Early Autumn is fig season.
Fig trees seem to grow like weeds around here in northern Tuscany but even though I’m now lucky enough to have this great tree (above) there’s still for me something very exotic and sensual about these luscious fruits. Many of our guests have never eaten a fresh fig, only the dreied ones. To encourage them to try, this year we served them for breakfast with yogurt, walnuts and honey. With the last of the figs I made jam.
There are still a handful of figs left but they’re right at the top of the tree where I can’t reach so the birds are relishing these! The season is moving on so I’m onto chestnuts now. These are easy to gather in the woods of the hills around Bagni di Lucca and throughout the Garfagnana. They are lot of work to get them out of their prickly casings, then cooked and peeled but there is something so satisfying about cooking with ‘foraged’ food.
My friend’s kiwi fruit pergola has produced an abundant crop this year. This is a new challenge for me, I’ve never preserved kiwis before. The hairy things were a nuisance to peel but I hate to see a homegrown crop go to waste.My first attempt at jam was a ‘make it up as I go along’ effort! It is a bit sticky but tastes great on toast, so that seems to me the most important thing!
Of course the true stars of a Tuscan Autumn are the wild mushrooms, especially the Porcini. You need to know what you are doing to forage for these, and sadly I don’t, so I wouldn’t dare to try. These I had to buy. This little lot cost 20euros from a roadside vendor.
I very carefully brushed them clean, sliced them and left them to dry a little for a few hours. To eat I dipped them into hot water, then into course yellow polenta flour, then straight into a hot pan of oil. The crispiness of the polenta coating was a great contrast to the melt in your mouth softness of the porcini. 20euros is a lot for so few mushrooms, but they were worth it, for a seasonal treat!