Fig Season

Posted on July 13, 2013


Again, the figs are here.  It seems like I’ve been waiting so long.  To squeeze and rend their skins, gauge the sweetness in the filaments of flesh, and pop the delicate seeds between my teeth.  They will consume my attention throughout their brief season.

Ron has draped netting over our fig trees – the birds will get their share, but only after we’ve had our fill.  A neighbor sends a basket of pale green figs from her tree.  Here in the Galilee, who doesn’t have a fig tree in their yard?  Even more fortunate are those in the Western Galilee, where wild fig trees offer the finest flavored fruit.

During fig season, one doesn’t need to bake bread – goes a traditional Arabic saying from these parts.  In a similar version, during watermelon season, there’s no need to cook.  I’ve been pondering the sense behind these wholehearted expressions of seasonal eating.  How healthy is it to subsist for weeks only on figs?

Gary Paul Nabhan, in his book “The Desert Smells Like Rain” asked the same question, as he looked at the traditional diet of the Tohono O’odham people of Northern Mexico/Southern Arizona, which once relied entirely on the seasonal plants of the Sonora Desert (see my previous post).

“…it is difficult to imagine an (O’odham) with a vitamin C deficiency while living in a saguaro-harvesting camp, or lacking calcium for the weeks following a cholla bud pit roast.  The same person, however, may show deficiency symptoms during the ‘lean months’ of late winter before desert fruits reappear.”

The geometry of square meals and nutritional pyramids ensures that all our daily dietary needs are more than covered.  And yet, isn’t there place for a more longitudinal approach to nutrition?  To trust that, over a cycle of seasons, the figs will be back when we need them?