This isn’t so much a recipe post, but a little celebration of gardening success. A couple of years ago, when I visited Vicky Tewes’s lovely Thistlehair Farm in Union, KY, she had several large fig trees growing in pots around the farmstand. That fall, I found a potted fig at a local nursery and brought it home. It died of overwatering in the garage that winter. Fast forward to last spring, when I again found a potted fig — variety Chicago Hardy — and brought it home. It bore a couple of puny figs last fall, and it didn’t die of overwatering in the garage last winter.
Double-fast-forward to last week, when the tree brought forth maybe four dozen beautifully ripe figs. Chicago Hardy for the win!
In spite of our first-winter failure, I’ve found the fig remarkably easy to grow, once I, um, fig-ured it out. The tree itself is beautiful: shapely, with lovely leaves. It likes sun and heat. Seeking to bolster its output this year, I did some online research and found that figs need ample water and fertilizer in order to produce fat, juicy fruit. We watered the tree every day in the hottest stretch of summer (when, you know, it wasn’t downpouring). I fed it every 3 weeks or so, using Espoma’s Garden-Tone organic fertilizer.
Very early in summer, the tree was full of thumb-sized fruit, green and hard as pebbles. About a week ago, overnight, a number of the fruits turned deep purple. I picked just a couple, but noticed that every day the remaining purple figs were getting bigger and softer. So I waited to pick more, and then … boom! They all got fat and soft and perfectly ripe, all at once. Before the ants and chipmunks could feast on them, I used a paring knife to trim a colander-ful of figs off the tree.
So, what do you do with fresh figs?
Figs, meet your BFF: prosciutto.
Grilled Figs in prosciutto recipe
Here's the very best thing to do with fresh figs: Cut 1 dozen fresh figs in half. Cut 3 pieces of thinly sliced prosciutto, the best you can find, into 4 strips, and wrap each fig half in a piece of prosciutto. Grill over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the prosciutto is a little charred and crispy. Throw a heavy dose of freshly ground black pepper over. Pop one of these little fruity-porky gems in your mouth, and I promise you: You'll go find a fig tree of your own this fall. (Cincinnati peeps, check Natorp's.)