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Byline: TERESA TAYLOR
PHOTOS:Fresh figs star in a simple but elegant salad composed by Mike Lata of FIG restaurant. The figs are wrapped in basil leaves and Italian ham, then combined with greens dressed with orange juice, olive oil and shaved cheese.
A three-course tasting menu created by Thomas Clayton of Vintage restaurant features a poached fig and port soup, a salad with figs and other fruits, and grilled fig with duck confit garnished with a quail egg on a bed of fried potatoes.
Brett Maynard, executive chef at Fulton Five, stuffs quail with fresh figs and cheese, wraps the quail in prosciutto and grills it. The dish is garnished with a tapenade of chopped figs, onions and roasted red pepper.
A dessert made by Corinna Lovell of Ambrosia bakery uses glazed figs an almond-flavored tart filled with a sweet, creamy mascarpone mousse.
For all their tender sweetness, figs are a freak of nature. You won't see any blossoms emerging among the large, curvy leaves. Instead, what is considered the fruit is actually a flower inverted into itself. "With a fig there is no central core, so the flesh is like taking a glove and turning it inside out," says F. Brian Smith, Clemson Extension's horticultural agent for Charleston County. "If you slice a fig open, you'll be able to see it."
Even stranger is the pollination process for those types that require it. Tiny wasps that live inside the fruit do the work, entering and leaving via a small hole on the bottom. The wasps and some fig trees have co-evolved over millions of years to the point that they can't live without each other.
In the end, these developmental oddities don't detract from the taste and texture at all. They just make figs more interesting. They are prized for their sweetness, delicate flesh and dietary properties, and there are numerous mentions of figs throughout history.
Pliny, the Roman writer (52-113 A.D.) said, "Figs are restorative. They increase the …