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Fun With The Fig Harvest

You wouldn’t think it possible that here in North Northumberland you can actually grow figs. I suppose most of us associate figs with a more Mediterranean climate. Our fig tree was bought as a cutting at a garden show some years ago. It is planted in a sunny sheltered spot between the conservatory and a garage and it has now grown to cover the side of the garage with it’s large lobed leaves.

I’d noticed that there were a lot of fruit and they were starting to ripen so K picked a large bowlful – almost 4 pounds weight, and almost half were ripe and ready or almost ready to eat. I’ve really enjoyed eating them – they are absolutely delicious – I even added them to a smoothie,

I wondered if it would be possible to ripen the rest. I once managed to get all our green tomatoes to turn red at the end of the season by putting them in a drawer with a ripening banana. The banana produces a gas, ethylene, which accelerates the ripening process. After a bit of research I discovered that this would work with the fruit that was just starting to ripen , but not the hard green fruits. I did however find several variations on a Turkish recipe for preserved unripe figs.

It took quite a while to prepare the unripe fruits for this. They contain a bitter white sap, that somehow disappears as the fruit ripens, so it had to be extracted so it wouldn’t spoil the flavour. The sap is also an irritant. Even though I don’t have particularly sensitive skin, my hands were itching after a few minutes of preparing the fruit. If I do this again I will definitely wear gloves!

I began by removing any blemished patches of skin and cutting off the fruit stems, then piercing the base of each one with a skewer.

To remove the sap put the figs in a large pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, then drain and cool under running water.

When cool enough to handle I squeezed each fig to remove as much liquid as possible. I then repeated the whole process, by which time there was no more bitterness when a tasted a piece (you can repeat the process again if necessary) I dissolved 1000g sugar in a litre of water over a low heat and added the figs along with about 4 cloves and the juice and rind of a lemon. I brought the mixture to the boil, simmered for five minutes then, picking them out with a slotted spoon, packed the fruit into sterilised jars, topped up with the hot syrup and sealed the lids.

The syrup was darker than I’d intended as I only had golden caster sugar left after using the white sugar in all my other preserving this week! The fruit and syrup can be used on top of ice cream, or served on toast or pancakes or with yoghurt. I think it will taste better when the flavours have developed for a few days, so I’ll try it then and report back!

Have you tried fresh figs?