Friday, September 26, 2008

Fig Musings

, originally uploaded by mulmatsherm.

I have a friend with a fig tree in the back yard of her business on Liberty Street just north of downtown Salem. I didn't know we could grow figs this far north. The temp rarely dips below 20F in the winter, so I guess they would grow just fine here. Funny that we've been here 7 years and this is the first fig tree I've spotted. I always notice interesting plants and agriculture here,
like hops:

Hoppy Oregon, originally uploaded by mayjor. Hops fields near Brooks Oregon

and filberts (hazelnuts) - this picture is probably from January or February.
*sigh* I LOVE winter in Oregon. It's so lush and mysterious and beautiful...

Filbert Farm, originally uploaded by justin.hawthorne.

and mint.

Willamette Valley - Oregon, originally uploaded by desert4wd.

(I really need to get my camera out in the countryside so I can show you the dill farms and all the beekeeper boxes stacked up at the side of the road when it's time for the dill to be pollinated. I only wish I could capture the smell. Hmm, I wonder how dill honey tastes?)

Every week I check the figs and they should be ready in another two weeks or so. She asked me if I want to gather as many as possible before she cuts the tree back. Fig trees are like filberts, where they have suckers at the bottom and they spread from the base. The tree is gigantic and towers over the roof of the house where her office is located. Anyway, I plan on gathering up figs when they're ready. I'm getting recipes ready to go for fig preserves and etc.

At Christmas, Gram used to make rich, thin, and crispy oatmeal lace cookies that she sandwiched together with a paste she made from dried dates. I think those cookies might be really good with some kind of fig paste. I'll have to experiment. Maybe substituting fig paste for date, prune, or poppyseed paste would work in a lot of my recipes. A lot of them are Czech and Slovak pastries and they use large amounts of these ingredients. Prune Kolache (plural; pronounced KOH-lah-chee) are a favorite and I'm sure substituting fig for prune would be superb. Have you ever heard of kolaches? I should make some.

A lotta kolache., originally uploaded by janapochop.

My Aunts Irene, Rose, Elsie L. and Elsie K. all made kolaches and each recipe was slightly different. You could almost tell who made which batch by the tenderness and flavor of the dough. My favorite version was made by Irene-Rose-Elsie L.-Elsie K.
See? I'm being diplomatic. And honest. They were all great.

As for the figs, I have no what variety they are. The largest ones are about the size of key limes, small tomatillos, or really large cherry tomatoes (like the kind you buy still on the vine). As they ripen the seem to be turning golden yellow, so my guess would be Calimyrna, not Mission.

Doesn't this look good? I'm not a fan of goat cheese, but some of these other ideas look pretty tasty. Nice party food.

figs 2, originally uploaded by yoshiko314.

Hmmm, is it lunch time yet?


  1. Me here. The friends with the fig tree in the back yard of their office are our Realtor/Mortgage Broker/Loan Officer.

    I checked on the figs today when we were finishing up with the paperwork with the closing. (Yes! We finally closed!)

    Some figs are soft and ready. So sweet and juicy, you'd never believe that figs off the tree are the same dry flavorless fruit you buy in the grocery store.

    I can't wait to gather more and try out some of those recipes. More postings about the figs as time and fruit allow...

  2. Since I'm pretty sure my mom is the only family member who reads this blog, I usually forward bits and pieces to other family members. I sent this to my cousins Renee and Michelle, both daughters of my Aunt Elsie L - one of the fabulous kolache makers mentioned in this post. I thought they'd enjoy reading about the figs, food, kolaches and their mom.

    Renee sent this email reply:
    thanks for the email, esp. the photo of the kolaches. Today is our first real, cool fall day (I just stopped wearing flipflops!) so now it's starting to feel like baking weather. I "cheat": when I make kolaches, starting the dough in the breadmaker (Frank, is this a sin or kosher?) and then, instead of the back-wrenching grinder my mom used, I use a food processor for the poppyseed (I don't think the canned is very good). My own version is poppyseed mixed with black sesame seeds. There are no poppyseeds in Japan, so that's when I came up with this version. Good luck on your fig version. It sounds delicious!


  3. If you really like figs you can also slice the tops criss-cross style and place a piece of stilton cheese in there and broil it, then drizzle it with balsamic and olive oil. It makes a great appetizer and will really help you with that overabundance of figs.