Each July 4th Errol Laborde wrote his fig column for Gambit, always a paean to that celestial fruit so ubiquitous in southern Louisiana because that date was when fig season arrived. (I’ll attach his column from last year, now written for New Orleans Magazine.
My grandparents had a fig tree in their cemented-over back yard on S. Derbigny Street, one house from Jena. It wasn’t the smaller Celeste fig, but a larger eggplant-colored variety that was equally sweet, although not as “jammy” in the mouth. I was the oldest of six children, and treats always had to be shared. But when I spent time at my grandparents’ house in Broadmoor, I had that tree to myself. I’d sit in the lower branches and pick figs to fill her colander, easily four for my mouth to one for the collection, violating Nanee’s rule about washing the “amoebas” off first. As if. I couldn’t eat them fast enough!
If you’ve ever encountered a south Louisiana fig tree, you’ll know what I mean.
At any rate, as an adult, I had several fig trees gracing yards of different houses. None ever got as big as my grandparents–mine were always Celeste–and the last tree I had in Hammond, had just begun to come into itself. I moved to New Hampshire, and Katrina killed it the year after I left.
Not having access to a fig tree is a price I pay for living in New Hampshire. And I crave them.
Yesterday, after my women artists’ group meeting, Laura Morrison gave us a tour of her fabulous garden and new chicken coup with still-young chickens. I walked around and looked up to see the fig tree she mentioned some time ago; in a pot, it’s perhaps four feet tall, a single stalk with a few short branches and a few leaves. I went up to it and caressed the leaves, feeling for their nap, then put my nose to it, hoping to catch the “green figgy” smell, but it was very faint. How many times Betty Lee, my best friend from childhood who lived across from Nanee and Pawpaw, sat under the huge fig tree to escape the blistering summer heat, crushing the fragrant dry leaves for our “tea” parties, using the white bead-like seeds of night jasmine for “cookies” for our dolls.
Now segue to making groceries after leaving Laura’s garden. I’m in the produce section of Market Basket on Ft. Eddy Road, where one of the first things I do is check the items on the reduced price cart. It was chock full, more items than I’d ever seen on the cart in the years I’ve shopped there. I put plantains and yucca in the cart (for the black bean dinner I’ll make), then I looked up and saw there was a second cart at the other end of the aisle, it full to bursting also. And there I saw small trays of yellow mission figs. Reduced from .89 each, to four for .99 on one tray, five for .99 on the other. I bought two–should have taken all of them!
And yesterday I ate figs. Figs! In two batches then, and a third this afternoon, my mouth once again in heaven. You can be sure I’ll be watching those reduced price carts pretty closely from now on. What a blessing to happen upon.