Figs in autumn

Every June/July I watch the fig trees as their fruit starts forming. And every year, with a certain amount of regret, I notice the last of the figs falling on the ground, unclaimed after the seasonal glut.

For at least the last three summers, I have intended to ask the lady down the road if I can help her pick her figs and learn how to stuff them with almonds. My excuses for not having done so are these: I was working quite hard during the summer just passed; last summer, João broke her leg and I had no spare time as a result; the summer before, I really did not feel I could spend hours at a time conversing in Portuguese with the neighbour in question during the fig stuffing and drying process. Next summer, all things being equal, this is something I must do. The figs are dried in the hot, dry August sun on the terraces on top of traditional Portuguese houses. As you can imagine, getting four or five almonds into each fig is a labour-intensive process.

This afternoon, we received a knock on the door. It was our neighbour from one house down, bearing a most delightful gift. In his hand, he had a packet of dried figs stuffed with almonds, some of which are pictured below.

Image
Dried figs stuffed with almonds. Some figs have been cut in half to show the almonds inside, while others have been positioned to show the slit made in the side of the fig into which the almonds are introduced when the fruit is still fresh.

I say “some of which”, since I love dried fruits, and this particular delicacy has become my all-time favourite. They are very more-ish, and in our household, are prone to disappearing very quickly. Before I knew it, there were hardly any left to photograph. Most people in these parts regard them as a Christmas treat. It is an expensive treat, and one which I normally shun when I do my grocery shopping because I know what the immediate fate of this extravagance will be.

How fitting that we received this gift on the day the night-time temperature promises to fall below 10ºC for the first time since the tail-end of spring; the same day I peeled João’s first juicy pomegranate of the season, and ate my first winter orange, both fruits from another neighbour’s tree.

Allison

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