Figs, and why I love them

When my daughter heard I was writing a blog post a day, she decidedly told me I had to write a post about figs. So here goes:

If you know me you’ll know I get particularly excited when it’s fig season, especially when I can find decent figs here in the UK. It isn’t always guaranteed you see: I remember one time finding some beautiful looking figs in a major UK supermarket and being excited to buy them and share them with my husband- who had never eaten a fig before. Upon bringing them home and cutting into the first one, I found that they tasted like washing powder… or at least what I imagine washing powder to taste like. Major disappointment.

But why do I like figs so much? Well, you have to admit, they are a pretty awesome fruit. They’re a such a lot of things all at once. They’re slimy, and crunchy and seedy and white and red. They taste amazing and they look amazing. You can use them for both sweet and savoury dishes, you can eat them by themselves or on a salad, or with cheese. They are super versatile and very very interesting.

But for me, my love of figs is based on more than just their beautiful nature, texture, and taste.

I am fortunate enough to have become intimately acquainted with fresh figs, from a very young age. I grew up in a beautiful sea side southern suburb of Athens called Glyfada. And in Glyfada, in my grandparents’ garden, there was a fig tree. The fig tree was old and huge, and made beautiful fresh figs every year, at the end of the summer- beginning of autumn. We ate as many as we could. There were so many, every year. There was fig snack time, a fig to eat while playing, endless jars of fig jam. Figs galore!

At the beginning of the fig season, it was nearing the end of the summer. So the “back to school blues” was about to hit us kids. We would have to exchange days of care free swimming and playing at the beach with the routine and structure of going to school and being told what to do everyday. Somehow the promise of fresh figs from the tree took the edge of the blues we felt. As fig season went on, we had eaten so many figs that we could eat no more. And then it was time for the jam: on your bread for breakfast and snack, in your school bag in a sandwich or at the weekend.

My grandparents were adamant not to waste them. My grandpa Yiangos picked them faithfully, and taught us how to tell when they were ripe enough: they have to come off the tree easily, and when you cut them off there should be no white liquid at the top. No milk. When they have milk on them they are not yet ready, he would say.

My grandma Fimi (who was an absolute wizard in the kitchen: her cooking was phenomenal, whatever she chose to make, even if it was scrambled egg and tomato) made the jam. Beautiful jam. Not too sweet. Full of seeds. Tasting like a real fig.

And when the fig season was over, the fig tree was there for us kids to climb and play on. My grandpa built us a little wooden tree house on it. Each branch had a carving of every one of our initials: my cousins’, my bother’s and mine.

So you see figs, for me, are so much more than a taste or a texture. Although I do enjoy those things about them, they embody, for me, a whole childhood of prescious and beautiful memories. They remind me of two grandparents who loved and cared for me and my brother and our cousins, and of the relationship we had with them, of the stories they told, of the food they prepared. They remind me of a time now gone, but not forgotten. The taste of those memories for me is as sweet as a beautiful, perfectly ripe fig.

And that’s why I love them.

Fig jam recipe: not my grandma’s unfortunately, but it does sound good!