What the fig?!

This past weekend, we had a friend visiting from overseas, a regular high-tech guy with heretofore no noticeable quirks. And then he revealed his desire to buy a farm! He was serious; he even went and got a certificate in Farming 101 or something similar since laws in his country limit ownership of agricultural land to farmers only.

So of course he was genuinely interested in the goings-on in my backyard since he is still wondering what to grow, exactly, in the farmland he intends to purchase. While giving him the “tour” we glanced inside the greenhouse and there was this single, huge, luscious-looking fig on my LSU Purple fig tree!

Nearly ripe LSU Purple Fig  on a potted tree in the greenhouse
Nearly ripe LSU Purple Fig on a potted tree in the greenhouse

Now, I have been single-handedly hauling those potted fruit trees, each easily weighing 50 lbs., into and out of the greenhouse to give them clear sunshine and let the inside of the greenhouse dry out a bit. Not once during these most likely unnecessary and backbreaking exercises did I notice a figlet (yes, that’s a word) on this particular tree, which is practically leafless at this point. So that was a really nice surprise! Can’t wait to taste it.

In the meanwhile, the alpine strawberry seeds have germinated. Some varieties have had better germination rates than others. I keep the tray on our dining room table facing a sunny window and all of them are growing at an angle towards the sun. I thinned out some cells which had as many as nine seedlings in them.

Newly sprouted Alpine Strawberry seedlings
Newly sprouted Alpine Strawberry seedlings

And of all the papaya seeds I planted, 12 of them, only 2 germinated, both Hawaiian Solo Sunrise. I’m hoping the others will pop up sooner or later.

Hawaiian Solo Sunrise seedlings indoors on a heating mat
Hawaiian Solo Sunrise seedlings indoors on a heating mat

In the spirit of doing more with our garden produce a la Nigel Slater, I’ve been making things where at least one key ingredient is from the garden. The recipes are from different sources, though I’ve tweaked them to my liking. Here they are:

Vanilla custard topped with roasted blueberries in case just the custard is too vanilla, the spreading deep blue of the blueberries with a hint of tartness from the lemon juice really elevates this humble dessert. Recipe from here.

Vanilla custard with roasted blueberries Image and Recipe Source: The Smitten Kitchen
Vanilla custard with roasted blueberries
Image and Recipe Source: Smitten Kitchen

Sangria made from the Spanish wine, rioja, allowed to blend overnight with fresh squeezed clementine juice (still a bit tart but great in this drink), orange liqueur and cognac. Thin rounds of citrus fruit, chopped strawberries, lots of ice and 7 Up added just before serving. This was a great hit. The recipe is from the book 101 Sangrias and Pitcher Drinks by Kim Haasarud. I’ve only tried this one so far and in a cute pot belly pitcher it looks just beautiful.

Guacamole, where the only thing from the garden at this time are the lemons (used instead of limes). The idea is to have the tomatoes, chilies and cilantro also from the garden in the warmer months.

Mojitos, as much fun to make as to drink. I have always grown mint in pots, having heard the stories of them conquering backyards. For somebody just starting a little garden, a pot of mint is very encouraging. I just stick a few leftover twigs in a pot and voila, a lush, fragrant herb garden in no time! I like to garnish salads with mint leaves, and mint chutney sandwiches served English tea style are perfect for a summer picnic. Can you tell I can hardly wait for warmer weather?

Crema Catalana, reminiscent of Crème Brulee, but lighter and infused with spices and citrus zests instead of or in addition to vanilla. The cinnamon stick and lemon and clementine zests steeping in warm milk filled the whole house with a warm and inviting fragrance. I came across an interesting twist on this recipe with caramelised figs; I think my lovely Violette de Bordeaux figs might be destined for that one!