Category: My Mediterranean Garden

Love Blooms under the Fig Tree

After 22 years in this house I’m moving, and I think the thing I’ll miss the most is the fig tree.  It’s not fig season yet, the figs are still hard little nubs on the branch, but last year the figs ripened while I was in Scotland and my friends left bags of fruit for me in the freezer that the move has prompted Fig Jamme to deal with.

So I’m making jam, three batches of fig and ginger jam, to be exact, and thinking it might be my last. Possibly not the most pressing job in this crazy month, but soothing, somehow.

I’m feeling sentimental because the bower beneath the fig arbor (the tree gets so heavy with fruit that we had to build a support) was the scene of Stephanie and Max’s first kiss in The Good Neighbor. In my Fortune Bay series, Stephanie is the matriarch, and a widow, alone until Max comes along. He’s new in town and, well, they hit it off right away.

 

The fig tree scene from The Good Neighbor:

Max walked around the corner of the house into Stephanie’s back yard. The warm breeze off the lake smelled sweet as honey wine. “Steph?”

A disembodied voice floated to him on the wind. “Over here.”

He scanned the yard and noticed a tree the size and shape of an elephant, up against one of the out buildings, shivering, its big, lobed leaves quaking. He headed over and stepped under the trellis that held up the long, knotted branches. Sunlight penetrated the translucent leaves creating a cool and ethereal bower.

“The figs are in!” Stephanie’s triumphant voice emerged from inside the tree. A stepladder with two feet perched on a rung halfway up, leaned against the arbor. Long, firm legs rose from there, ending where Stephanie’s baggy green shorts disappeared into the dense leafy branches.

“Help me,” she said, her hand appearing beneath the canopy of leaves, cupping a succulent green fruit.

Max took the warm fig from her hand. He’d never seen fresh figs before. So soft you couldn’t pile them without them losing their shape, he placed it carefully into the cardboard flat at the foot of the ladder.

Splat! One fell at his feet, bursting like a water balloon.

“Sorry.” Stephanie’s voice was muffled by the layers of leaves between them. He bent over to look at the fallen fruit more closely. It had broken open on impact, revealing bright pink flesh inside that looked like a million tiny caterpillars.

“Are they supposed to look like that?”

“Well, that one is very ripe. Here, take these.”

He reached a hand up by her hip to take the next handful, fully aware he could have run his hand right up her leg and into those baggy shorts. Instead he placed the fruit on the flat, then gazed around, suddenly seeing hundreds of camouflaged green orbs, the same luminous colour as the leaves. A wasp buzzed past his ear and settled on the mashed fruit at his feet.

“Can I help?” He reached up and gingerly touched a fig sticking out from a branch. Having seen how soft they could be, he was afraid to squeeze it, but this one was as firm as a zucchini so he left it on the tree. “How do you tell if they’re ripe?”

“They hang pendulously,” Stephanie said. “And the colour changes, takes on a yellowish cast.”

Now he could see the difference. Some of the fruit stuck straight out from the branches, but others had developed a suggestive droop. Like a ripe breast. He reached out and held the weight of one in his hand and could tell without squeezing that it was ready. With the fruit in his palm, he pulled the fig towards him and it tore away leaving a shred of green skin attached to the branch. The fruit oozed a few white drops of a liquid into his hand.

This just gets more and more suggestive, he thought, a grin on his face as he bent over and set it gently with the others.

Stephanie took a step backwards down the ladder, the green shorts stretched over her round bottom coming down to eye level. Her hands were full of fruit and the ladder wobbled as she took another step. Max reached out to steady the ladder with one hand on either side as she continued to climb down, into the circle of his arms. When she turned around, she smiled.

They were in her yard, yet the bower screened them in a private world.

She met his eyes. “Let me put these down.”

He stepped back, sorry to see the moment pass, kicking himself for not taking the chance while he had her in his arms. As she bent over to the cardboard flat, her breasts swayed pendulously, brushing his arm. His eyes swelled. She wasn’t wearing a bra.

She stood up, stepped back into his space and met his gaze. Was that a smile on her full luscious lips? His arms reached out and there, in the green glow under the arbour, pulled her into an embrace. A forbidden, Garden of Eden embrace.

Their lips touched gently, exploring, and her hands came up to his shoulders. He deepened the kiss and her lips softened in response. His hands dropped to her waist, brushing the sides of her free-hanging breasts. Not grabbing, not even really touching, just feeling the weight.

Pendulous.

