Soon the sweet smell of figs will fill Dalmatia and many other parts of Croatia.
When the trees are full, and many figs have fallen onto the ground, you know, it’s time to start drying figs ready for winter. Another vital sign is when you see passers-by eating the plump figs being eaten directly from the trees as they talk an afternoon wander.
Back home in Australia, I do not know of a single Croatian who does not have a fig tree or know of someone who does. For me, whenever I think about a fig tree, it always reminds me of Croatia. It also reminds me of the thing that you help you do number 2’s. Figs, you see, are HIGH in fiber, so please don’t eat too many. That is unless, of course, you need to, you know… if you get my drift?!
There are loads of different species, and in our family, each person has their favorite one—some like the sweet ones, and others, the more tart. Either way, from the month of May right through until September, you can snack on a fresh fig till your heart is content. But, in August, you must start to dry them ready for other times of the year.
Figs, like many things here in Croatia, serve more than one purpose. If you have a sore throat, the cure? Eat a fig. You’re tired from a hard day’s work, the treatment? Eat a fig. Do you have a skin irritation, the cure? Rub a fig on it. Who needs a pharmacy when you have Croatian cures?
They don’t look pretty as they dry and shrivel up, but many agree they taste damn good when complete.
Alternatively, you can make fig jam and spreads or make a fresh fig tart. I am looking for an excellent fig recipe. Do you have one?
Here is how we dry figs in my village.
- Bay leaves
- Pick and wash your figs (leave the stems on)
- Place your figs on a wooden or wire rack in the Dalmatian sunshine (actually, any sunshine will do). Be sure that the figs have airflow from above and below. This is critical
- Turn your figs daily until they have dried to a gorgeous golden color. Each day press into the middle of the fig with your thumb to flatten them. Be sure to move them to remain in the sunshine at all times; the shade will cause them to spoil
- Once the figs are 100% dry and they are no longer sticky, place them in the deep freeze for a few days
- Rinse the figs in fresh seawater, then place them on a sheet in the sunshine. Cover with cheesecloth or similar (this stops the flies) and allow them to dry. Drying may take one or two days, depending on the sunshine
- Once fully dry, place into zip lock bags with bay leaves (or another airtight container) and store in a dark, cool place
- Enjoy as many as you like. But not too many... if you recall my earlier comment with regards to the fiber content...
Once dried, figs can be placed in a beautiful bag or box and become a wonderful homemade gift
Do you like dried figs? Do you have a fig recipe you care to share? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to hear from you.