Fig Fest: A Party Spotlighting This Elegant, Delicious Fruit
Celebrate this seasonal delicacy with lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith, who prepares a figgy fete to herald the end of summer.
Fig trees are a beautiful, interesting addition to your garden landscape. They are easy to grow with little maintenance and produce large, broad leaves and fruit in late summer.
One of the trees on my Arkansas homestead, Moss Mountain Farm, that is most dear to my heart is a 100-year-old ‘Brown Turkey’ fig tree I like to call “Miss Big Fig.” Without fail, Miss Big Fig produces large, deep purple figs, that when fully-ripened, have a sweet, bold flavor that makes them perfect for cooking. Figs are a great, natural super food, and if you’re up to your ears in figs like I am, you may need a few ideas to turn your figs into fascinating fodder.
With a little inspiration from my friend, chef Regina Charboneau, here are a few irresistible ways to take your figs from the tree to the dinner table. Does your fig basket runneth over?
First up: Get festive with fig-infused bourbon.
- Fresh figs, halved
- Your favorite bourbon
- Mason jar, or other clean glass vessel with lid
- Fill your Mason jar halfway with fresh figs.
- Fill the rest of the way with your favorite sipping bourbon.
- Screw the lid on your jar, give it a swirl and let it sit for five to seven days.
- Gently swirl at least once a day to keep the juices churning.
- Give the bourbon a taste and once you are satisfied with the figgy flavor, strain through a sieve and transfer the fig bourbon into another clean jar for storage.
Figgy Maple Bourbon Fizz
- 1 fresh fig, halved
- 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
- A lemon
- Angostura bitters
- Ginger beer
- Fig-Infused Bourbon (see above recipe)
- Drop each half of a fig into two old fashioned glasses.
- To each glass, add a teaspoon of dark maple syrup, then squeeze a slice of fresh lemon over each, along with a few dashes of bitters.
- With a muddler — or the back of a spoon — mix these ingredients well, then fill the glasses with ice cubes and pour in 1.5 ounces of Fig-Infused Bourbon.
- Top with a splash of ginger beer (Gosling’s or Barritts is a good, mildly spicy ginger beer), stir and enjoy.
Add a little savory to your party with this Roasted Honey Cheese Fig recipe. These bite-sized figgy party snacks will have everyone raving.
Roasted Honey Cheese Figs
- 12 'Brown Turkey' figs, halved vertically
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 to 3 ounces fresh raw milk cheddar
- Coarse sea salt, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and melt butter in a small saucepan with the balsamic vinegar, honey and a pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about five minutes.
- Arrange figs face up in a pie pan and top each with a lump of raw milk cheddar (goat cheese is also delicious) and drizzle your balsamic syrup over the figs.
- Let figs roast in the oven until tender, about 10 or 15 minutes.
- Arrange on a serving dish and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Now that you have the recipes to really celebrate your fig harvest, it’s time to set the table for the occasion. Grab some of those big, beautiful fig leaves and put them to good use as dinner décor. The fig possibilities are really endless, so don’t be afraid to experiment with figs in the kitchen and get this often-overlooked super food off the tree and onto the menu.
Just like tomatoes or apples, each fig variety has its own personality. Here are five of my favorites.
- ‘Black Mission’ – The rich flavor that is not overly sweet makes this fig a good choice for savory dishes. The fruits are extra-large. A favorite for growing in California. Cold hardy in zones 7–10.
- ‘Brown Turkey’ – Large fruits that are not too sweet with a nutty flavor. I like to use these for broiling. ‘Brown Turkey’ is the most commonly grown fig in the U.S. In regions that experience a long growing season it will produce two crops. Cold hardy in zones 5–9.
- 'Celeste’ – Small fruits are sugary-sweet with a hint of honey. Also known as the sugar fig, ‘Celeste’ is a favorite for eating fresh picked, dried or preserved. Cold hardy in zones 6–9.
- 'Chicago Hardy Fig’ – This variety makes it possible for just about everyone to grow figs. In cold climates it will die back over winter and come back from the roots in spring. The fruits are sweet like jam. Cold hardy in zones 5–10.
- 'LSU Purple’ – Beautiful dark purple fruits have a mild, sugary flavor. Developed at Louisiana State University, this is a great variety for the deep South. Cold hardy in zones 7–10.
P. Allen Smith, an author, television host, and conservationist, has a passion for American style. He uses his Arkansas home, Moss Mountain Farm, as an epicenter for promoting the local food movement, organic gardening and the preservation of heritage poultry breeds.