It seems as if it is fig time!

This past week was a great one, with several days spent in Devine and getting to visit with almost all of the folks I intended to! My twin great-granddaughters are staying with my daughter at this time while their Mother is attending some required classes and we had a wonderful time together. My trip home on Friday was uneventful except for all the road construction. I had told friends that my only way to not have to go through a bunch of construction was to start traveling on IH10, but, guess what, it is under construction also in the Seguin area! My son-in-law had to travel that route on Thursday and said it was a mess, so, I just toughed it out and came on home by my usual route!
By the time you’re reading this, July 4th will have come and gone and I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday. My day, most likely will be very quiet unless something changes between now and then. (I am writing this on Friday evening, to get it in before deadline), and don’t foresee much excitement ahead of me over the weekend.
On Saturday my sister and I are going to a “living” estate sale. The home where the sale is belongs to an elderly lady who is not only downsizing, but she will be going to live with some of her children, and of course, we have no idea what will be at the sale. This is something I always enjoy doing. When I lived in Devine, a friend of mine and I would check out all the garage sales, estate sales, etc., that were in The Devine News. Sometimes we found bargains and sometimes there was nothing that interested us.
Last week, when I was in Devine, I noticed that figs were beginning to ripen. When I got home, I checked on the tree, that is in the yard where Mother used to live, as I was headed to my sister’s home and I knew that her daughter liked figs. To my surprise, there was only one fig on a tree that had been completely loaded with green figs a couple of weeks ago. There are no figs on the ground around the tree and no figs on it! My first thought is that the folks who tend to the lawn may have picked them, and my second is, as my brother-in-law said, maybe it was squirrels or coons. This is something that I will check out this coming week!
The fig tree that my daughter and son-in-law have, in the Moore area, is loaded with a pretty good crop this year, but not quite as plentiful as sometimes in the past, and they are just beginning to ripen.
My family used figs only for preserves as I was growing up and it was not something that I was particularly fond of. Like most kids, I liked grape much better! Of course, back then, the grape was homemade also, but boy was it good, especially in a jelly roll.
The fig tree in our back yard in San Antonio, was literally that, a tree. You could climb up and out on the branches to get close to the top, which was taller than Dad’s workshop, (10 or more feet tall), and you could sit or stand on the roof of Dad’s workshop when they were ready to pick. The trunk was about 12 to 15 inches in diameter and a lot of the branches were 4 to 6 inches in diameter.
At the house we lived in until I was about 10 or 11 years old, the ‘trees’ were actually tall slender trunks about one and one-half to two inches in diameter with a central root system, with each branch coming straight up from the ground.
Mother would just grasp them and pull them down into picking position. They made a great screen for the western side of our house.
There are five varieties of figs that do well in our area, Alma, Celeste, Texas Everbearing, Black Mission and Brown Turkey.
The fig belongs to the genus Ficus. There are over 600 species that are native to the widely scattered warm and tropical regions in both hemispheres. Some species are evergreen, but most lose their leaves over the winter. The leaves are broad, tough, and thick with deep lobes. (They are not only rough to the touch; they can make you itch when you are picking the figs). Ficus Carica is the common fig of commerce and the trees can grow 25 to 30 feet tall.
There are many varieties of edible figs which range in color from a deep purple, which is the Black Mission, to a beautiful brown, which is the Brown Turkey. They are also almost white in varieties such as Adriatic, Smyrna and Kadota. The Smyrna, is known as Calimyrna in California, is raised there exclusively and is the only one that needs pollination. To produce fruit the Smyrna must be insect pollinated from a wild variety of fig. The fig wasp, genus Blastophaga achieves this by laying its eggs and developing to maturity in the fruit of the wild fig, Capri fig. The wasp then carries pollen from the flowers of this fig to the flowers of the Smyrna fig. They also lay eggs in the Smyrna fruit, but the eggs do not develop in this fruit. Pollination results in the production of seeds and therefore of edible fruit. This process is called Caprification.
In the Mediterranean region, figs grow wild. Since time immemorial, it has been cultivated as a ‘poor man’s’ food, because this nutritious fruit can be grown without irrigation. After maturity, they are picked and dried in the sun to preserve them. The earliest of Hebrew books mentions figs. Greek writers have long referred to it. Even the pyramids contain pictures of the fig plant as well as the fruit. (How many paintings by the old Masters have you seen where a fig leaf is used to cover parts of the anatomy)?
Fig plantings are mostly confined to the Mediterranean type of climate and, other than from California, the greatest portion of the World’s commercial production and trade is in dried figs originating in the Mediterranean basin. Turkey leads in commercial production and the United States is next.
The best dried figs from either area are allowed to partially dry on the tree and then drop to the ground. After they are gathered, the sun drying is completed on trays or in boxes in which they are sent to the packers. In California, some of the figs are dried by artificial heat. In Italy, the figs are picked when ripe and dried in the sun on trays.
Fig Preserves
4 pounds chopped, peeled figs
3 pounds sugar
2 large lemons
Slice one lemon into slices one-fourth-inch or less thick, set aside. Remove juice from second lemon. Combine in a bowl, figs, sugar, lemon slices and lemon juice. Set aside for about one hour, stirring occasionally. Place in a large pot and heat slowly to a boil, stirring frequently, as they scorch easily, and also spatter. Lower heat and continue cooking on medium heat until the fruit is transparent and the liquid is as thick as cool honey or molasses. Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars and seal.
Fig preserves can also be cooked in the oven. That is how Mother cooked them for many years. There is no spattering and no scorching. Simply place all ingredients into a roasting pan, stir well, set the oven at about 250ºF to 275ºF and bake until texture is as stated above. Stir occasionally. Place in jars, etc.
Mock Strawberry Jam
4 cups ripe figs
3 cups sugar
1 small box strawberry gelatin
1 box Sure-Jell®
Remove stems from figs and peel if desired. Mash figs to a pulp with your potato masher or chop finely. Mix together the fruit, sugar and gelatin, bring to a boil and cook and stir for about 15 to 20 minutes. Watch carefully as it will scorch easily. Add Sure-Jell® and boil for 2 minutes longer. (Begin timing after it comes back to a full boil). Ladle into jars and seal. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.
Jell-o® Fig Preserves
6 cups ripe figs
6 cups sugar
Pinch salt
1 large or 2 small boxes of Jell-o®
(Apricot, peach, strawberry or any flavor of your choice)
Remove stems from figs, peel if desired, chop or mash. Put into large pot and add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook and stir for about 15 minutes over medium heat. Ladle into jars and seal.
Several years ago, I received some peaches that were beautiful, but did not have a very ‘peachy’ taste. I used peach flavored Jell-o® and the peach pulp and had a great ‘peachy’-tasting jam when I finished.
Have fun trying out these recipes.