The early figs are here! There are never many of them, but the first fig crop of the season is always a welcome sight.
Known as ‘ficcazana’ in Calabrian dialect and ‘fioroni’ in the dialect of Basilicata, these are figs that grow on the end of branches that developed during the growing season last year. They ripen about a month before the main crop. If your tree needed to be protected over the winter, you may have seen these figs already on the tree when you uncovered it in the spring. They may have been just a tiny bump near the end of the branch if the branch hadn’t been pruned before covering.
Not all fig varieties have a first crop. Some have only the main crop which will be ready at the end of August and into September. These figs are developing on growth that the tree has put out this season.
I stopped by Tommasina’s yesterday and found several figs ripening on her many trees. She said she has already picked a few, but the birds have also helped themselves to several.
As the fruit ripens, preventing birds from getting to them first is a challenge. Figs will not mature once picked so they must be allowed to ripen on the tree and not on your countertop. Waiting and watching those few precious figs ripen, knowing all the while that the birds are watching and waiting too can be nerve wracking.
Tommasina draped sage leaves over this ripening fig in an attempt to hide it from hungry birds.
She often hangs shiny ribbons, children’s pinwheels, or aluminum pie plates in the trees to ward off the birds.
Tony Verbene covers his huge trees with netting.
Michele admitted to picking the first of his early figs a day or two before it was fully mature because he couldn’t stand the thought of finding that a bird had gotten to it before him. He said it was delicious.
There seems to be a debate about the quality of these first figs. Some claim that they aren’t as sweet and tasty as the main crop, while others claim they are the best figs of the season. The latter belief may be due in part because it’s been so long since tasting a fresh, warm fig plucked straight from the tree.
Later in the season when you’ve had your fill of fresh figs (if that’s even possible), try the recipe below. Enjoy it again in mid-winter by freezing figs. Just wrap whole, unwashed figs in aluminum foil and put in small freezer bags in freezer.
FIG COMPOTE WITH BRIE AND SLICED ALMONDS
Recipe from Gerri Corvino, Pittsburgh PA
You will need:
15 large figs or 24 small figs mashed (skins on/stems off)
¼ c sliced almonds for filling, PLUS an extra handful for topping
3 T Amaretto
Puff Pastry (2 sheets)
10 slices of Brie Cheese
2 small (6-8 in) round baking dishes prepared with Pam Baking Spray
Combine for filling: Figs mashed with skins on, sliced almonds, and 3 T Amaretto in a pan and cook on low heat for 10 minutes.
Line the bottom of prepared pans with puff pastry, one sheet per pan. In layers, add 5 slices of Brie for each pie, divide equally and spread fig mixture on top of Brie, sprinkle a layer of extra almonds on top.
Fold pastry to center with a small opening. (You will be able to see some of the almonds.)
Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or till lightly brown.