And she laughed, rich and deep. She’s ripe too, he thought, his head reeling with the suggestion.

Then she stepped back and bent to pick up the flat of fruit and, as they emerged into the sunlight, the moment became like a scent left in the bower. But he would remember the feel of her, and the taste, and promised himself he’d taste it again.

“A drink?” she asked. “It must be that time.”

He followed her back to the house and when they were sitting in the screen porch, drinks in their hands, she said, “That was great, but—aren’t you married?”

“Sort of.” How could he explain the woman who called herself his wife? He was unable to put the cold years into words, too shy to admit that this was what he wanted.

She looked at him directly, obviously amused by his reply. “I can’t have an affair with a sort-of-married man.”

“I know,” he said.

And they finished their drinks in companionable silence as the blue of evening fell around them.

* * * * *

 

In some ways Stephanie, a painter, is my alter ego, so I’m sure she makes jam Fig and Ginger Jam. For those of you lucky enough to have access to figs, here’s our recipe.

And although I’ve never been kissed beneath the fig tree, it is a magical place and I will miss it. But as luck would have it, I’d rooted a baby fig that I will take with me and maybe in a few years, when my supply of jam runs out, this tree will be big enough to start giving me figs.

From Mint to Mojito

Today we’re harvesting mint. 🙂 Let’s just call it that because of course we’re not having Mojitos after work on a week night. Oh no. We’re just getting our supplies in order for the weekend.

Mint spreads like a weed so be careful where you plant it, but I love having a patch in my garden. (You can tell it’s mint by the square stems.)

MINTI make cold mint tea all summer from the mix of spearmint and the darker chocolate mint that grows beneath the blueberries, by pouring boiling water over a stalk of mint with leaves in a heat proof jug. Very refreshing.

Also refreshing are Mojitos, that wonderful combination of mint and lime and rum. I tried to order on the other night at a South Asian/ Indian restaurant (hey, they were on the menu) but our young server looked quite terrified and said, “I’ve never made one before.” In the end I didn’t order it, but I have been thinking about it ever since.

So I bought some white rum, picked some mint, got out a lime and got started.

Instructions:

Put a spoonful of sugar in a glass, squeeze the juice of a lime wedge into the sugar then drop in the rind. Add half a dozen mint leaves and muddle, or mush around, in the bottom of the glass to release the flavours.
Fill the glass half full of ice, add white rum to your liking and fill the glass with soda water and stir.
Garnish with a lime slice. It looks as refreshing as it tastes. I tried it last night and did tend to get mint leaves in my mouth, which explains the instructions I’ve seen to serve with a straw, or one picture of a Mojito strained and served in a martini glass. Not traditional perhaps but kind of classy nonetheless.

Find yourself a lovely spot outside this weekend, put your feet up and sip this sparkling summer drink while reading a good book. (Lake of Dreams ebook is still free online through the long weekend. Had to get that in.)

Join me in raising a glass to the harvest. Cheers.

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An Abundance of Figs

I’m continuing my week of recipes to celebrate the launch of The Good Neighbor, Book Two in thefig tree Fortune Bay Series, with this post on what to do with an abundance of figs.

I realize not everyone has figs in their backyard, but I have a huge tree, and quelle coincidence!, so does Stephanie, the matriarch of the series, who has her own romance in this book. A romance that begins in the a cool green oasis of the fig arbor on a hot summer day, the perfect place for a simmering scene of sexual tension (how’s that for alliteration?).

Sunlight penetrated the translucent leaves creating a cool and ethereal bower.
“The figs are in!” Stephanie’s triumphant voice emerged from inside the tree. A stepladder with two feet perched on a rung halfway up, leaned against the arbor. Long, firm legs rose from there, ending where Stephanie’s baggy green shorts disappeared into the dense leafy branches.
“Help me,” she said, her hand appearing beneath the canopy of leaves, cupping a succulent green fruit.

 

You get the picture.

 Way #1 to use Figs – Fig Leather

Last year, I was away for fig season and my wonderful friends picked for me. I came home to a freezer full of figs. I did make my famous Figand Ginger Jam (recipe to follow) but the rest of the figs couldn’t be dried whole in the usual way, so I put 7 figs (I only have one leather sheet for my drier) and the juice of half a lemon in my Ninja blender – I love my Ninja blender -it up and poured it on the drier sheet. Two minutes work and it makes really delicious tangy fig leather. I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t love it.

