A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS by PAMELA ALLARDICE

Recently,  a girlfriend brought over perhaps five pounds of figs from her own fig tree. I sorted them and ground in a blender the ones too ripe or split for anything except grinding up and freezing in plastic containers, to do something with later on. I melted sugar and later added water to it, to make candied figs. The recipe I am following is a 3-day project, letting the figs cook slowly and then resting for another 24 hours. I think I should have enough for about 4 pints jars.

Throughout the nineteen years that Bob and I lived in the Arleta House, we pretty much took for granted the three fig trees out in the front yard, near the fence.  Whenever the trees were bursting with figs, it was a race between us and the birds who was going to get the most figs.  Bob would wear a long sleeved flannel shirt when tackling the fig trees–the leaves on the fig trees can make you itch.

I’ve been up in the high desert for almost ten years now and I have regretted heart and soul that we didn’t try to take some of the little volunteer fig trees that would come up entirely on their own and plant them up here. I know now, thanks to a girlfriend with a fig tree, that figs DO grow up here in the desert (it stands to reason–fig trees are one of those crops that do well in the desert regions south of Los Angeles

Then I came across the following article that I posted a few years ago:

A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS BY PAMELA ALLARDICE, ILLUSTRATIONS BY SIMONE BENNETT

Some years ago, I wrote an article on figs for the University of California Extension Service which, at that time, published a newsletter…the article was “everything I ever wanted to know—and share with the world” on the subject of figs. Oddly, I had titled it, “Who Gives a Fig?”

So, you ask, “What’s the point?” the point is, I had just finished reading (and salivating over) a book newly published in 1994 titled “A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS…TRADITIONS, MYTHS, AND MOUTH-WATERING RECIPES” published by Hill of Content, in 1993. The very first chapter was titled “Who Gives a Fig?” and contains pages and pages (about twenty—I counted) on the history of figs throughout the world, including biblical quotes and superstitions (i.e., the Italians say fig leaves are unlucky and believe that evil spirits lurk in them during the summer months).

There is a wealth of reference material here – for instances, there are over 700 fig varieties in the world, and we learn that the fig is a member of the mulberry family (we had three mulberry trees at the Arleta house as well–it never crossed my mind that the two fruits could be related). . It is one of the oldest known plants in the world, and some writers have even suggested that the unspecified fruit that Eve offered Adam was actually a fig, not an apple.

We do know that the earliest biblical reference to figs is the account of the fall of Adam and Eve, whereby they sewed fig leaves together to form aprons to cover their nakedness.

Allardice discusses how the fig was featured in the mythologies of the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greeks, as well as in Buddhist beliefs and in Christian tales.

Author Pamela Allardice certainly did her homework—included in this book are two pages of bibliography.

As the owner of two prolific fig trees [until we moved to the Antelope Valley in 2008] I was constantly searching for good new fig recipes—and if you have a fig tree or if you just enjoy the taste of figs–Pamela Allardice’s book is for you.

Recipes? Try one of the many desserts—from chocolate fig mousse to fig and ginger pudding…or perhaps figgy pears or figs flambé. There are recipes for figs at Christmas, such as Christmas pudding, or Dutch Christmas bread…a fig and nectarine ice cream, or perhaps figs and mangoes in syrup. The author provides recipes for a Hungarian Fig Wine (that I wish I had tried) and baked figs with cherries and cinnamon…three are recipes for jams, sauces and preserves—from jellied fig and walnut relish to fig and watermelon preserves…fig butter and fig/apple spread.

For the adventurous, who want to try something different, there are recipes for a roast pork with figs and apples, or perhaps you might want to try a Medieval Meatball recipe and not long ago, I saw on the cable network how someone cooked fish on an outdoor grill, wrapping the fish up in large fig leaves.  I’d love to try that!

I checked with both Amazon.com and Alibris.com—because I was startled to discover that A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS has maintained a distinct value—possibly because so little has been written about figs. Amazon.com has pre-owned copies starting around $8.00. A new copy starts at $16.96. Alibris.com has copies, all starting at $8.00 and up. It originally sold new for $16.96. (both sources offer new copies of A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS  just under $17.00.

A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS was originally published in Australia where author Pamela Allardice was editor of NATURE AND HEALTH MAGAZINE and was a regular contributor to AUSTRALIAN COUNTRY STYLE and HOUSE & GARDEN. At the time A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS was published, Allardice had written ten other books with fascinating titles – LOVE POTIONS and MOTHER KNOWS BEST.

Southern Californians may find themselves with a fig tree—a few years ago  I discovered that a fellow bowler on the league I had joined –had fig trees. Hers are a different variety from the black mission figs we had in Arleta—these are a small green fig—but they ground up the same way in a blender and I was able to make strawberry fig jam, often called Mock Strawberry Jam. If you enjoy figs—or even have a fig tree, you might want to find a copy of A FRESH LOOK AT FIGS—worth the price if only for the well-written history.

–Updated Review by Sandra Lee Smith

My blog 8-10-17

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