Life in a Fig

All my life, I have thought of figs as the thing that one finds in the centre of a fig newton. That is – figs are dried, sort of like dates. They’re shriveled brown things people use in baking. Perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking this, because I have lived my whole life in Canada. It’s not a place that’s terribly hospitable to fig trees. And my forebears come from countries like Sweden, Norway and Poland – also not places that are terribly hospitable to fig trees.

But then my good friend brought me some fresh figs last year. She had a fig tree, you see, because her husband’s Italian family views a fig tree as a necessity. As soon as they had a garden to plant it in, they were gifted with a tree. And so she brought her bounty to share. I was amazed, when she showed them to me, to see that fresh ripe figs are a vibrant green colour.

Whole fresh fig

Exterior of the fig

Still, they don’t look like much, do they? Figs are almost mythical. It is the fig leaf that Adam and Eve use to cover their nudity in the Book of Genesis. The fruit is commonly viewed as a symbol of abundance and fertility. Apparently the legendary she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, did so under a fig tree. Despite its inauspicious exterior, figs loom large in our collective history.

But there is much more to the fig than you can see from the outside. The interior is enough to justify the legend. Cut into one to see it.

Fresh ripe fig, sliced open

More artsy fig

Inside, the fig is packed with pink flesh and small, edible seeds. It is sweet and juicy. And it is quite possibly the most beautiful fruit I’ve ever seen. Plus, it’s really good. I don’t really like dried figs, but fresh figs are a different animal altogether. No surprise, really – you could say the same thing of raisins and grapes, or prunes and plums.

You eat the fig whole, green exterior, pink interior and all. Even though it looks like the different parts don’t go together somehow, they really do. Again, the fig holds a surprise – just wash it and eat it.

There are no fresh figs at my local grocery store. But now that I know what I’m looking for, I’ve also discovered where to find them. A vendor at my local farmer’s market. A friend who carefully tends a tree, or knows someone who does. Eating them, I feel like I’m in on a secret. Figs are an example of the mundane-yet-beautiful reality of life. They show that you never know what hides inside. They are an example of the amazing variety of food that extends beyond apples, oranges and bananas in bins at the supermarket. A variety that is upheld by mythology and culture and people who feel that a house requires a fig tree.

It is amazing what you can see, when you look at the world with fresh eyes.

PS – You are probably totally tired of all my hand-wringing over Hannah starting kindergarten in September, but I would love your tips and moral support all the same. You can give them on my post Starting Kindergarten published over at the Yummy Mummy Club.

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  1. WOW I never knew figs looked like that, let alone that the whole fruit could be eaten (skin and all). And there is no pit? I would have imagined it had one. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for figs from now on.
    Sara’s last post … Washing HandsMy Profile

  2. Figs are delicious! We were introduced to them last fall, and oh, they were sweet and juicy. 🙂
    Joy’s last post … A drive in SaskatchewanMy Profile

  3. You should check out Stevie’s site over at she has some great fig recipes from a neighbor’s recent harvest. She also just has a really cool blog with all sorts of tasty garden-y creations and interesting garden posts. As a plus she’s also local!
    Laura’s last post … Wordless Wednesday- Maplewood FarmsMy Profile

  4. I discovered fresh figs about 10 years ago, and honestly I am obsessed with them! So delicious, so unique!!!
    *pol’s last post … Preserving SummerMy Profile

  5. I learned something new today. I had no clue figs were green.

  6. Yeah — I had no idea. I think fig newtons are kinda yucky, but now I feel like I’ve been unfair to the fig.
    allison’s last post … Knowing Me Knowing You and I Do Realize I Complain a LotMy Profile

  7. Pavlova with figs all around…so juicy and delicious….and so wonderfull easy to make and appealing for they eye!
    Heather’s last post … Reintroducing RoutineMy Profile

  8. All I can say is that your photos of figs are so much better than mine – and I know it, because today I took several of the first batch we picked from our necessity tree:). There are two varieties of figs, purple (the color of eggplants) and green. Ciao!
    Francesca’s last post … What I learned in the gardenMy Profile

  9. I heart figs more than any other fruit. I just purchased a house and was thrilled to purchase a fig tree too. Can’t wait for next year. And, if you have not tried it, make fig jam. It is delightful.

  10. I love figs and fig trees. I’ve only even had fresh figs right off the tree, and rarely – maybe once a summer. Nice photos. Figs are so fecund.

  11. I am currently parent to a very teeny weeny fig tree, less than four feet tall, which I planted in our front garden this year. I’m amazed that this lil’ baby already has a dozen figs on it! I can only imagine (and hope, dream, and plot) what future years’ harvests will be like! Fig jam and goat cheese, spread on crusty French bread … I’m ready!
    Inder’s last post … Petting zooMy Profile

  12. The inside of figs remind me of brains or worms, but I was just telling my husband that I’d like to try a fresh one (I seriously just had this conversation with him – you and I are sharing a brain wave). I think I’d like them fresh since I’ve enjoyed them in so many other ways – not just a newton. In fact the newton seems like the worst way to eat a fig (I hate the cookie bit). If I ever run across a fresh fig I’m totally eating it.
    Marilyn (A Lot of Loves)’s last post … Babysitting- Wednesday of Few WordsMy Profile

  13. I just read today in a magazine that figs are in season…had a recipe for fig ice cream and I thought of you!
    AmberDusick’s last post … harvesting sunflower seedsMy Profile

  14. @Marilyn – I’ve been told that many cultures find figs sexual and liken the insides to …ahem…. vulvas. They are considered true delicacies and are a treat to be savoured. Not sure if that will change your opinion on them. 🙂

    Check Bosa foods for figs, both black and green. We bought them there by the basket full last year. My Italian market vendors tell me that its a bad season this year.

  15. Last year we were living in Italy, in Florence (I know hard life eh?) We got to visit Galileo’s home (my husband was working at the observatory) and pick figs from the garden there. One of the biggest thrills of this science geek’s life. Fresh figs, good cheese and bread – heaven. For picture proof, the Italian blog:

  16. I’ve never tried fresh figs..but you’ve just given me reason to!

  17. Do the skins taste good too, or do you peel them?
    Lady M’s last post … Paralyzed by the Kindergarten Volunteer FormMy Profile

    • The skins don’t really taste like anything. It would be like evaluating the taste of pear skin, or something like that. You just eat it, and it’s not bitter or tough, so you don’t particularly notice it. 🙂

  18. Mmmmmm… figs. I tried them for the first time this summer too.

  19. I am 1/2 Italian. I know figs. My dad eats them like candy. Me, I have that picky gene and I just can’t do it. It’s all my textural aversions in one sweet package.

    Now if it was a savoury fruit (I know) I would be all over it. But I don’t have enough of a sweet tooth to get past that ew! innards! reaction.

  20. Wow! Who knew that figs were so intricate inside! They are delicious too!
    Old School/New School Mom’s last post … With This Ring I Thee WedMy Profile

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