Since I don’t like Fig Newtons, I always assumed I wouldn’t like figs.
Unfortunately, simultaneously with the discovery that I love fresh figs came the knowledge that it’s almost impossible to find fresh figs. The figs don’t ripen once they’re off the bush, and once they’re picked, they don’t keep for more than a day. Basically, unless you go to a farmer’s market in the Mediterranean or know someone with fig bushes in their backyard, you’re only going to find dried figs, jams, or Fig Newtons.
Good thing I know someone with fig bushes– and therefore more figs than they know what to do with! My friend Jennie just moved into a new house that was once inhabited by a couple from somewhere in the Mediterranean — so they planted both figs and garlic in their backyard! Jennie researched the fig bushes and found out how to tell when the figs were ripe, and now she and her husband are up to their ears in little figs.
They’re all ripe now, and need to be picked and eaten as quickly as possible. So she made cookies last night (fig, walnut, and clove cookies, to be exact) but still had several quarts left over. So we had a fig feast at work today.
It was neat to eat the figs and think about the fact that the same fruit probably fed Jesus and the Apostles on their walks around Palestine. There isn’t a pit in the fig, so you just break off the stem and eat the entire thing — Jennie’s are small, so you can pop them right in your mouth. I can just imagine all those guys walking through the fields, munching on a bunch of figs. Things like that make the Gospels come alive.
It was also interesting to hear that fig trees are pretty big — when I hear the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree, for some reason I’ve always imagined it to be a little bush. But the trees can grow pretty large — so a big tree that looked okay one day and was withered the next would make a pretty big statement!
When I expressed my sadness over the fact that I’ve now fallen in love with something that I probably can’t have for another year, one of the other women at work pointed out the lessons of figs — they’re so wonderful and sweet… but first you have to be patient while they ripen on the tree, and then you have to restrain yourself to only pick the amount you know you can eat in a day (a little like manna!). To top it all off, you have to enjoy them while you can — it’s not worth hoarding them or saving them, because they’ll quickly go bad. So even though you’ll only have them for a little bit each year, you need to live in the present, enjoy them while they’re there, and move on until the next year.
Unless, of course, you like Fig Newtons.