The fig harvest comes around twice a year in Castile. The first crop (using energy reserves built up the previous year) comes in late May, early June. In Spanish these first fruits are called brevas, while the second fruit is an higo. In English, the fruit is always referred to as a fig, whether it comes from the first, second, third or fourth wave of fruits (believe or not some varieties of fig trees grown under the right conditions can fruit up to four times in a year), although the first harvest is called the “breba crop”.

Rip (yellow-green) and unripe figs.

Rip (yellow-green) and unripe figs.

I have never come across a fig tree in fruit in Ireland, it being a species that likes a dry soil, heat and sunshine. Of course like every Irish child I was practically raised on Jacob’s Fig Rolls, but I didn’t see a fresh fig until well into my twenties. In contrast, my daughters are seasoned fig pickers (and eaters). Fig trees are an easy climb and the ripe fruit (softer and more yellow than the unripe fruit) comes away with the slightest of tugs.

There's room in this tree for two!

There’s room in this tree for two!

The only thing to watch out for when picking figs is the sap from the branches and leaves: it is highly irritant. The wearing of a long-sleeved shirt and gloves is recommended. I never want a repeat of the burning, itching sensation I experienced during my first session up a fig tree, when I ignorantly ventured into its branches in a T-shirt.

Come to Daddy!

Come to Daddy!

A fair-sized, twenty-year-old tree would probably yield a couple of pounds of fruit per day over the month of September. Unless you have a ready-made army of figaholics (or have figured out how to make your own fig rolls) most of these will go towards jam-making. There are people who swear by deep-freezing their surplus figs, but I think it is a more efficient use of space and energy to get those higos into jars ASAP! Figs can also be dried. A traditional Castilian delicacy based on dried figs stuffed with nuts is called turrón de pobre.

It puts the fruit in the basket!

It puts the fruit in the basket!


About ucronin

Born in the country town of Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland in 1975, I now live in Madrid with my partner and two young daughters and work in a research institute. While I was always a hungry reader and harboured vague notions of being a writer, as a young man writing was the furthest thing from my mind; after leaving school, I did a B.Sc. in Biotechnology in Galway's NUI, an M.Sc. in Plant Science in University College Cork and a Ph.D. in Microbiology in the University of Limerick, the plan being to dedicate my professional career to scientific research. While having written extensively within my technical scientific field, I had never contemplated becoming a writer of fiction until a road-to-Damascus moment on the N69 between Listowel and Tarbert, Co. Kerry in the summer of 2011. Since then, most of my spare time has been occupied with writing. In whatever other free moments I have, I like to listen to music, play the guitar and garden (which here in Madrid means a lot of watering of plants and spraying for red spider mite). My ambition is to become as good a writer as I possibly can, eventually freeing myself from the cold clutches of science and earning a living through my scribblings. The type of writing that excites me is honest, intelligent, well-constructed and richly descriptive.
This entry was posted in Being Irish Abroad, Food and Drink, Plants, Spain and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Figs

  1. Here in the U.S., I grew up eating Fig Newton’s cookies. Oh so good! Too cold for figs here. 😦

  2. Pingback: Easy Fall Fig Appetizer - Daily Dish Magazine~Daily Dish Magazine

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