The year 2021 may be remembered for many negative reasons, but I will remember it as a great year for figs.
As I write this column, my zone has yet to experience a frost, although temperatures have dipped into the 40s on several occasions.
Warmer temperatures have provided a longer growing season. I’ve picked beans, raspberries, tomatoes, peppers, greens, herbs and lots of figs. We’ve given figs to friends. We’ve sold figs at the farmers market. We’ve dried figs for winter use, and we’ve eaten lots and lots of fresh figs.
We started with one small fig cutting that my husband purchased at the Colonial Williamsburg Garden. The gardener there assured him that the Brown Turkey variety would survive our West Virginia climate.
He was correct. That fig tree is now more than 12 feet tall. It requires a ladder to pick the fruit.
Noting the success of that one tree, my husband has expanded our fig orchard to a dozen plants. Some varieties will die back to the roots if the winters are severe. All have re-emerged from the ground when the weather warms in the spring.
Local growers are often afraid their plants are dead when the branches are frozen to the ground. Mother Nature is helping the grower. When fig trees get too large and out-of-hand, some sources say they should be cut to the ground in winter, if gardeners want them to produce vigorous new growth.
During the years, when die back happens, plants develop fruit more slowly. Sometimes we don’t get abundant yields before autumn chill brings the season to a close. That hasn’t been the case this year.
Having a bumper crop of figs has required new ways of using them. This Fig and Bacon Pizza recipe was so delicious the first time I made it, I had to make it again.
The original recipe calls for dried figs. When fresh figs are not available, I will use the ones we’ve dried. I will pretend I am tasting summer in the middle of winter, and dream of another great fig season in 2022.
Fig and Bacon Pizza
1 pre-prepared pizza crust (or flatbread)
3 slices bacon
6 to 8 dried (or fresh) figs, sliced
3 tablespoons fig preserves*
2 to 3 tablespoons goat cheese crumbles
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Coarse black pepper
Preheat oven to 425°.
Fry bacon in a small skillet until crisp. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate.
Brush pizza crust with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with garlic powder. Place in preheated oven for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned and crisped.
To assemble pizza: Using a spoon, spread a thin layer of fig preserves over pizza crust, leaving about ½-inch around the edges. Place sliced figs on top of the preserves. Crumble bacon over the figs. Top with goat cheese crumbles and grated Parmesan.
Put pizza back in the 415° oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with coarse black pepper.
* I used homemade fig/jalapeno jam and the slight heat from the peppers added a nice depth of flavor.