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Until recently, figs typically appeared at our farmers markets in the fall, sometimes as early as Labor Day, sometimes a bit later. In recent years, we’ve been seeing them earlier and earlier.

It is not, as some of us have assumed, a result of global warming or climate change. According to Charles Imwalle of Imwalle Gardens in Santa Rosa, there are typically two crops: a small one that ripens in June and July from fruit that sets in early spring, and another, larger crop that yields fruit from September through November.

This year, figs have been at our farmers markets for weeks. but there will likely be a break of a few weeks before the fall harvest is ready. Enjoy them now or wait a while.

If you do not have a palate that tends to prefer sweeter foods, you might not enjoy figs right off the tree, in tarts or jam, or in salads. Even wrapped in bacon and grilled, figs can be too sweet for many of us.

We’re talking, of course, about fresh figs, not dried figs, which needs to be said because a lot of people are familiar only with the dried version. The Black Mission fig is the most common one in Sonoma County, though there are plenty of white Calimyrna figs, too, which have pale green skin. Both work in today’s recipes. Dried figs do not.

Nutritionally, fresh figs have much to recommend them, including substantial quantities of calcium, iron, Vitamin B6,and magnesium. Two ripe figs have about 74 calories. Five dried figs weigh in with about 260 calories; they are higher in fiber than fresh figs.

When enjoying figs in a savory context, some of the best companions are pork, poultry, cheese, yogurt and cured meats.


Raita is a traditional Indian condiment typically served with curries. It is also excellent with dal, rice dishes such as biryani, and both grilled and roasted poultry and meat. Add a dollop atop soups — chilled zucchini soup, for example.

Fig Raita

Makes about 1 cup

2-3 figs, cut into very small dice

1 garlic clove, crushed and minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

— Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional

3/4 cup whole milk yogurt, such as Straus or Bellwether Farms

Put the figs into a medium bowl, add the garlic, cilantro, and lemon juice and season with a pinch or two of salt and several turns of black pepper. Add the red pepper flakes, if using. Toss gently, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes or so.

Stir the yogurt to loosen it, add it to the fig mixture, and fold together gently but thoroughly. Taste and correct for salt, pepper, and acid balance.

Use right away or store, covered, in the refrigerator for a day or two.


This sandwich is greater than the sum of its parts, though its parts are, on their own, quite good. But the alchemy between them makes each ingredient soar. Use the best baguette you can find, such as Nightingale Bakery, Raymond’s Bakery or Costeaux. You can, of course, use any bread to make this sandwich so if you prefer, say, Revolution Bread, have at it. You’ll need to adjust quantities, of course, but that’s an easy thing. And if you don’t care for chevre, use farmer’s cheese, teleme, brie or even old-fashioned cream cheese instead.

Baguette Sandwiches with Prosciutto, Chevre and Fig-Olive Spread

Serves 3 to 4

1 very fresh baguette, halved lengthwise

— Jimtown Store Fig & Olive Spread (see Note below)

6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto

8 ounces fresh chevre, such as Laura Chenel’s Original Log, at room temperature

— Black pepper in a mill

— Young arugula

— Kosher salt

Toast the baguette in a medium oven until it is warmed through and just beginning to take on a tiny bit of color.

Set the baguette, cut sides up, on a clean work surface. Lightly spread the fig-olive spread over the bottom half of the bread but do not rub it in. Fold the prosciutto, almost like ribbons, and set it on top of the spread.

Break the chevre into small pieces on scatter it on top of the prosciutto. Season with several turns of black pepper, top with the arugula, and season it very lightly with salt.

Spread a thick layer of the fig and olive spread on the top half of the baguette and set it on top of the bottom piece. Press down gently for several seconds.

Cut the sandwich into 3 or 4 pieces. Serve right away or wrap in wax paper and enjoy within an hour or so.

Note: Jimtown Store Fig & Olive Spread is distributed widely throughout the U.S. and is also, of course, available at Jimtown Store in Alexander Valley.


If you are trying to wean yourself off of such beverages as Diet Coke or other sodas, give this flavorful shrub a try. To do so, fill a glass with ice, fill it about 3/4 full with sparkling water, and top off the glass with the shrub. It may take a bit of getting used to but it is a healthy alternative to both sugar-laden and sugar-free sodas, both of which compromise health.

Fig Shrub

Makes about 3 cups

7-8 ripe figs, stemmed and cut into small dice

1 cinnamon stick

2 thin slices of fresh ginger

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoons white peppercorns, lightly cracked

— Organic apple cider vinegar

Put the chopped figs into a quart glass jar and tuck in the cinnamon stick, ginger, bay leaf and peppercorns. Fill the rest of the jar with vinegar.

Cut two squares of wax paper or parchment paper about two inches bigger than the jar’s opening. Set the wax paper on top of the jar, add the lid, and ring and shake gently. Refrigerate for at least 3 days and as long as several weeks. Shake the jar now and then as it sits.

To finish the shrub, pour it through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth into a large measuring cup or small pitcher. Stir the solids now and then and continue to strain until they release no more juice.

Pour the shrub into glass jars and secure with a non-metal closure. Store in the refrigerator; the shrub keeps indefinitely.

Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Use the figs to make chutney (see recipe below).


The best time to make this uncooked chutney is after you’ve made you’ve made fig shrub, though you can also make it with fresh figs that have not gone through the shrub process.

Fig Chutney

Makes about 1/2 to 2 cups

— Figs left over from making shrub (see recipe above)

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

— Kosher salt

— Lemon juice, as needed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Put the figs into a medium mixing bowl, add the garlic, ginger, cumin and red pepper flakes and mix well. If the figs are in large chunks, use a vegetable masher or fork to break them down into smaller bits.

Season with about 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, taste, and add a bit more salt if the chutney seems a bit flat. If it needs more acid, add a bit of lemon juice and taste again. Fold in the cilantro, put into a glass jar, add the lid and ring, and refrigerate overnight.

Use this chutney within 2 or 3 days; if you want to keep it longer, omit the garlic, which may develop an off flavor.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “The Good Cook’s Book of Oil & Vinegar.” Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com

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