Learn how to dry figs the old fashioned Cypriot way using fennel to preserve the gorgeous fruit.
Scrummy Fresh Figs
It's fig season here in Cyprus and after the heavy winter rains, every fig tree you see is literally dripping with gorgeous yummy fruit.
I'd never actually tasted fresh figs before coming to Cyprus, so I had no idea how amazingly sweet they are. We have many varieties here in Cyprus, but my favourites are the large purple- skinned figs which you can see in the picture opposite.
I love to make a slice in the top of the fig, then squeeze it open to see the wonderful red flesh/seeds inside. I eat them for lunch, slice them over muesli for breakfast or put them into a fruit salad. Then of course, there are posh ways of serving them like figs stuffed with feta and wrapped in parma ham :)
There are so many trees growing by the side of the road here in Cyprus, you really don't need to buy figs at the supermarket, if you're prepared to spend half an hour picking your own. As there is such a glut of figs this year, I thought it would be a good idea to dry some, so I asked my good friend Maria at Lysos coffee shop how to dry figs the Cypriot way.
Tip: You need to pick figs early in the morning before the sun comes up and they start to go soft and also to stop the birds getting to them first!
The Cypriot way of drying figs, at least in Lysos village anyway, is to first boil them for 5 minutes. You obviously need to have firm figs and not ones which are too ripe as they will just disintegrate in the water.
Then you spread them out on a cloth and leave them to dry in the sun. Once they are dried, you then RE-BOIL them, adding fennel seeds picked from the roadside (it grows like a weed here in Cyprus!) to preserve them.
Then lay them out once more to dry in the sun before packing them tightly together and storing in a suitable container.
When I asked Maria how to dry figs, I was surprised when she said they use fennel or Marathos, as it's called in Greek. If you're interested, Marathos is also the place of the battle of Marathon where the Greeks defeated the Persians and then sent the Greek messenger Pheidippides on a long run to Athens with news of the victory. And yes, that's where the word Marathon comes from!
Fennel is very easy to find due to its strong, aromatic aniseed smell, though if you have no sense of smell, do be careful as poison hemlock looks very similar!
I confess I haven't actually dried any figs yet, as I've been too busy eating them, but I'm going to pick a large bowl this weekend to give it a go.
Tip: Now you know how to dry figs, why not try to dry some fruit, next time you see a fig tree laden with fruit? Just remember to choose firm, not over-ripe SEE-ka, as they are called in Greek. Enjoy!