There are some figs left on my tree but by now they don't have much taste and the skin doesn't look too appetizing because of the heavy rain we had the last 4 or 5 days.
Luigi's figs looked much the same, but his trees seemed to have more that were big and hard and not quite ripe, perhaps because they are later ripening varieties. That means that if the weather holds, his trees will produce more with decent taste.
I took a walk outside, into the garden toward the vineyard, and I could see him sitting in the sun with a large tray of dried figs. I found out later that he was picking out the softer ones. The dryer ones were going to go in a glass jar in his seller where he keeps the wine; it's cooler down there. The softer batch was going in the freezer.
He does this every year; climbs a ladder at age seventy-five and picks the ripe figs off the trees, then he lays them on trays he made. They have a wood frame like a picture frame, and mash like chicken wire at the bottom. He puts them in the sun right along side the vineyard and covers them with lace. Brings them inside at night and puts them out again the next day. He does this for about a week until they are dry and semi-soft.
Last year, when I went to Italy, he gave me a huge bag full of dried figs to take to all the neighbors in the Palombo area.
The moment I brought them out the older ladies started to tell stories about how and who made the best tasting dried figs in the old days. They were delighted and amazed that Luigi is still doing this sort of thing. Nobody seems to have time for things like that anymore; life is too busy these days.
Luigi and Giuseppina sent me home with a large paper bag half full of dried figs. I know I'll like them best when it's cold, not only for snacks, and boiled in a tea with lemon and honey, but they will be great for baking too.
The dried figs weren't the only thing that made it back to my house. Giuseppina picked some peppers for me to cook when my son Nicholas comes over; she knows he loves them.
She also asked Luigi to pull some escarole plants for me to plant in my garden bins. When I was ready to leave, he came out to my car with wine and 3 small flower plants he had started for me in small pots. I was in seventh heaven.
I always enjoy my visits with them. We speak Italian, talk about the old days, the old country, Luigi tells me about our ancestors, who was who, and how they are related to him and to me...talk about nostalgia!