There are a couple of charming-looking fig trees outside UCL’s main gates. During each year of my degree, I noticed that the dark green, barely swollen fruit never got much bigger in diameter than a £2 coin, and wondered if they were any good to eat.
It seems people have had mixed experiences with figs: “What once was a sumptuous feast is figs!” laments Madame Armfeldt in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, a musical set in Sweden at the beginning of the 20th century. One imagines that Ali, a character in Jeanette Winterson’s The PowerBook, is able to get better figs in Turkey: “She was dainty and sweet, a dish of figs in fine weather”, he says of a beautiful princess.
Indeed, it’s difficult to find a good fig as most of what’s readily available in the shops is imported while still uninterestingly firm. Ideally, you would choose fruits which are as close to ripe as possible – slightly soft, perhaps with a bead of nectar clinging to them. If your fruit still does not pass muster, then giving them a blast of heat and a drop of honey will improve them considerably. To eat, bring the whole open, dripping fruit to your mouth and suck the sweet, luscious, melting flesh right off the skin.
- . As many figs as you like – allow 2 – 3 per person
- . A drop or two of honey per fig
- . Mascarpone, Greek yoghurt, or parma ham to serve, as desired
- Preheat the grill on the lowest setting.
- Cut a cross in the top of each fig. You may have to pierce it just below the top of the stem if it’s too dry at the tip.
- Depending on your preference, you can then pull the fig apart slightly, or continue cutting it down almost all the way to the base. Pulling it provides a more interesting texture, but doesn’t look quite so pretty.
- Place the opened figs on a baking tray, making sure they aren’t crowded.
- Drizzle a little bit of honey into each fig.
- Grill them fairly near the heating element for just a few minutes, until they’re just warmed through and bubbling.
- Eat them however you like – plain, or accompanied by something rich or savoury.