Dried figs are a year round treat, but when July rolls around I get giddy with anticipation for fresh figs. Knowing my passion for figs (my blog header tells all) my dear husband gifted me with three trees that are finally producing enough of their precious fruit so that I can satisfy my craving! I’m a lucky girl! I’ve beaten the pesky birds and bugs many mornings to enjoy them fresh off the tree, standing in the shade created by their large leaves. Restraint was difficult, but restrain myself I did! I saved a batch and made fig ice cream to die for, fig chutney (recipe will come soon) and several fig-inspired salads.
If you ask me, there is no sweeter or more luscious fruit than a perfectly ripe and juicy black fig. Technically not a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself The skin starts firm and green but ripens to a delicate covering for the pulp within - soft tiny flowers that house its unique nectar. The skin is actually stem tissue and the pulp is comprised of male and female flower parts with tiny sandy grains that are actually unfertilized ovaries. The fig was revered by Greek and Roman gods and considered an aphrodisiac and is likened by many a poet to female sexual organs. Lovely analogy!
Pity me that the season for fresh figs is so short! Other than their delicious taste, they provide us with numerous benefits: one cup (149g) contains 58% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of dietary fiber! Also, 38% of RDA of Manganese, an important enzyme activator; 29% of vitamin K for healthy blood clotting; 29% of Potassium for healthy muscles and nerves; 25% Magnesium and Calcium for strong bones, muscles and blood flow. And if you’re very active, there’s a substantial amount of natural sugar to keep you moving for a long time!
In my salad, piquant gorgonzola cheese is a perfect match for a syrupy fig. Add savory prosciutto and you have a winning trifecta!
Fresh figs are best eaten or cooked immediately, or refrigerated for a minimal time (I’d say two days max.). Since figs are so delicate once they ripen, most producers dry them before shipping around the world.
Fig, gorgonzola and prosciutto salad with Honey-lemon dressing
Adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver in The Best American Recipes 2003 – 2004. Serves 4
4 handfuls mixed salad greens
6 ripe fresh figs, any type
8 thin slices prosciutto or Serrano ham
8 fresh basil leaves
4 ounces gorgonzola or other blue cheese of your choice
Place the salad greens in a large bowl. Cut the stems off the figs and slice them in half lengthwise and add to the salad greens. Roll prosciutto into small tube shapes, if desired, and add to the bowl. Add the basil leaves and crumble the blue cheese on top. Drizzle generously with Honey-lemon dressing.
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a glass jar and shake until well combined.