A FIG TREE GROWS IN MANHATTAN

Divinely honeyed, jammy and sticky sweet, fresh ripe figs are a tantalizing fruit that is stunning, both visually and in taste. Due to the fruit's highly perishable nature, figs are a scarce commodity outside of California where it is predominantly grown, making it an object of both tremendous intrigue and mystery.




If you have not tasted a fresh ripe fig, it does not taste like 1) a fig newton or 2) the dried version. Also, if you find figs in grocery stores outside of California, the fruit was probably picked under-ripe to ensure survival through distant transport. And because figs do not ripen after picking, the result is often a specimen that tastes plain, starchy and gluey.


Nonetheless there is hope for the adventurous foodie. Even if you are located far from the west coast, there may still be opportunities to taste a ripe farm fresh fig; although it will probably require extensive research, and extra planning. In the northeast, one notable farmer, Mike Kandefer of Urban Oaks was featured in the New York Times on his figs and was quoted, “People go crazy...Most weeks I don’t have enough to go around, between the restaurants and the pre-orders.”


So it goes without saying that some people, including myself, go through tremendous lengths to secure a fresh supply of tree-ripened figs each year. Although, it may sound crazy, I have a fig tree growing in our small Manhattan apartment. Yes indeed, a fig tree grows in Manhattan. If you have the time, space and similar intense motivation, you may consider growing your own fig tree to secure a personal stash.

In northern New Jersey, Bill Muzychko of Bill's Figs offers several varieties of fig trees for purchase. I recently visited his farm where he grows in excess of 130 varieties, some of which were so impressively prolific that it looked as if the fruit outnumbered the quantity of leaves on the tree.


On my recent visit to San Francisco, I happily caught the tail end of fig season, and was in utter heaven sampling the many different varieties of figs that were painstakingly harvested at their peak. All very good and each uniquely nuanced.

Black Mission
Black mission is a common favorite of fig lovers because of its honey sweetness. These figs are generally small to medium sized and sometimes have cracked skin because of the high sugar content.
Brown Turkey
This medium to large brownish-purple variety is slightly milder in sweetness than the Black Mission, nonetheless has excellent flavor.
Melissa
Melissa is a rare variety that is just as sweet as the brown turkey.

Kadota

Of the green figs, I think kadotas are among the most well-known. Green figs tend to be more fragile than purple figs, and from my experience sweeter.

Adriatic

This is another syrupy sweet fig that has amazing flavors, and gorgeous strawberry pink flesh.

Although, I think that fresh figs are best eaten in its natural state, there are a few other favorite ways that I like to eat this fruit. I like to quarter figs and toss them into salads with crumbled blue cheese, or top onto pizza where the sugar gets beautifully caramelized.


Finally, if I am looking to impress guests, I stuff figs with fresh goat cheese and top with prosciutto, as outlined in the recipe below. This is a simple recipe for an appetizer that beautifully contrasts and combines three very distinct and delicate flavors: sweet, tangy and salty.


FIGS STUFFED WITH GOAT CHEESE AND PROSCIUTTO

Ingredients

8 large brown turkey figs
1/2 cup goat cheese
2 ounces prosciutto

Method
1. Rinse and dry the brown figs. Using a paring knife core a 1-inch diameter cone from the bottom of the fig.


2. Using a butter knife, stuff the fig with goat cheese.


3. Take a 1-inch by 5-inch strip of prosciutto, roll it up and stick it onto the goat cheese. Once the rolled prosciutto is secure, fashion the outer layer so it may resemble a rose bud.

Serves 4

4 comments:

Chow and Chatter said...

wow this is so cool love this post I have a small fig tree but the figs are staying green and not ripping any ideas?

Rebecca

Fresh Local and Best said...

Thank you for your comment. This is my first year growing a fig tree on the east coast, so I have limited knowledge on forcing figs to ripen. When I visited Bill Muzychko's farm, he still had a fair amount unripe and very green figs, but told me that the figs in this region have another few weeks to a month to ripen.

Have you tried gently rubbing olive oil on the figs? Please see the following discussion on forcing figs to ripen:
http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/fig/msg0423490919365.html

I hope this helps!

Christine

Chow and Chatter said...

oh thanks christine there are only two wee ones, but I'll try i love your blog and NYC Rebecca

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