Dreamy and delicious, did you know figs aren’t actually fruit? They’re inverted flowers. Fig trees don’t flower like apple trees; instead, the flowers bloom inside pods that mature into the fruit we eat.
The climate in Northern Spain is perfect for figs, and grower José Maria Agusti showed us snapshot of how he grows them on his organic farm near Lleida, about an hour from Barcelona.
He cultivates the luscious Cuello de Dama (Lady’s Neck) figs, named as such for their long ‘neck’. Very sweet, with honey notes, this traditional Catalan variety is prized for its intense flavour and is said to be the queen of figs.
His well-tended trees are incredibly prolific; both white and black figs can come from the same variety of tree, with around one in 10 trees having a slightly different pigment, which means they produce white fruit instead of black. The white ones are said to be even sweeter, and are sought after by luxury pastry chefs and bakeries. For Jose, he is ensured a consistent market and fair price for his fruit by working in partnership with Riverford Organic Farmers here in the UK, so we can also get a taste of this beautiful autumn delicacy.
It is such a delicate fruit that only very experienced packers are allowed to pack them for Jose after picking. It is a careful task that can only be done by hand as they harvest the fruit when it is fully ripe. They are soft when picked and the skins can easily split, so packers need a keen eye and not only be swift but thorough.
For a simple way to enjoy figs, cut into wedges and add to salads, or stuff them with ricotta and wrap in air-dried ham before roasting until soft and the ham is crispy.
Figs baked in honey, lemon and cinnamon are perfect for breakfast with a dollop of thick yoghurt and granola or served as a light pudding with mascarpone. Fragrant and warm from the oven their taste seems to harness summer’s sun and bring it to our plates ready to enjoy in the autumn.