Amuse Bouche: Weekly Musings on Food & Life



Dreaming of Spring & Figs

By Suzanne Lenzer

As a longtime NYC dweller who has only recently found herself with a small patch of outdoor space, I’m yearning for spring to hit the East Coast. I know I have a few weeks to go before I can turn my small plot of dirt into the vegetable garden I long for, but already I’m seeing and feeling the season change, mostly by watching my fig tree.

It’s not a big tree, more of a fig branch I suppose. But I’ve always found figs to be incredibly sensual fruits (up there with pomegranates and pears) and have wanted a tree of my own for ages. So as a birthday present to myself this past October I bought one from an old farmer up here in Connecticut.

A character straight out of Central Casting, this farmer has been grafting fig and citrus trees in this decidedly un-Mediterranean environment for something like forty years. Gathering cuttings from milder climates on RV trips across the country, he has nurtured these trees and brought them to life in a place that, for six months out of the year, is not traditionally conducive to their survival. Yet with the right care, they thrive.

Eyeing the one I would eventually cart home, the farmer told me it was a white fig tree–according to him it bears a fruit far sweeter, and thus preferable, to the mission figs I grew up eating in California. Thrilled with my new agricultural acquisition, I transplanted it into a terracotta pot and waited eagerly for my first mature fig; enchanted by the prospect of eventually enjoying fresh figs with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

But it wasn’t to be. Instead, all the leaves on my new tree promptly fell off. I was left with a tall brown stick in a pot. Devastated but not deterred, I looked after the tree as the farmer had instructed and waited, hoping it was just unsettled by it’s transition and had gone dormant.

Almost five months later, my waiting has paid off. Suddenly in the last two weeks my fig branch has burst to life with lime green leaves that seem to double in size overnight.

Watching this first burst of a new season up close leaves me craving the abundance of figs I’m hoping this small but gracious tree will bring. It also leaves me dreaming about what I’ll do with those lovely orbs.

A stickler for simplicity I’m thinking of just quartering them and tying them with ribbons of prosciutto – the perfect mix of salty and sweet in my opinion. Or maybe I’ll swirl some honey into a small hunk of goat’s cheese, stuff the figs with this creamy concoction, and warm then until the cheese melts ever so slightly. Or maybe I’ll just pop them in my mouth naked, totally unadorned of any added ingredients, and enjoy them in their purest form. All I know is when my figs arrive, I’ll be waiting.

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