I am infatuated with figs. They smell like happiness and taste like the sun.
Given the right circumstances, figs require no cultivation. They grow wild in dry and sunny climates, in deep or fresh soil, also in rocky areas from sea level to 1700 meters. A gift of the soil, the sun and the Blastophaga psenes wasp, figs can survive droughts. Thanks to their aggressive root system they can find underground sources of water. They cool the area around them with the water they bring and provide shelter for many creatures in their sweet smelling shade. What’s not to love?
Fig trees could be one of the best family heirlooms to inherit. I am graced with eight such lovely individuals and ever so grateful that I am able to eat figs from the bark once a year, or at least once every few years, instead of settling for the insipid ones at urban produce markets.
When I say eight individuals, I mean it. While all look very similar, each tree yields a unique kind of fruit, in shape and taste. There seem to be four main kinds: Large sweet fruit, small and more subtle tasting, butt-shaped and with a sour tinge, and, last but not the least the crimson colored, intense, jam-like sweet and sour fruit.
Four of the eight trees “belong” to some family members, in that they are our favorites. Everyone’s favorite fig seems to say something about them.
The large and very sweet ones used to be my late aunty Güzin’s favorites. My MA thesis was inspired by her legendary sweet tooth and repressed yet still prominent hedonism. Of course she would want the biggest package of intense sweetness. No fig in the world can be sweet as her laughter that still rings in my ears.
The small and more subtle tasting ones were my late father’s favorites. I have an image of him waking up around 5 am everyday, heading out to the garden through the kitchen door, -this would be the first fig tree he would run into- grabbing a couple of those small gems and moving on to do chores. My father, having survived famine and war in his childhood, was never a picky eater; he ate whatever was on his plate, never less, seldom more. It is somehow so fitting of him to love the first fig tree he ran into as he walked out the door, taking with humility and gratitude whatever was given him at the moment, and not seeking for another.
Of course my mom would pick as her favorite the sourish fig. My mom, like me, doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth. We both require buckets of coffee and even some bread to attenuate the sweetness of figs- even that of the sour kinds. My mom’s favorite is by far the most interesting fig fruit we have. There is only one tree that bears this fruit in our garden. The fruit is rich, complicated, beautiful, and intensely overwhelming like her. The deep crimson color, the paper thin peel, the jam-like sweet n’ sour taste make this fig unique. With her keen eye and fastidiousness, my mom can be a connoisseur of whatever she puts her mind into. She’s going to find the best of the best whether it be fruit, textile, music or people.
So these are (or rather used to be) my favorites. They are red and sourish like my mom’s figs, but the taste is more subtle. What’s most peculiar about them is the two-lobed shape, almost like two smaller figs welded into one. This tree is situated in a part of the garden that used to be watered a lot. Since the tree is able to find its own water underground, too much over the ground water would make most of its fruit crack open. Each summer I would find few intact fruit. Now I think this is why it must have become my favorite; they were so rare and precious. And the butt-shape must have made my teenage version laugh. (OK I admit it still gets me.) The garden has not been watered rigorously for the past three summers so this year my tree yields a lot more than it used to. Yet I am strangely underwhelmed.
I’ve missed fig season for the past 4 or 5 years. This year, every single fig I eat is my favorite and my experience with them is just ecstatic, in both alimentary and aesthetic ways. In fact I am so inspired by them, I want to make a figzine. I dabbled with a logo:
If it didn’t sound so ridiculous (who would be my audience in fig country?) and/or had I more time, I think I would do one. Also in that case I would fill it with a little something more than what I stole from Wikipedia:
The patterned chaos inside figs blew me away this week. I apologize for my ugly doodles :)
I wanted to put what I’ve been scribbling here anyway. Maybe I’ll come back and make something out of them later.