‘thank you’ for keeping an eye on our house over the summer. Another option is to dry the figs; I have yet to try this technique, but I understand that it is very easy. My preference is to freeze some figs until Christmas. The secret is to take them out of the freezer and slice them just before serving with some soft cheese – a brie or camembert. Delicious and WOW factor too!
The challenge with figs, like much fresh produce in France, is to find innovative ways to serve them. My friend is famous in Caromb for her innovation: the Carola pizza. She first served it at a community event to much acclaim. The local pizza van owner realized the immediate appeal of this new addition to his seasonal menu.