Thursday, 16 August 2018

Fig Leaves and Thieves

Any of our regular blog readers may remember our relatively frequent musings on our beloved fig tree in our front garden (well beloved to me more than Phil!).  Despite its relative age it still only produced its first single edible fig for us to enjoy in 2016, then zero last year.  The wonderfully warm summer weather this year however seemed to have worked its wonder on swelling the fruits and, with no usual violent Cornish summer gales to knock them off, we looked like we were in for the best harvest yet.  

Every time I left my nightly badger "leave our squashes alone please" offerings or topped up the bird feeders in the front garden, I would have a glance up into the luscious green fig branches noting where each swelling fruit was or, on the lower branches, having a quick squeeze to check for ripeness.  Then I started to struggle to find the figs in the places I was sure I had seen them before.  The ones on the lower branches still seemed to be there though thankfully.  Then after a few days away I checked the aforementioned lower figs to discover that something had beaten us to it.  Two out of the three were visibly pecked to smithereens, despite the fact that they weren't quite ripe enough yet!  Determined that I at least deserved a little look in on our figgy offerings, I literally 'bagged' the remaining one.  Wrapped in a plastic bag protection I imagined this would not only protect it from suspected beaky raiders but help enhance its ripeness.  It worked from the former point of view but sadly the bag enhanced the ripeness just a little too much and it was way too ripe when I returned to it.  Not that it stopped the figgy raider from enjoying the fruits of my labour.  As soon as I had unbagged it, the masked attacker was caught red beaked and the fig finally succumbed in dramatic abandon.

Well that was that for another year, unless the new figs forming were going to suddenly get a growth spurt on before winter set in.  Another plan was needed for next year; one where the fruits were equally shared out.  In the meantime, I suddenly remembered something I had read about making fig leaf tea.  It had been in the depths of winter when the fig tree was devoid of leaves but a quiet determination to at least make use of some parts of the tree had unearthed the thought in my head.  I returned inside for a quick search and found very quickly that not only could you use fig leaves to make a tea but it seems it is really good for you too!  

A quick nip back outside, leaves picked, kettle boiled and I was brewing up a sample whilst I continued to read about the benefits.  It seems that for health reasons, particularly to benefit the treatment of diabetes, people take fig leaf extract.  Perhaps this is because they don't readily have a fig tree to hand, as a tea of boiled fresh leaves was also stated as beneficial.  In addition fig leaves have a positive effect on blood pressure, along with various other ailments including cancer.  Apparently they are a good source of fibre and calcium too.  The more I read, the more I felt a little better about old figgy outside and its inability to produce us big juicy fruits.

After what seemed like a sufficient brew, I poured myself a cup.  The smell itself was enough to indicate this was going to be good, and it was.  It is slightly reminiscent of a sun warmed bank of Cornish gorse or to put it in less Cornish terms; it smelt and tasted mildly coconutty.  It was delicious.

I merely took two leaves, cut them up and poured boiling water over them.  I have since read that generally people boil the leaves in water for about 15 minutes so I'll probably try that next time too.  For winter use it seems that the best approach is to dry some of the leaves before grinding them to a powder and then using this to make tea.  As we now have a dehydrator, that immediately went on my 'to do' list.  I even read that people use the leaves as edible wraps.  Hmmm, I wasn't so convinced by that but maybe I need to investigate the recipes first and give it a go before I dismiss it.

I felt pretty good after a couple of cups of fig leaf tea.  I even nearly forgot all about the fig thieves outside.

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