Fig trees, originally from the Middle East, have found a happy home in the Southwest, a similar climate. Mission Garden in Tucson features historical gardens and heritage fruit trees that produce an abundance of figs in late July and August. Asaf Hasan and Raina Kanawati brought a delicious Syrian fig salad to share with volunteers as they led us in making stuffed grape leaves. It is traditionally eaten with the fingers and since we had all washed our hands to make the grape leaves, we dug in happily.
The salad requires no cooking, just assembly, so it’s good to prepare on these hot summer days. Choose sweet white onions or red onions if those are not available.
Syrian Fig Salad
8 fresh figs, quartered
1 sweet onion, sliced thinly pole to pole
1 lemon, sliced as thinly as possible
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
Choose a bowl that holds at least a quart. Combine figs, onion, and lemon and toss until well mixed. Stir in the parsley and mint leaves. In a cup, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Pour over the fruit mixture. Refrigerate for an hour to meld flavors. Serve cold or at room temperature.
My latest book, A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, discusses how Old World crops such as Mediterranean fruit trees were brought to Tucson by the Catholic missionaries in the early 1700s. I also discuss how local historians worked to recreate the Mission Gardens originally located at the Mission San Agustin. Order the book from Amazon or Native Seeds/SEARCH. The book is the the winner of three awards and was named Top Pick in the 2011 Southwest Books of the Year.