Almost indescribable, the scent of a fig tree full of almost ripe fruit is a fragrance that is both sweet and earthy. Nutmeg had never had the opportunity to enjoy the remarkable smell of the fig tree, before she spent the summer in Provence. The scent is distinctive, almost arresting in the open air, however, in a closed space can be overwhelming.
The fig tree is often referred to as the Common Fig. It grows both cultivated and wild in most countries that are close to the Mediterranean and in many parts of Asia. Some tree varieties will bear fruit up to four times a year.
As old as the hills, the fig has been cultivated and eaten by humans since Neolithic times (9400 – 9200 BC). Symbols of the fig and fig leaf are evident in literature, religion and art. The fig leaf often used to characterize modesty by covering private parts.
Most fig tree varieties produce fruit twice a year; a first crop (breva) in the spring and then a second production in late summer. The second harvest is typically larger, and the fruit is of higher quality. The fig season is brief; the fruit is delicate and does not travel well. Fresh figs can be eaten as is; they provide an exceptionally high source of calcium and fiber. Often figs are dried or made into jam due to the rate at which they perish.
The fig tree does flower, however, the blossom is not visible as it is inverted and develops inside the fruit. Turkey ranks highest in global production at about 26%. Not surprising there is little to no production in Canada, due to the climate.
In the end, the Common Fig is uncommon in its ability to produce more than once in a season, the delicate fruit and the glorious scent of the tree. Nutmeg wishes that she could “bottle” the fragrance for this post. Instead, she hopes you enjoyed the photos and the recipe (below).
- ½ Cup Walnuts, shelled
- 1 Cup Flour
- ⅓ Cup White Sugar
- 1½ Teaspoons Grated Orange Zest
- ⅛ Teaspoon Salt
- ¼ Cup Walnut Oil, or use vegetable oil
- 1 Cup Dried Figs, coarsely chopped
- ⅔ Cup Port Wine
- ¼ Cup Orange Juice
- 2 Tablespoons Honey
- ½ Teaspoon Cardamom, ground
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- On a baking sheet, toast the walnuts for 7 minutes, or until crisp and fragrant
- Leave the oven on
- Transfer the walnuts to a food processor
- Add the flour, sugar, orange zest, and salt, and process until finely ground
- Add the walnut oil and process until evenly moistened
- Press the mixture into an 8-inch square metal baking pan
- With the tines of a fork, prick the dough all over
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until the crust is crisp
- Cool the crust on a wire rack
- Leave the oven on
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the figs, port, orange juice, honey, and cardamom
- Bring to a simmer
- Cover and cook until the figs are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.
- Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process to a smooth paste
- Spread the fig paste over the cooled crust and put back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes to set the topping
- Cool in the pan on a wire rack before cutting into squares