Picking figs, and living to tell the tale

Musings by Katherine, photos by Greg

Morning dew or sprinkler water?

This may be the most important advice anyone will ever give you about fig picking: Wear gloves. Do not leave them in the car and proceed to let fig juice run down your wrists in 95 degree heat. It will itch. The mosquitoes will like you more. You will drive your husband batty on the short drive home making high-pitched noises and saying things like: “Get it off me. It burns. It burns.” He will drive too fast. Oh, but once you’ve showered it will be so, so worth it.

Fig trees are all over the South and a coworker was nice enough to let us fig sit for him. This is similar to house sitting or dog sitting, but the only requirement involved is that you pull ripe figs from the tree, take them home and eat them. Rough gig if you can get it.

We picked on two separate days, once in that 95 degree heat after work and once on a Saturday morning just after 7, when the sprinklers had just kicked off and the thermostat was a nice low 82 or so.

A little big for a bush but somewhat small for a tree

The second haul was more impressive than the first, four or five pints perhaps. My gloves were so sticky the figs were practically Velcroed to them by the end. As for Greg, well he’s a guy, he doesn’t need gloves. He just hosed that juice off in the yard. Now, why didn’t I think of that the first time?

We’ll be posting a few fig recipes in the weeks to come. We’re just getting started on this year’s crop (or blogging about this year’s crop anyway), but here are a few recipes from last year to make you feel all warm and figgy: Baked figs with Grand Marnier; braised chicken breasts with fig sauce; and of course fig jam.

That should be enough for jam

You can also check out the fig and olive oil cake over at Lemons and Anchovies; grilled figs with honey at The Orange Bee and we love how Joshua Fagans serves them. Sometimes it’s all about the wine. Also, we’d be remiss to not mention how much we love this fig picture over at Camerahols/Food Photography & France. We’d like to give it our fig picture of the year award, which has no cash value, but is nonetheless very prestigious.

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About Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

This blog attempts to collect some of the things I try to create with food and booze. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. My hope is to entertain and maybe help people think a little harder about what they decide to eat and drink.
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72 Responses to Picking figs, and living to tell the tale

  1. Laura says:

    Love the pictures! I can’t wait to see what you make with them!

  2. rutheh says:

    A fig has to be about the most inviting fruit on earth. Incredibly sensuous.
    Love the term “fig sit”. And the pictures, too.

  3. needtotaste says:

    I’ve gotta find some fig trees! I’ve never heard of anyone growing them in my area (Middle Tennessee).

  4. joshuafagans says:

    Wow thank you for the shout out. I should take a photo to show how small our fig tree is. Somebody we will be rolling in figs but we are still a few years off. Love the photos!

  5. ChefMom says:

    You guys are both such good writers. Katherine, I just love your stories. They sometimes crack me up, and always make me smile, because they are just so reality-based. I love it! What a great fig haul! Not sure that I’ve ever eaten one…wait maybe I did in a bread? Hmmm.

  6. Alison says:

    They look great!

  7. Maureen says:

    By the time I’ve made all the fig jam I plan to eat there are few figs left for anything but a cake. I love figs!

  8. And Katherine, guys never need gloves you know lol. But these figs look wonderful and I love the different recipes to go with these figs. I don’t normally utilize figs but now I know what to do with them.

  9. I’ve got to admire fig picking in those crazy temperatures! I love fresh figs with serrano ham, or just on their own. Lovely pics

  10. Beautiful figs, Rufus!

  11. Thank you for the advice. I’m planning to do Fig and peach picking with my family soon. I wouldn’t have know about the nectar’s effect if not for the post. The pictures are beautiful, wish I have one of those sweet figs right now.

  12. rsmacaalay says:

    I love those sweet little fruits, but I only tasted them in jams. Cant wait to see you recipes for this one

  13. Charles says:

    Love the photos, sounds like a great day you had, even despite the freak-out towards the end. I love figs, even despite reading this article one day about how they’re pollinated – eeesh!

