"Why are we surprised when fig trees bear figs?" Margaret Titzel
Although I grew up eating figs straight from the fig trees in our backyard, I am still amazed one can grow figs in New Jersey.
It's pleasant to conjure up visions of the sunny Mediterranean countryside dotted with fig trees. But honestly, my most vivid memories are of the fig trees in the Italian-American neighborhoods standing straight bundled up to ward off the onslaught of winter weather. Sometimes they were black tar-paper wrapped monoliths in a front yard; and at other times they stood in gardens wrapped in burlap or bent in half and buried for the winter. Italian men would go to great lengths to assure that their trees would survive to bear fruit for another year.
John started our fig tree from a shoot cut from one of my father's trees. The shoot was wrapped up and placed in the basement refrigerator to lie dormant over the winter. Once spring came, the shoot was planted, fed, watered and pampered. It grew, but never produced a great yield. When we moved, the tree came with us. We have very rocky soil, and the tree was moved a couple of times before we found the spot that was agreeable to the tree.
Fresh figs are quite perishable, but we are eating them as fast as we can. Mostly, we eat them out of hand, but I have been known to top grilled pizza dough with some grilled figs, prosciutto and arugula. Delicious. Or to grill figs, drizzle with honey and serve topped with a dollop of fresh ricotta. Or to stuff perfectly ripe figs with goat cheese or Gorgonzola. Or I am dying to try this recipe.
Yesterday I had just enough ripe figs to try my hand at a very easy fig jam. I sliced a little more than one cup of figs then crushed them with a little more than 2/3 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. I let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes until it became syrupy. I then brought the mixture to a boil, and simmered it for about 5 minutes until it thickened slightly and the figs were soft.
I poured the mixture into a clean crock to cool before storing in the refrigerator.
Someone told us that it takes five years for the fig tree to bear fruit. This year my father will be gone five years, and I am sure that he would be very happy to know that we are enjoying figs from his tree!