August 2, 2021 by D.Fathia
Updated August 2, 2021
Time for figs in olive oil rituals
Starting from mid-July till August is the period that most people await in my hometown and other areas in the southern arid lands of Tunisia.
At this time we harvest ripe figs to dry them. It is a ritual that has been passed down through generations. This ritual is a time of festivity, joy, and food frenzy.
Both big farm owners and families with a few fig trees indulge in this ritual alike. Most of the crop is usually dried using traditional natural drying methods. Yet, most people would keep some figs to make fig jam.
This period is really a time of celebration and most importantly it brings people together. Let’s find out more about the ritual of preparing figs in olive oil, in this article.
Tips on how to deal with figs:
My family has a habit of gathering figs in the morning. I thought that they were simply trying to avoid the scorching sun of summer, but then I realized that they could have picked them in the evening as well. The wisdom is that high-temperature degrees harm the fruits badly and that’s why they need to be picked in the morning.
You can try gathering some after they are hit by more than forty degrees Celsius and you will notice how tasteless and rotten they are.
The second most important tip is that the figs need to be picked when they are fully ripe. If they are picked before ripening they will not make good dry fruits. Their taste would be a bit sour and they will go bad quickly.
Third, make sure you wash the figs before drying them. Washing them will remove the dust and any parasites clinging to the fruits. Dry them gently with a piece of cloth or leave them to dry on their own before cutting them. If water remains the fruits will go bad.
Cut each fruit into three but leave them intact. Place them on wooden plates, avoid plastic and steel as much as possible. Then cover the plates with a thin transparent piece of cloth. The cover will keep away any flies and hence keep the fruits clean. Finally, put the plates in a place where there are sun rays for as long as possible.
The process will take about four to five days if you live in a place with high-temperature degrees. If you live in a bit cold place or you don’t enjoy the sun for long hours throughout the day, then it might take a bit longer.
You can be the judge of the process; when the outer part of the fruit is entirely dry and the pulp no longer has any fluids, then it must be perfectly dried.
Many people would at this point put the fruits in jars, seal them and place them in the pantry shelves for later usage. However, there is one more step to do to get excellent quality dried figs.
The one tradition that we did not give up on in our family is using olive oil to cover the figs. I used to think that olive oil was overrated, but I started adoring it after I tried both ways.
Covering dried figs with olive oil is a must because it adds an exquisite taste and more importantly keeps the fruits soft. You have two choices: you can either soak the figs in olive oil or if you are not a big fan of oil you can just drizzle some drops until all the fruits are covered. Personally, I go with the second option. I use just enough oil to keep my figs soft even after months. Even if your fruits become too dry because of the high temperature, the oil will soften them.
Some people would add rosemary leaves to the figs soaked in oil. They say it adds excellent smell and taste. Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, but I prefer the natural and unique taste of figs, that’s why I add none.
Nevertheless, it is totally fine to add rosemary to your soaked figs because this herb has great benefits for overall health. The taste is not too strong as well, so it is completely edible.
The summer treasure for the winter celebration:
Figs in olive oil are the favorite winter snack for most people around here. Because dried figs are so sweet, I cannot resist eating some as soon as they are ready for consumption. However, my family and all the families who cherish this tradition defeat the temptation and save the figs in olive for usage during the cold days.
Sealed glass jars full of these delicious dry fruits stand on the pantry shelves for months. The natural drying process and olive oil keep the figs good and prevent any growth of warms.
This is only logical because it is better to consume the rest of the ripe raw figs during summer as those won’t last long.
When winter finally arrives and we start looking for warmth and good food, we run first of all for the sealed figs jars. We eat them virtually at any time of the day. We have a handful along with morning breakfast to energize ourselves and stay active throughout the day.
We might grab a few pieces for a healthy snack. And possible we might even have some at night, especially before bed as one feels hungry at around that time. Figs are rich in fiber and will make you feel satisfied with just a few pieces and hence will prevent you from excessive food consumption which might cause you problems during sleep.
Our elders have been telling us about olive oil and figs' benefits for centuries. Clinging to the spirit and wisdom of our ancestors resulted in the incorporation of the fig tradition into our diets. Luckily, science has made it even more appealing and convincing to do so as it revealed the incredible evidence-based benefits of olive oil and figs.
Olive oil and figs' benefits vary. These two items are good for your heart, brain, chronic diseases, cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and much more. Olive oil is the eternal beloved elixir, and figs are natural blessings.
My advice, store a good amount of figs in olive oil and go wild during winter. Use them as snacks, cook, bake, and prepare salads with dried figs. The taste is unbelievable, the benefits are beyond imagination.