BY JOANNE SASVARI
The fig is among the most fascinating of fruit. For one thing, it’s actually a flower — technically, a cluster of flowers called an inflorescence — captured inside a smooth, bulbous stem that fits perfectly in the palm of your hand.
The fig is rich with symbolism and myth. It is sacred to Bacchus, a sign of wisdom, a harbinger of prosperity. It is also linked to fertility, desire and, a little counterintuitively, modesty, the fig leaf being the traditional artful coverup for naughty nudity.
Originally from northern India, the fig was one of the earliest fruit trees to be cultivated. It is widely grown throughout the Mediterranean — in fact, it is so bountiful there, so versatile and so packed with nutrients, including calcium, potassium and iron, that it is known as “the poor man’s food.”
Here, unless you are talking Fig Newton cookies, figs are more of a rarity. Yet Victoria is actually a pretty good place to grow a fig. Out in North Saanich, at Fruit Trees and More, Bob and Verna Duncan grow a whole panoply of figs, including some they’ve introduced to the region. The varieties that grow best include the yellowish-green Desert King, small black Negronne and purple, rosy-fleshed Lebanese Red.
Figs love warm, dry weather and rocky, well-draining soil, and they like to hang out at lower elevations. They ripen here from July through September, and are delicious on a cheese board, baked with honey and nuts, or plucked straight from the tree and enjoyed as is, no fig leaf required.