Fig JamWay #2 to use Figs – Judy’s Famous Fig & Ginger Jam

This recipe uses lemon and ginger to add zing. For those who don’t like ginger (seriously?) you can leave out the candied ginger and add instead 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves and 1/2 tsp ginger. Or a quarter cup Grand Marnier. I’ve had good luck with Fireball Whiskey too! You get the picture. Anything goes.

But this Fig & Ginger is amazing on toast or with chicken or pork, or by the teaspoonful right out of the jar!

Click here for Fig & Ginger recipe.

You can buy The Good Neighbor in eBook or paperback on Amazon, kobo, and nook.TGN COVER MED

And don’t forget, for this last, beautiful week of summer, Lake of Dreams is free in eBook form on online retailers until the end of August. See the sidebar. No excuses!

Happy eating, and good reading,

Judy sig

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Celebrate the Launch of The Good Neighbor with Pesto!

Fireworks 2016What better way to celebrate the launch of The Good Neighbor  today (cue the fireworks!) than by sharing some of the August recipes from the book, beginning with – PESTO!

The Good Neighbor is Frankie and Sean’s story (characters I introduced in Summer of Fortune).

In this book, Sean moves into Augusta’s cabin while he searches for the daughter he gave up for adoption fifteen years ago, and struggles to come to terms with the fact that he just might not find her. How, then, can he stand to see Frankie and her father so estranged, when a simple phone call might be all it would take?

The Good Neighbor begins in August, and since Sean is an excellent cook and there are a lot of cooking and gardening references ,

PESTO seemed like the perfect choice of a recipe to feature on today’s blog. And let me tell you, good pesto made from freshly picked basil is truly a gift.

basilIf you don’t grow basil in your garden (yet) or don’t have room for a garden, you can treat yourself to a meal of fresh pesto before the summer is over by buying a plant, sold at most grocers at this time of year.

Once you try pesto made in your own kitchen with garden fresh basil leaves, you will never go back to the store bought variety.

And it’s easy! Since tastes and ingredients vary (types of basil, sizes of cloves of garlic & lemons, amount of salt) every batch will be slightly different.

You be the final judge of exactly how much of each ingredient to add. And with these ingredients, how can you go wrong?

I will be featuring more recipes from The Good Neighbor  all week, so stay tuned.

Click here for pesto recipe.

To read the “meet scene” at the start of the book, click HERE to go to The Good Neighbor page.

You can buy The Good Neighbor in eBook or paperback on Amazon, kobo, and nook.TGN COVER MED

And don’t forget, for this last, beautiful week of summer, Lake of Dreams is free in eBook form on online retailers until the end of August. See the sidebar. No excuses!

Happy eating, and good reading,

Judy sig

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Celebrate the Launch of the Good Neighbor with Pesto

What better way to celebrate the launch of The Good NeighborFireworks 2016  today (cue the fireworks!) than by sharing some of the August recipes from the book, beginning with – PESTO!

The Good Neighbor is Frankie and Sean’s story (characters I introduced in Summer of Fortune).

In this book, Sean moves into Augusta’s cabin while he searches for the daughter he gave up for adoption fifteen years ago, and struggles to come to terms with the fact that he just might not find her. How, then, can he stand to see Frankie and her father so estranged, when a simple phone call might be all it would take?

The Good Neighbor begins in August, and since Sean is an excellent cook and there are a lot of cooking and gardening references ,

PESTO seemed like the perfect choice of a recipe to feature on today’s blog. And let me tell you, good pesto made from freshly picked basil is truly a gift.

If you don’t grow basil in your garden (yet) or don’t have room for a garden, you can treat yourself to a meal of fresh pesto before the summer is over by buying a plant, sold at most grocers at this time of year.

The best ingredients make the best pesto.
The best ingredients make the best pesto.

Once you try pesto made in your own kitchen with garden fresh basil leaves, you will never go back to the store bought variety.

And it’s easy! Since tastes and ingredients vary (types of basil, sizes of cloves of garlic & lemons, amount of salt) every batch will be slightly different.

You be the final judge of exactly how much of each ingredient to add. And with these ingredients, how can you go wrong?

I will be featuring more recipes from The Good Neighbor  all week, so stay tuned.
To read the “meet scene” at the start of the book, click HERE to go to The Good Neighbor page.
TGN COVER MED

You can buy The Good Neighbor in eBook or paperback on Amazon, kobo, and nook.

And don’t forget, for this last, beautiful week of summer, Lake of Dreams is free in eBook form on online retailers until the end of August. See the sidebar. No excuses!

Happy eating, and good reading,

 Judy sig

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