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Sherrel Jones: Pig Out on Figs

Sherrel Jones shares insights and a recipe for fresh figs.
BY SHERREL JONES sjones@opubco.com Published: September 5, 2012
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My desire to grow and enjoy luscious figs from my own backyard has grown over several decades. I was reintroduced to this wonderful fruit by my husband's parents soon after our marriage. They lived in Houston at the time and had a huge fig tree in their backyard. It produced bushels of large green Celeste figs. The Celeste is a soft chartreuse green on the outside opening to a honey sweet meaty pink interior.

I quickly developed a case of “Fig Envy” always visiting them during fig season and returning home with carefully packed boxes of them for us to enjoy back in our home on the Oklahoma Prairie. These beautiful figs were 2 to 2½ inches across and nearly 2 inches tall. Being the gardener that I am, I began reading about ways to grow these beauties. I was hopeful as my aunt managed to grow similar figs in her Wagoner backyard. Even though Wagoner was a planting zone away from Enid, I was encouraged.

For several years I was able to travel with a small group of fellow food writers and a couple of writing coaches to inspiring destinations from California to France and Italy. We took up brief residences in everything from a vineyard home in the wine country to a lovely Chateau in Burgundy, followed by an amazing retreat on a remote Umbrian hillside. There we lived and breathed the bounty of Italian Country life feasting on figs from large trees next to our patio.

I returned home determined to grow figs of our own. I ordered a tree noting that the Brown Turkey would probably be best suited to our climate. My reading turned up one method used in Italy which helped in marginal fig-growing areas. In the fall after fruiting, the roots of the tree are severed on one side. On the opposite side, a sort of grave is dug and the tree is folded down into it and buried for the winter.

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Roasted Fig and Gorgonzola with prosciutto Wrap

If you get some figs, try this amazing little combination. You could use domestic goat cheese, but if you have a source for sweet Italian Gorgonzola it is wonderful. Build these with friends while the steaks are grilling. Serve several as a special treat along side a soup or salad for a light lunch. Allow 3 or 4 per person depending on other foods you may be serving with them.

8 ripe but slightly firm figs cut in half after removing any woody stem (cut a slit in side of smaller figs to insert cheese)

3 to 4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese (Goat cheese can be used.) Plan to use about a teaspoon with each portion.

4 slices prosciutto cut or torn into strips about 1 inch wide and 4 inches long.

Adjust oven rack to upper middle area. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare figs removing any attached stem and cutting in half or making a slit in side of smaller fruit. Prepare prosciutto separating slices and cutting or tearing into segments for wrapping.

Place about a teaspoon of cheese on each half or opening the slit to fit cheese inside the fig. Wrap the strips of prosciutto around the fig so that ends are tucked underneath. Place on foil-lined baking sheet.

Roast in preheated oven on upper middle rack for 8 to 10 minutes until cheese melts and prosciutto begins to crisp slightly. Serve warm.

Cook's notes: If you have large fig leaves, they make a beautiful bed under the figs on a tray or serving platter.

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