  14. Lovely post – and yes, I´ve suffered the “fig itch” too. It´s not nice! Lovely photos and am off now to check out the links. Our figs need at least another month :(

  15. The recipes are always good, but I really love it when you let the humor shine through. Keep it up!

  16. So sorry you had to go through that but can’t wait to see what you two have up your sleeves to make with these figs. i know it is going to be good

  17. fatisrecipes says:

    :) Love this post as much as I love figs……. MMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!

  18. This was so funny. Thank you for the heads up regarding the itch if you don’t prepare and pick carefully. You made it all sound like such fun. Looking forward to the fruits of the fig labor.

  19. Lea Ann says:

    Beautiful photos. For some reason, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about where figs came from. Maybe someplace like Israel? As you can tell by that statement, we obviously don’t have fig trees in Colorado. And before Whole Foods arrived, I never noticed them in our markets. Most certainly will be looking forward to what you make with them.

  20. Rachel says:

    Happy to see that you got you some figs after all! And they’re beautiful! Got enough to try my fig bread?

    If you can, in the winter, ask for a couple of cuttings and start your own trees! I wonder what variety these are. I never noticed any itchy issues from mine, but there certainly is a “sap” thing when picking. Still, its worth it! Mmmm!!!

  21. ChgoJohn says:

    My grandfather introduced me to fresh figs when I was a little boy. None of his other grandchildren liked them so they became a special treat he and I shared. Thanks for the memories and a great post.

  22. Judy says:

    Luscious figs for some inspired cooking ahead … look forward to those recipes :)

  23. spicegirlfla says:

    I have got to find a friend with a fig tree! I love figs but can only imagine how much better they would taste just picked! I’m going to check out your links on past recipes and definitely looking forward to all your new ideas!!!

  24. Amy says:

    I LOVE fresh figs. When I was in Italy about 10 yrs ago, there were fig trees in a parking lot so we all just picked them…I mean, they were on public property. I don’t remember the juices dripping down. Perhaps yours were just riper. YUM :)

  25. Tinkertoot says:

    As kids we used to run out to the trees early in the morning to claim our tree for the day and if anyone came near your tree you threw skins at them, farm life was wonderful. the burn worth the pleasure of eating figs though

  26. Too funny. I grew up on a farm with three fig trees and remember well how sticky the trees were. Looking forward to the forthcoming recipes

    • katherine says:

      Good to know I wasn’t just having a heat fit! I couldn’t even handle the ones on the counter the other night without getting itchy. I can eat the cooked ones, even ones that are raw and washed.

  27. Okay i am going to love the pickling to you but I do love me some figs and wish I had the time to do this. The recipes ideas you gave all sound great. must try them

  28. Love the photos especially the first one. So many things you can do with figs. My husband used to have an aunt that lived in Mississippi. She made fig preserves every year and sent us dozens of pints. We did get tired of them eventually and was even giving them away to keep from hurting her feelings. She could not stand to see anything go to waste. I know you will have some great recipes.

  29. niasunset says:

    We love figs so much and in the Aegean part we have so many fig trees… It is time for them now, but I love much more the dried figs… It comes up during early autumn. Do you know, if you don’t like to drink milk, you can eat dried figs instead of milk! It is so healthy fruit. From the old ancient times…
    And another thing about fig, I mostly like fig marmalade, it is made with the fresh one… And again it is time for this now. To be honest I haven’t done it, I always buy from the homemade stores… And also I haven’t picked up them too, I can see it is not easy. Thank you Dear Rufus and Katherine
    I am excited now for your recipes with figs… Blessing and Happiness, with my love, nia

  30. nancyc says:

    I’ve never picked figs, so thanks for the tips! :) Great photos, too!

  31. Sissi says:

    I would love to fig sit for someone!!! Sadly, no figs in Switzerland and I will still have to wait to see them on my market in France… I hope one day I’ll have an occasion and use your tips.

  32. Wow!! gorgeous photos. I wish someone would let me fig sit for them! I’ve been playing around with the idea of a sweet/savory fig & goat cheese tart. Perhaps with some pancetta and chives.

  33. ambrosiana says:

    Figs!!!! Oh. how much I love them!! Great pictures and I am envious that you get to eat them just picked!!!

