We had a great day at the garden on August 7th, out working early, tidying up the plants and helping them through this summer heat, and then inside to learn about the care and feeding of fig trees, a (relatively) easy and delicious plant we can grow out here in north Texas.
“Fig Fest” was the third in our series, “A New Crop of Classes.” Entertaining, informative, inspirational, flavorful and delicious were just some of the comments we heard from those who attended…77 to be exact. Jeff Raska, our Dallas County Horticulture Program Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, shared the biology, history, and how-to’s of growing figs locally, and Lisa Centala shared nutritional information about figs, which are a great source of dietary fiber and vitamins K and A.
Highlights from Jeff’s talk included:
- Figs: You can love them to death. Figs love poor soil, but keep it well-drained and water consistently. You can even raise the bed a bit when planting with compost and mulch. Don’t add nitrogen – it will cut back fruit production.
- The flower is inside the fig, and a tiny wasp pollinates it by climbing in and laying eggs
- Figs are a Mediterranean plant and want no more than 800 chill hours. We are about as far north as we can be and still grow figs, which means the plant may die back in the winter. Allow your fig to have several trunks, and don’t worry if one or all die back – it will come back in the spring. In fact, don’t trim the dead wood away until the leaves come back in spring so you know which branches are really dead.
- There are two varieties of fig trees: those that are everbearing, and those that bear once a season. Texas Everbearing (or Brown Turkey) will give an early crop in late spring/early summer, and the rest of the fruit will ripen from June through August. Celeste is also a recommended variety for our area, but it’s “one and done.” Celeste gives one crop a season but is a bit more cold-hardy than Texas Everbearing, which is why we chose this variety at Raincatcher’s.
- Harvest your figs when they’re ripe (they have a little give when you squeeze them), because they won’t ripen off of the tree. And eat them quickly! They’ll start to ferment in just a couple of days.
For more information on cultivating figs, please visit this Aggie Horticulture site.
And, once again, following Jeff’s presentation we savored a fig-inspired lunch that would have kept Adam and Eve in the garden. We hope you enjoy the photos and recipes from a delightful summer class. Congratulations to a new crop of “fig experts!”
Fig and Strawberry Tart
For the Crust
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¼ to ½ cup ice water
Make the crust: Pulse flour, granulated sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds.
Drizzle ¼ cup ice water evenly over mixture. Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together (it should not be wet or sticky). If dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse. Press dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.
Roll dough to a 14-inch circle (⅛ inch thick) on a floured surface. Fit dough into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch fluted round tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim excess dough flush with edges of pan using a knife. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Prick bottom of tart shell all over with a fork, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove weights, and bake until set, about 5 minutes more. Let cool. Leave oven on.
For the Filling:
¾ cup blanched hazelnuts, toasted
½ cup packed light-brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons Armagnac, or other brandy, such as Cognac
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces figs (about 7), trimmed and halved lengthwise
8 ounces strawberries (1 ½ cups), halved if large
Garnish: whipped cream
Make the Filling: Pulse hazelnuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add sugars, zest, and ¼ teaspoon salt; pulse to combine. Add butter, Armagnac, eggs, and vanilla; pulse until mixture is almost smooth.
Spread filling evenly into tart shell. Top with figs and strawberries. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325˚F; bake until set and dark brown on top, about 1 hour more. Garnish with whipped cream.
Lemony Rice Pudding with Figs and Saba
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
7 cups milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split
1 pint fresh figs, quartered
Saba is an ancient sweetener traditionally made from freshly squeezed grape juice, known as must. It is basically a sweet grape syrup. Order online or purchase at specialty grocers. After opening, refrigerate up to one year.
Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in first 2 ingredients, and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes; drain.
Return rice to saucepan; stir in milk and next 4 ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes or until thick. Remove vanilla bean. Remove from heat, and transfer to a glass bowl. Let stand 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Cover and chill 8 hours.
Spoon into serving dishes; top each with figs and a drizzle of Saba.
Yield: Makes 10 servings
Fresh Fig Ice Cream
1 (15-ounce) can condensed milk
2 (13-ounce) cans evaporated milk
Juice of ½ lemon
3 pints peeled, fresh figs, mashed
2 cups sugar
Put all ingredients in freezer container. If the figs are very ripe, you may not need as much sugar as called for. Add whole milk to level freezer calls for to ensure proper freezing. Freeze in a 6-quart freezer according to directions.
Yield: Serves 20
Note: In the dessert picture there is a grilled fig spread with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and a drizzle of honey. No recipe just buy and prepare!
Linda Alexander and Lisa Centala
*Our fourth and final class of 2018 is scheduled for Tuesday, October16th.
Apples, Pears, Persimmons and Pomegranates promises to be a another educationally inspiring class. And following Jeff Raska’s presentation; don’t miss a bountiful lunch buffet filled with seasonal flavors. Information about the class will be posted on this blog in early September.
Hope you can join us!