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Like OMG! Aren’t those the cutest figs!

Ripe Panachee figs.
(Russ Parsons / Los Angeles Times)

I understand this is getting a little crazy, this thing with me and my fig tree. I’m beginning to feel like one of those cat ladies on Facebook. But would you just look at those figs! And my gosh they are as delicious as they are beautiful.

For those of you who have not been keeping up with this soap opera, a couple of years ago, I planted a fig tree in my backyard. Not just any fig, mind you, but a Panachée, or Tiger, fig.

I chose that variety for several reasons. First, because it’s absolutely delicious, like spoonfuls of raspberry jam. Second, because it’s pretty -- look at those lemon-lime stripes. Third, because it’s rare. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it offered even at a farmers market in Southern California. Among fruit geeks, that counts for a lot of street cred.

The first year, my tree bore one (1) fig. I waited patiently until it was drooping and slightly wrinkled, then plucked it from the tree and took it in to share with my wife. Heaven! Last year, though, we got nothing. Zero. Not a single fig. Not even a hint of a fig.

I searched the fig forums online (yes, there are some, and they are full of good advice) and found that this is not unusual. Figs usually need to establish roots and reach a certain maturity before they begin to produce reliably.

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So, this spring, I was ecstatic to find a dozen immature figs on my tree. Silly me, it was early June and I was worried about whether they’d ripen while I was on my two-week vacation. As it turns out, I could have taken most of the summer off and still not missed anything.

Still, every couple of days, I would stop and press a fig with my finger to judge how soft it was becoming and whether it might soon be ready to harvest. I can now say to any wannabe fig growers out there: These things ripen at a glacial speed. I grew used to disappointment. Gradually, I cut my inspections back to once a week or sometimes even longer.

I knew we were getting close when last week I found a half-eaten fig on the tree and another on the ground underneath it. I don’t know whether it was birds or squirrels, but I briefly contemplated buying a shotgun.

Then this morning, I happened to be walking by the tree and stopped to check. OMG! There were half a dozen that looked to be ready. To the disinterested observer, figs get less rather than more beautiful as they ripen -- as they soften, they droop, their colors dull and their peels start to shrivel and split. But I’ve got to tell you, to me these were among the most beautiful fruits ever.

I picked all of them and brought them into the kitchen, where my wife was preparing breakfast.

Maybe we could serve these with yogurt? I suggested.

“No way,” she said. “As crazy as you’ve been about these, I’m not covering them up with anything.”

So we split one fig and ate it plain, like candy. The flavor was amazing. The fruit had just started to dry, so the sweet, figgy, jammy taste was even more concentrated.

I carefully placed the remaining five figs in a plastic container, sealed it tight and put it in the refrigerator to store (figs do not continue ripening after harvest, so you definitely want to keep them chilled).

These I will parcel out one a day for the rest of the week. I mean, look at them -- aren’t they the cutest?


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