Ripe Figs: The Real Fruit Of Eden?

Farmer Rick Knoll says it wasn't an apple that got Adam and Eve kicked out of the garden; it was figs. They're the sexiest thing there is, says Knoll, who grows seven fig varieties on his California farm. Knoll figs are fat and come to market oozing nectar.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This week's stop in our series on farmers market is Brentwood, California. Rachael Myrow of member station KQED tempts us with the most unlikely of fruits: figs.

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RACHAEL MYROW: A whoosh of wind rushes through the eucalyptus lining Knoll Farm. Rick Knoll and his wife sell at local farmers markets, grocery stores, and restaurants. Knoll says he grows at least seven varieties of fig.

Mr. RICK KNOLL (Farmer): Brown Turkey, Black Mission, Kadota, Adriatic, Lattarula, Blackjack. And then we have a couple of our own. They're hybrids of all the other ones. So they might look like a Brown Turkey on the outside but they might look like an Adriatic on the inside and they might sugar up like a Kadota, something like that.

MYROW: These aren't the shriveled leathery sad sacks you find crammed into plastic baskets. Knoll figs are fat - green and purple golf balls on steroids. And they come to market ripe, oozing nectar from the flower end.

Mr. KNOLL: They're the sexiest thing there is.

MYROW: Which leads the farmer in short order to the Bible.

Mr. KNOLL: It wasn't an apple that got them kicked out of the garden. It was figs.

MYROW: As long as we're talking about sin, Knoll says they cure hangovers too.

Mr. KNOLL: Get a little too drunk and then eat three figs in the morning and you snap right out of it.

MYROW: Knoll was contemplating this cure while sipping beer at a party on his farm. A half-dozen local restaurant chefs showed up recently to help him celebrate 30 years in the food business. At first, most chefs protest that fresh figs should be eaten as is. But after a pause, preparations come to mind. Stuart Brioza's requires a hot grill.

Mr. STUART BRIOZA: Porchetta, it's a loin and belly, the entire mid-range of the pig, boned out, rolled up with grilled figs, rosemary and garlic. And then we'll baste it with the remainder of it on the outside as it cooks.

MYROW: While they're in season, clothing designer Michele Tanenbaum buys four to five pounds of the fruit a week, all for herself.

Ms. MICHELE TANENBAUM (Clothes Designer): Bring them home in egg cartons so they don't rub together and get all bruised. I love them in salads with goat cheese on them and then a piece of basil leaf. Sometimes I'll even drizzle a little balsamic on there. Cut them in quarters and wrap prosciutto around the fig.

MYROW: But a lot of the time, she says, she can't wait. She just starts eating them.

For NPR News, I'm Rachael Myrow in San Francisco.

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WERTHEIMER: You can find more on figs and share your fig recipes at npr.org.

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