The fragility of the fruit is also part of its attraction. Stroke the ripest fig and it is as if you are touching flesh. Sniff it and not only is it summer but the hottest day, the air heavy and still, the earth beneath your bare feet cracked and dry. Sink your teeth in and you meet no resistance. Just soft, sumptuous flesh and tiny pearlescent seeds, little crimson beads that dissolve on your tongue.
–Nigel Slater, Ripe
As some of you know, we’ve moved house two times in the last year. The last move was in July, and I do hope it will be the last move we make. There are still unpacked boxes here and there, but our new home agrees with us very well and we are feeling settled. Books have been placed on shelves and pictures have been hung on the walls. I’ve bought fabric and sewn curtains. I’ve spent time in the garden, finding places for the plants I’ve brought with me through both moves. Among these plants is a Casa Blanca lily that flowered soon after we moved.
One of the great delights of the new place is the five fig trees we’ve inherited. Two of them are too young to bear fruit, but the other three provided us with perfect ripe figs from the day we moved in. What an amazing experience, to have so many figs that I was actually cooking with them: Fig Cobbler and Rosemary-Fig Chicken with Marsala. All this, living in a city where previously I have had to lay out $1.99 at the grocery store to purchase a single fig. We did have to share some of our figs with the raccoons, who left the fruit hanging on the trees with bite-size pieces missing. In the evenings, we could see the trees shaking from the raccoons’ fig-seeking activities.
After consultation with my dear daughter, I believe that these figs are a variety called “Desert King” which produces a “breba” crop in the spring on last year’s wood and a second, main crop in the fall. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the summer is too cool for the main crop to set so the breba crop is the only crop that will ripen. Our trees are still covered in tiny figs that will never get any bigger.
The fig is actually an inside out fruit. In other words the flower is on the inside of the fruit. Most figs are set parthenocarpically; i.e., without fertilization. There are some figs which require a specific wasp to pollinate the fruit.
Another delight of our garden is the population of lizards. These are Northern Alligator Lizards, small and shy. They basked on our patio whenever the sun came out, but darted quickly into their hiding places whenever anyone came their way. Twice in the course of the summer, a tiny lizard made its way into the house through the open door. The first time, we tried to coax the little creature onto a piece of paper so we could lift it outside without touching it. The lizard made this a very difficult job by twisting itself into knots and doing somersaults. The second time this happened, I found that I could eject the lizard simply by walking towards it while clapping my hands.
All in all, we are very pleased. Even in the midst of rain and wind, the garden is still beautiful, with tall ornamental grasses swaying wildly. There are quite a few plants here that I cannot identify. I will post some photos in my next post and maybe one of my readers can help me out.