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Fresh figs become a grown-up treat

Poached figs in red wine and herbs make a quick summer dessert or side dish. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)
Recipe: Poached figs in wine and herbs

Summer figs, to me, are the epitome of California fruit. They love our climate. They have so much history. They’re easy to grow -- plus delicate, generous and delicious.

So much wrapped into one weird little package.

I grew up with backyard Mission fig trees. My grandmother made incredible amounts of fig jam, ready to fill cookies or top toast. The biggest treat was eating the figs fresh off the tree.

Mission figs easily fall from the tree when ripe.
How do you tell if a fig is ripe? Tap it gently three times, my grandmother instructed. If it falls off in your hand, it’s ready.

There were times when I tapped those figs like little punching bags, and they still didn’t come off. (That became a lesson in patience.)

I still love picking (and eating) fresh figs. Besides straight off the tree, figs are a versatile and flavorful fruit, at home in desserts or salads as well as alongside meat or poultry.

Poached figs are a grown-up treat. As a dessert, poached figs can be topped with ice cream, whipped cream or by themselves. Or they can be served warm with the main course, especially when flavored with thyme or other savory herbs.

Figs poach quickly, so keep an eye on them. They can go from perfect to mushy in minutes.

Match wine with the fig variety: White wine with light-colored figs; and reds with dark figs. Also, experiment with the herb-citrus combinations.

For these Mission figs, I used Malbec with orange zest and lemon verbena. (The uncooked figs went well with the wine, too.)

Poached figs in wine with herbs

Makes 2 servings

1 cup wine (your choice)

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon citrus zest (lemon, orange, grapefruit or lime)

1 teaspoon fresh herbs (lemon verbena, thyme, rosemary, lavender, etc.)

5 to 6 figs, trimmed and halved (peeling optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine wine, sugar, zest and herbs. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add figs and cover. Poach for 5 minutes or until figs are tender, easily pierced with a sharp knife.

Remove figs with a slotted spoon. Strain poaching liquid, if desired, to make a wine sauce.

Serve warm or room temperature, with or without wine sauce.

Figs crowd the saucepan while floating in the poaching liquid.


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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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