  34. Holly says:

    fig jam – i am so not surprised! I love how much you love jam!
    Ok – so I’ve never done anything / barely eaten a fig ever – so I am looking forward to these posts!

    • You should go pick figs in the English countryside while wearing a banana suit and write about it. That would be so fun. Is it Thursday yet?

      • Holly says:

        Do figs grow here?? I’m really not sure they do… They’re not a popular thing here which is why I don’t think they do…
        As for banana wearing fruit picker – oh my it would be bloody funny wouldn’t it!
        Thursday tomorrow young sir… not long!

  35. I had a fresh fig for the first time ever last week–and fell in love! Now if only I knew someone who needed some fig-sitting…

  36. nrhatch says:

    Terrific post!

    Now . . . bring us some figgy pudding
    Oh bring us some figgy pudding . . . :D

  37. JamieAnne says:

    Love figs. Can not wait to see how you use them!
    And jealous…I’m jealous. I’ve never been asked to
    Fig sit and I’d very much like to!

  38. Glad you made it out alive Katherine. It sounds death defying. We have a fig tree, and I love figs, but every time I cut one of ours open, it looks dried out and scary to eat. Any thoughts? Am I waiting too long to pick them? When are they supposed to be picked? Have you tried grilling figs on rosemary skewers and then brushing with a balsamic honey reduction? The rosemary skewers make all the difference…really amazing.

    • katherine says:

      Thanks, Geni. Really it was just one of the many ways I risk life and limb for my wonderful husband. Ha, he was on the ladder and even climbed the tree at one point. I forgot about that! I’m not sure what variety you have, but they’re ready to pick here when they twist off with hardly any effort and there a nice maroon color at least half way around. I have been wanting Greg to try a grilled fig recipe, especially since the peaches turned out so well. Rosemary, we have that! I love your idea.

  39. Caroline says:

    Jealous you got to fig sit. Sounds like something I would love, especially since you got to keep some of the figs! I can’t wait to see what you guys whip up with them.

  40. There is nothing like figs fresh off the tree
    I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with
    I am sure it will be amazing

  41. Figs, anyway you eat them, are delicious! Thanks for the “fig” plug Greg and Katherine – you are very kind. Can’t wait to hear all about what you do with your bounty. Also, love the “Food, Photography and France” site – thanks for enlightening me to other fabulous blogs!

  42. Leah says:

    Love this amazing photos! Thanks for sharing.

  43. SimpleP says:

    I am salivating with jealousy. There is nothing on God’s green earth that tastes as good as a fresh fig. They are truly delicacies of the fruit world.

  44. Great photos! Sorry about the mosquitoes. That’s the main thing I DON’T miss from living in the South!

  45. i had horrible luck trying to grow my own fig tree when i lived in Tampa. i’m jealous!

  46. Those look gorgeous, Greg and Katherine! And I’m very jealous of your fig preserves stock :).

  47. Great tips on fig picking! Can’t wait to see the recipes you guys come up with and great photos too!

  48. I L O V E F I G S ! Figs, have to be my absolute all time favourite fruit! Our tree is completely bare at the moment – not even a glimmer of life but in just a few of months it will be hanging beautifully heavy with figs ripening and when I can resist no more, I will stand in the shade of the tree eating fig after fig until it feels like my belly wants to pop. Sorry got a bit carried away there.
    Looking forward to your recipes! :-) Mandy

  49. Mel says:

    MMMMMM! I was having a droolworthy conversation about figs with a friend earlier this evening – and now your post just about has me drooling again! Le sigh!

  50. sounds well worth the effort! I’ve never even had a fresh fig… they’re not something you find very easily here in Alaska!!! now I’m really wanting to try one…

  51. Carolyn Chan says:

    You’re so lucky !!!!

  52. ....RaeDi says:

    Do you think I should wear my glove when I pick our crop of three figs? You and Grey must be a blast….RaeDi

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  55. Thank you guys so much for the shout out! BTW your fig pic is really NICE!

  56. marycheshier says:

    Reblogged this on How 2 Be Green and commented:
    Great post. Thank you!

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