It is that season. And even though I have two very productive fig trees, I never seem to have enough; nor does the season last long enough. This is because the fig has that perfect combination of versatility, fragility and lusciousness.
So I was wondering why the term “fig” is used when someone is saying they do not care, as in “I don’t give a fig.” The term has evidently been in use in England at least since Elizabethan times, when the people of the British Isles were actually unlikely to have had much direct exposure to figs. In fact, “figgy pudding,” sung about at Christmas, evidently does not regularly contain figs.
According to Wikipedia, the authority of much modern knowledge: “The derisive English idiom I don’t care a fig probably originates from the abundance of this fruit.”
This is utter speculation, and I have it on other internet authority that the term actually refers to the Spanish word Fico (= Fig) which comes from the Latin term for vulva. As is often the case in Western Europe, that term then was turned into an obscenity. The resemblance between figs and female parts escapes me. To me, a ripe fig hanging on a tree looks like an entirely different part of the anatomy, a part that females do not possess.
The fig is strange and interesting. Did you know that the flower of the fig actually blooms within the fruit? It is like a flower turned inside out. And some figs can only be pollinated by the very specialized fig wasp. Which leads to another intriguing saying, purported by Wikipedia to say in Telugu “Medi pandu chuda melimayyi undunu, potta vippi chuda purugulundunu,” meaning—“The fig fruit looks harmless but once you open you find tiny insects in there.”
Catchy, isn’t it? By the way, you may not have heard of Telugu, but there are over 74 million speakers of this language, originating in India.
Most people know about stuffing figs with mascarpone and wrapping them in prosciutto. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. You can also slice them, brush them with honey, and broil them. Or you can serve them with Greek yogurt for breakfast.
My friend Jenny, who is staying with me this week, and I have been going crazy with figs over the last couple of days. Yesterday I made a Fig Jam that blew me away. All you do is slice 1 or 2 pounds of Desert King figs into a sauce pan with a cup of sugar and the zest and juice of a lemon, and simmer, simmer, simmer until it is golden and gooey. Refrigerate and serve as part of an appetizer with goat cheese and grilled bruschetta. Beautiful!
One day we made a fabulously easy Fig and Nectarine Crumble, and here is the recipe. I tried to give it a slightly Indian flavor, in honor of the very insightful Telugu saying referenced above:
1 ½ pound of fresh figs
- 3 large nectarines
- 2 T flour
- 2 T sugar
- 1 t garam masala
- 1 t almond extract
Mix these things together in a bowl and put into a greased baking dish.
A stick of butter
- 1 C flour
- 1 C sugar
Whiz together in a blender. And crumble it over the fruit mixture. I suppose you could sprinkle some pine nuts on top of that.
Bake it at 350 for about an hour.
I figure we have one more harvest left to gather the remaining figs on the tree. Do you give a fig? Probably not, but I do.