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

Microbiologist, brewer, writer, fan of James Joyce, guitar player and gardener, U. Cronin was born in the county town of Ennis, Co. Clare. He's spent much of his adult years moving country — between Spain and Ireland — and at present he is to be found back in his native town. Author of five novels and working on a sixth, U. is back in the lab and engaging his passion for looking for bugs using very bright lasers. Let's hope it turns out well!
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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